Recession

I previously wrote about the depressing prospects for graduates of all but the top ten or twenty law schools (“Two Law Grad Markets”). And yes, these were statistical generalizations, and the experience of specific individuals with particular skills and backgrounds will always be different, pro and con. But as an industry, if you care about our supply chain for talent, many law schools are burning platforms.

There are actually some closely connected problems driving this dynamic:

  • More JDs are being turned out each year than there are (a) full-time, (b) long-term jobs, (c) requiring bar passage, (d) at current salary levels;
  • perhaps the primary reason for the mismatch between supply of JDs and current demand for them (about two supplied for every one today’s market is demanding) is that clients increasingly resist paying for junior associates, which makes it uneconomic for firms to invest in traditional training;
  • but/and at the same time, every sentient observer is painfully aware that vast segments of the U.S. population — consumers and businesses alike — remain underserved by lawyers.

This would prompt any economist to ask, almost instinctively, “Why isn’t there a market-clearing price where supply and demand can meet?” Which is another way of asking, “What if there were a way to address both these problems at a single stroke?”

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Katherine Heigl

* A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit seemed a bit torn as to the constitutionality of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban during oral arguments yesterday. This one could be a contender to go all the way to the Supremes. [New York Times]

* Another concussion lawsuit has been filed against the National Hockey League by a group of former players, this time alleging a culture of “extreme violence.” The pleadings are a bit… odd. We’ll have more on this later today. [Bloomberg]

* “We’re not going back to 2006 anytime soon,” says NALP executive director Jim Leipold. The legal sector lost lots of jobs in the recession, and they’re not likely to come back. Happy Friday! [National Law Journal]

* It’s never too soon to start writing your law school application essay. Please try not to bore the admissions officers — make sure you have a “compelling” topic. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Katherine Heigl (remember her?) probably needed some cash, so she filed a $6M lawsuit against Duane Reade for posting a picture of her carrying one of the drugstore’s bags on Twitter. [Hollywood Reporter]

Jodi Arias

* A bipartisan immigration reform bill made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee and will head to the Senate floor. Of course, the amendments in support of gay marriage didn’t make it in, but that may be moot soon anyway. [CNN]

* IRS official Lois Lerner may not be very “good at math,” but at least she seems to know the basic principles of constitutional law. She’ll invoke her Fifth Amendment rights before the House Oversight Committee today. [Politico]

* The D.C. Circuit ruled that the top secret Osama bin Laden death photos will remain top secret, but the internet’s desperate cries of “pics or it didn’t happen” will live on in our hearts. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Attention naysayers: it may be time to face the music. According to the latest Altman Weil survey, most law firm leaders think all of these fun recession-driven changes are here to stay. [Am Law Daily]

* Twenty-two law firms are banding together to fight against fraudulent financial products on a worldwide scale. It’s too bad this legal alliance didn’t exist before the Bernie Madoff scandal. [New York Times]

* It looks like New Jersey may soon be hopping aboard the “pro bono work before bar admission” train. You better hope you get your clinic placements in order, people. [New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* The results for the February 2013 bar exam in California are out, and they’re frightening. It’s time to try that acting thing again, because only 41 percent of all test takers passed the exam. [The Recorder]

* Jodi Arias is now begging jurors to allow her to live out the rest of her days in prison. She wants to contribute to society by painting, recycling, and… not slashing additional throats. Lovely. [Fox News]

* “Given health care, I don’t care if he speaks in tongues.” Chief Justice John Roberts botched Barack Obama’s presidential oath at his first inauguration, but this time he managed to get it right. [New York Times]

* What was more important to Justice Sonia Sotomayor than swearing in Joe Biden as VP at noon on Sunday? Signing books at Barnes & Noble in New York City. Not-so wise Latina. [Los Angeles Times]

* D.C. Biglaw firms — like Holland & Knight, Covington, K&L Gates, and Jones Day — allowed others to bask in their prestige at their swanky inauguration parties. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* It’s been 40 years since SCOTUS made its ruling in Roe v. Wade, and this is what we’ve got to show for it: a deep moral divide over women being able to do what they want with their own bodies. [Huffington Post]

* The latest weapon in the fight against terrorism is the legal system. The Second Circuit recently issued a major blow to those seeking to finance militant attacks in secret. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* “Firms don’t just hire a body anymore.” The 2012 BLS jobs data is in, and if you thought employment in the legal sector was going to magically bounce back to pre-recession levels, you were delusional. [Am Law Daily]

* Three months have come and gone since Hurricane Sandy rocked law firm life as we know it in Manhattan, but firms like Fragomen and Gordon & Rees are still stuck in temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* This seems like it may be too good to be true, but it looks like New York’s chief judge may be on board to grant law students bar eligibility after the completion of only two years of law school. [National Law Journal]

* Law professors may soon be in for a nasty surprise when it comes to their salaries if their schools follow Vermont Law’s lead and remove them as salaried employees, paying only on a part-time basis. [Valley News]

* Resorting to a life of crime to pay off your law school debt is never a good thing — unless you’re doing it while wearing a Bucky Badger hat. We’ll have more on these allegations later. [Wisconsin State Journal]

I reported several weeks ago that I had been solicited to write an article about the future of Biglaw firms. But it was actually better than that: The invitation came from the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times, which is a pretty cool place to ask you to write.

Unfortunately, and apparently unbeknownst to the editor of the “Sunday Review” section, the Times ran a “DealBook” section on the fate of large law firms before my ditty could appear in print. This preempted my article (or at least that’s what the editor said, although maybe she was just sparing my feelings). So instead of having a piece in the NYT, I’m just another schlub typing away at Above the Law.

But if I took the time to write a 1,200-word piece on the future of big law firms, then I’m sure as heck going to get some use out of it. So here you are: “The Assault on Biglaw,” by yours truly, which damn near appeared in the Sunday Times….

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“Aaaaaand they’re off!”

Notwithstanding predictions of impending economic gloom or apocalyptic Mayan prophecies, 2012 brings some sort-of good news for incoming first-year associates: our survey findings show start dates have returned to pre-Recession timelines. We’re apparently (knock wood) past the days of first-years twisting in the wind with deferrals and rescinded offers. On the other hand, a majority of our survey respondents report that the size of the incoming first-year class has contracted significantly, with only 36% of you telling us that class sizes have returned to pre-Recession levels. For the full results of our survey, read on.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Great Non-Deferral of 2012″

* Patton Boggs partner Benjamin Ginsberg serves as the Mitt Romney campaign’s top lawyer, and he’s taking flak for GOP rules revisions that have been likened to “killing a fly with a sledgehammer.” [Am Law Daily]

* “I am still shocked that I did everything right and find myself on the brink of destitution.” This just in from the Things Everyone Already Knew Desk: even law firms have been hit hard by the recession. [Washington Times]

* The lead lawyer in the inquisition against Madam Justice Lori Douglas turned in a resignation letter. Perhaps he grew tired of being part of judicial farce that’s spread wider than Her Honor’s legs. [Canadian Press]

* Penn State Dickinson School of Law might not be losing its accreditation, but it will be reducing enrollment and consolidating all first-year classes at its University Park campus. [Central Penn Business Journal]

* A would-be law student wants to know if he has a good chance of getting into a top 20 school with a low 150s LSAT and an average GPA. You’ll get in everywhere you apply! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Roger Fisher, Harvard Law School professor and co-author of “Getting to Yes,” RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

As of this morning, the Dewey & LeBoeuf web site is still live and trumpeting, among many other things, the firm’s recent award for “Private Equity Law Firm of the Year in Poland.”

Meanwhile, back on Earth and/or the rest of the internet, industry observers have been feeling a bit like voyeurs at a pre-mortem autopsy. Everyone agrees that the downfall of this once-great firm is hugely sad (well, nearly everyone), but there is less of a consensus about who or what is to blame.

Last week we asked the ATL readership for their take on where fault lies. Here’s what you had to say….

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This is Elie Mystal, coming to you live from Austin, Texas, and the 2012 conference of the National Association of Law Placement. It’s my favorite annual conference, because every year, NALP just gets all the law school career services officers and all the law firm recruiters in a room, and tells them all the trends in legal hiring. We’re not talking about anecdotal evidence or law firm spin. It’s the one time each year we get to look at some hard numbers.

And in case you live under a rock, let me tell that every year since the recession, the numbers get more and more terrible. Looking at some of these statistics is as close as you can come to physically witnessing a dream die a horrible, mangled death.

This year, the numbers are worse than ever! And that’s the good news. NALP’s Executive Director, Jim Leipold, thinks that we’ve probably “hit the bottom” in terms of new associate hiring, with the class of 2011 suffering the absolute nadir of this process. While he doesn’t know if things will get significantly better any time soon, he figures they pretty much can’t get any worse.

Yay!

Does anybody want to hear the bad news?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “NALP 2012: Good News, We’ve Probably Hit the Bottom”

This case is a perfect illustration of what happens when divorce meets recession meets downsizing.

Howard London of Beermann Swerdlove, commenting on the particulars of client David McLauchlan’s case.

(McLaughlan, a former partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, was asked to leave the firm during the height of the recession due to his declining billables. McLaughlan’s income was reduced significantly — so much so that he could no longer afford his alimony payments.)

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