Practice areas

The traditional arguments against going to law school are: (1) there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs; (2) tuition and student loan debts are too damn high; (3) the high-paying or high-powered jobs are available only to the top students of the top schools; and (4) most “JD Advantage” jobs could have been obtained without a law degree.

The typical response to the above is something along the lines of, “That won’t apply to be because I’m going to put in the work and be one of the top students.” Now those of us who lived through law school might find this amusing and even ridiculous. But we can’t really blame them for their determination. We were their age once. Back then, the world was a playground and full of opportunities. If 0Ls today know all of the risks and can obtain a decent scholarship at least for the 1L year, then they should take a shot and see where they fall on the bell curve.

Today, I am going to talk about a few issues regarding law school and law practice that have not been discussed (at least extensively) amongst the law school critics. The issues apply to most students (even the top students) of almost every law school….

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Staci here. Earlier this month, Vault released its closely watched rankings of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. It was there that we learned Wachtell Lipton held onto its title as the most prestigious firm in America for the twelfth year in a row — but not by much. Cravath was very close to snatching the crown, and we’ll see how this grudge match pans out next year.

In the meantime, please don’t think that we’ve forgotten how much our loyal readers enjoy Biglaw rankings. Perhaps your firm isn’t the most prestigious, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have clout. Some law firms reign supreme when it comes to certain practice areas, and others are known to dominate entire regions of the country.

Which law firms are considered to be at the top of their game by practice area and region? Let’s find out!

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Ed. note: This post is written by Adam Gropper, author of Making Partner: The Essential Guide to Negotiating the Law School Path and Beyond, a recent release by the American Bar Association. Making Partner provides guidance for maximizing performance while in law school, securing the dream law firm job, excelling as an associate, and moving on the fast track to making partner. Adam Gropper is also the founder of www.LegalJob.com, a blog that provides practical advice for current law school students and law firm associates.

Other than attending a top ten law school and being in the top ten percent of your class, there is not just one way or one big secret to obtaining a dream legal job. Many people, for example, especially top law students, just fall into their practice area, and are doing what they are doing by accident. Accordingly, for this group, focus and planning ahead are not as crucial.

This post speaks to all others who are not quite sure what they will do when they graduate law school and are interested in planning ahead. For these folks, it may be helpful to have a practical plan with specific, mechanical steps.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

We continue our taxonomy of law firms with a term I’ve borrowed shamelessly from the retail industry, “Category Killers.” In retail, these have traditionally been Big Box stores with exhaustive inventory and wickedly competitive prices on one deep “vertical” category of merchandise:

  • Home Depot and Lowe’s
  • Toys ‘R Us, Linens ‘R Us, Attorneys ‘R Us
  • Bed Bath & Beyond and The Container Store
  • Petco and Petland
  • Staples and Office Depot

You get the idea. The most salient characteristic of this model is that it works. If you doubt me, then I have to ask if you disbelieve the famous phrase, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” because the concept of category killer retail stores has spread far and wide from its initial roots.

As I use it in Law Land, it means a firm that has the following characteristics…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Category Killers”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Our third installment in the “Law Firm Taxonomy” series addresses corporate-centric firms. With malice towards none and candor towards all, I must confess that I find this species the most problematic of all seven in our taxonomy. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first let me, following Linneaus, simply describe these firms. By and large they:

  • are headquartered in non-global cities
  • cater to desirable upper/middle market clients, mostly non-financial corporations and very high net-worth individuals (the 1%)
  • and are solidly embedded in their local markets

There are a host of such firms, and some of them are quite large indeed, ranking comfortably within the Am Law 50, but in an odd way they are a residual category consisting of firms that don’t fit credibly or plausibly anywhere else.

Where did these firms come from and where are they going?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Corporate-Centric Firms”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Next in our series on a taxonomy of law firms are the capital-markets centric firms.

If you think this moniker roughly translates to the classic New York white shoe elite, move to the head of the class.

But, as much in our world at the start of the 21st Century, it’s not exactly that simple. Here’s what’s different about these firms.

First, recall that we’ve hypothesized seven primary species…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Capital-Markets Centric Firms”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

We humans like to put things in categories.

And while we can get it plain wrong, or mix up two categories benignly or malignly, there’s no question our propensity for categorization — from friend or foe and food to poison, to Linnaeus, to the periodic table, to the Dewey decimal system — has gotten us a long way on the planet so far.

So today we launch our own taxonomy of law firms….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: A Law Firm Taxonomy – Introduction”

I’ve been outed. My jealousy about never having sat in the front row of a courtroom gallery to take notes and hand documents to partners trying cases has now been discovered by the crack anonymous commenters. No, I never worked in Biglaw. No, they would never hire me. I didn’t have the grades, or the personality… I will forever regret not spending the first 5-7 years of my career hoping that the timesheet would evidence my ability as a lawyer and that I could brag at judicial receptions I was sent to for the purpose of meeting judges I never practiced before, about my (document review) work on a big corporate case (sorry, “matter”).

And so it appears that I am not a big fan of Biglaw — but that’s not true. Actually, Biglaw has been very good to me, and it can be good to you as a solo or small firm lawyer. Just don’t steal any of the embossed coffee cups, and consider some of these ideas….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Practice: Three Perfectly Good Uses For Biglaw Lawyers”

Every now and then we conduct reader surveys, to learn a little more about you. Today’s survey, aimed at practicing lawyers, seeks information about your practice area.

The survey is anonymous. The results will be used by us for a variety of purposes, some of them business-related and some of them editorially oriented (e.g., figuring out which practice areas we should cover more).

Please take the survey by clicking here. Thanks!

ATL Practice Area Survey [Survey Monkey]

Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgOur recent Career Center survey asked about how the economy has affected the practice area choices of associates and law students.  A large majority – 80% – of law firm respondents indicated that they have not had to work outside their chosen practice area to meet their hours.

Of the 20% of law firm respondents who have had to work in practice areas other than their own, more than two-thirds of them have picked up litigation work and almost half of them have billed hours to bankruptcy matters.  Almost half of law student respondents indicated that their practice area choices have been affected by market conditions, with litigation the new top choice among law students.

Check out the full survey results after the jump — and visit the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link for more on which firms are leaders in the practice areas you are interested in.

Full survey results, after the jump.

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