Profits Per Partner

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its Am Law 200 law firm rankings — a list that’s still closely watched, but not quite as prestigious as being a ranked member of the influential Am Law 100. Sorry, but being a part of the “Second Hundred” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

While the Am Law 100 celebrated a year of “slow growth” in 2012, it looks like the Am Law 200 will be known for its “bets on bulk.” When all of the big boys were busy playing it safe, perhaps out of fear of becoming the next Dewey, firms in the Second Hundred were gobbling up talent like there was no tomorrow.

Of course, as could’ve been expected, this kind of aggressive hiring had some pretty major effects on firms’ financial performance. So how did the Am Law 200 stack up? Let’s find out…

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and with regard to economic recovery, Biglaw firms seem to have taken that up as their new motto.

Yes, partners are still living as large as they ever were, but their success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics. The divide between the “haves and the have-nots” in the world of major law firms has grown to epic proportions, and some Am Law 100 staples have fallen out of the top hundred firms altogether. Welcome to the new normal.

Are you ready to get excited about “modest” and “spotty” gains across the board? Let’s dig in….

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What’s happening to the compensation of top partners at one major firm.

What kind of world are we living in? As we mentioned yesterday, a law school just announced that it’s lowering tuition — a shocking move, given that law schools almost always increase tuition by a few percentage points per year.

And now we get this news: a major law firm is cutting — yes, cutting — pay for top partners. This is a big surprise too, given that the powerful trend in the industry has been in favor of a growing divergence in pay between the highest- and lowest-earning partners. According to one recent study, “the spread in compensation between the highest- and lowest-paid partners in law firms has increased to 6-to-1 or 7-to-1 from the previous count of 4-to-1 or 5-to-1.”

So which firm is making this move, and what’s motivating it?

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If you follow the world of large law firms, then you are probably familiar with the incisive and candid commentary of Steven J. Harper. Over at his blog, The Belly of the Beast, Harper offers excellent insights into the world of Biglaw.

Harper knows so much about that world because he spent his entire legal career in it. He joined Kirkland & Ellis after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1979. He practiced litigation at the firm for about 30 years, until his retirement in 2008, at the early age of 54 (which you can afford to do when you’re an equity partner at a firm as lucrative as K&E).

In addition to blogging, Harper has written four books. I spoke last week with Harper about his latest book, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link), and about his views on the worlds of Biglaw and legal education….

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* If you’re looking for an easy résumé line, then consider joining the Supreme Court bar, an elite organization that doesn’t check to see if its members are still alive. All you need is three years of practice, two signatures, and $200. [Associated Press]

* Stanley Chesley, the master of disaster himself, was disbarred for his “shocking and reprehensible” conduct in a fen-phen case. His wife, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott of the Southern District of Ohio, must be oh so pleased. [Courier-Journal]

* Howrey like dem apples now? Some of Howrey’s former partners, including ex-chairman Robert Ryuak, all lined up to make deals to delay lawsuits from the firm’s bankruptcy trustee, Allan Diamond. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This Biglaw firm’s future was just a little bit dimmer in 2012, with a 4.9 percent dip in profits per equity partner. This is unexpected from Milbank, a number 3 seed in our March Madness competition. [Am Law Daily]

* The NRA’s New York affiliate filed suit challenging the state’s new gun laws, claiming that a ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment — because this is clearly what the founders intended. [Reuters]

* Raj Rajaratnam’s younger brother, Rengan Rajaratnam, was indicted yesterday in a federal insider-trading scheme tied to the Galleon case. You can’t fault the guy, he was just trying to keep it in the family. [Bloomberg]

* Sorry, Dean Boland, but you’re not going anywhere. A judge denied the attorney’s request to withdraw from Paul Ceglia’s Facebook case. He must be wishing there were a dislike button now. [Law 360 (sub. req.)]

PPP at one top law firm?

* Law School Transparency? Nay, Biglaw Transparency! Peter Kalis, global managing partner of K&L Gates, just opened the kimono wide on his firm’s financial performance in an “unusually detailed” fashion. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Talk about a pain in the pocketbook: although profits per partner and revenues are up overall, one firm saw shrinkage of 16 percent in PPP. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The ABA is just now thinking of trying to find someone who will audit the graduate employment data that law schools release each year. Gee, it only took 15 fraud lawsuits to get the ball rolling. [National Law Journal]

* Oh my God, you guys, carrying six figures of law school debt on your shoulders is “unsustainable” in the long run, especially when your salary sucks. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [News-Gazette]

* Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is now Tulane Law’s new assistant dean for experiential learning. For the school’s sake, hopefully he’ll be able to control his students better than he did his AUSAs. [Tulane Hullabaloo]

* “You’re a cold-blooded murderer and I’ll stare you down until I die.” Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife. A sequel to the Lifetime movie is likely forthcoming. [Reuters]

* Aside from writing powerful opinions that will last the ages, being a mentor “is the most valuable thing” this Supreme Court justice can do. Sonia Sotomayor: motivational speaker? [New York Times]

* Aww, poor Biglaw partners. You want bigger cuts of your firm’s profits, but according to the latest Peer Monitor report, expectations like that are incredibly “unrealistic.” [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This actually isn’t something women like to shop for: the $200 million class action suit over the Greenberg Traurig “boys club” is currently being held up in two federal courts by arbitration and forum shopping issues. [Am Law Daily]

* With news that the legal industry is shedding jobs faster than the ABA can accredit more unnecessary law schools, career services officers must be hanging their heads in shame. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Dear law schools, your crappy business model is making us take a look at all crappy higher education business models, and we don’t like what we’re seeing here. Pls hndle thx. XOXO, Moody’s. [Washington Post]

* This is justice, Texas style: District Attorney Mike McLelland says the reward fund for tips in the brutal slaying of ADA Mark Hasse will grow to an “astronomical amount” until the killers are found. [Dallas Morning News]

* This lawyer allegedly had a fling with his sister-in-law out of the goodness of his heart, and in return, she accused him of sexual assault. Now he’s suing her for $7 million. You can’t make this sh*t up. [New York Post]

* In trying to get $700 in tickets dismissed, this lawyer says the U.S. Postal Service is immune from state and local traffic regulations. Other USPS immunities include not losing my mail on a regular basis. [USA Today]

‘Jail? No thank you.’

* Congratulations to Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft! The firm saw its first revenue increase in three years, with profits per partner jumping up 11.6 percent, yet they didn’t top Cravath’s bonuses. Rude. [Am Law Daily]

* Thanks to the firm’s association with Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, Shook Hardy & Bacon was accused of aiding and abetting in securities law violations and is facing a multimillion-dollar suit. [Miami Herald]

* Lawyer glut? What lawyer glut? Let’s open some new law schools, yayyyy!!! Despite the fact that applications are at their lowest in a decade, new schools are still throwing their doors open wide. [Wall Street Journal]

* With the dean of Seattle University School of Law stepping down, Annette Clark, she of the most epic St. Louis University Law resignation letter, may get a second bite at the proverbial deanship apple. [National Law Journal]

* “Flattery doesn’t get you anywhere in this court.” Wooing the judge won’t work, so Lindsay Lohan’s new lawyer has a tough row to hoe — he had to pick up Shawn Holley’s pieces AND deal with his client. [Fox News]

* Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City and judge of “The People’s Court,” RIP. [New York Times]

Casey Anthony: Paralegal?

* “[W]e cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows.” And we especially can’t have all those people in the shadows without hundreds and hundreds of drones in place. Civil liberties be damned! [Huffington Post]

* According to this Wells Fargo survey, Biglaw did quite well in terms of revenues last year. Given that PPP was up nearly five percent, it’s now appropriate to bitch about why your bonuses weren’t even bigger than they were. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “Being a lawyer is a damn good profession.” To be fair, it could be an even better profession if things in legal education were subjected to some serious change, and Hofstra Law’s new dean seems to understand that. [New York Law Journal]

* Stoners everywhere would like to know when the federal government is going to legalize marijuana, but to be frank, they should thank their Lucky Charms they’re not getting prosecuted in states where it is legal. [TIME]

* Russia is officially trying to prosecute a dead man — a dead lawyer, no less. That said, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to say that not even Yakov Smirnoff himself could come up with a reversal for this one. [New York Times]

* Oh my god, some of Lat’s pop culture prophecies are coming true: Casey Anthony wants to become a paralegal. Nancy Grace is in the process of birthing a herd of cows over Tot Mom’s ambitions. [ABC News]

* The grand jury in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case thought there was enough evidence to indict the Ramseys on child abuse charges. This would’ve been a great thing to be outraged about in 1999. [CBS News]

* I’ll be tweeting from the LegalTech show today. Follow me on Twitter to get all the latest updates. [Twitter]

During the Great Recession, it felt like associates were being laid off in droves. In the past year or so, the big trend has been staff layoffs (often fueled by sending staff functions to an outside service provider).

Associates, staff — what about partners? Well, it seems that their time has come, at least according to some new surveys….

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