Recession

At the start of this new year, what is the outlook like for legal employment? There’s certainly a fair amount of bad news out there, particularly for recent law school graduates.

But what about for denizens of Biglaw, the lawyers fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to work at the nation’s largest law firms? What does 2012 hold for them?

Earlier this month, my colleague Elie made some predictions for the legal profession. I will follow in his footsteps and venture some prophecies of my own for the year….

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Thomas D. Morgan

The jolt to the legal profession is real, and the world is not going back to the way it was.

Thomas D. Morgan, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, commenting on the state of legal education during a plenary session at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. Morgan, author of The Vanishing American Lawyer (affiliate link), noted that more must be done to make legal education relevant in a post-recession world.

Here’s a puzzle for you. What decade am I discussing in the following paragraphs?

I’m doing something a little different here. The entire text of this column appears before the jump. I’ve hidden only the citations after the jump. Ponder while you read these paragraphs when the source materials supporting these words were written:

The excessive cost of legal services is not a function of the economy that will abate as the recession finally fades. In the words of one recent report, “Don’t fool yourselves that when the recession passes things will return to normal.” That report quoted the general counsel of a major financial institution as saying, “The way we are now is the way it is now, not a temporary situation . . . . [I]n the [decade omitted] we’re going to see straight hourly billing die.”

Surveys confirm the concerns about the high cost of legal services. For example, in a [year omitted] general counsel survey conducted by [the firm you know as PriceWaterhouseCoopers], a majority of the 350 respondents agreed that “legal fees have gotten out of control and are crippling businesses,” and pressure to reduce costs was a “major theme” of the survey responses. Surveys of corporate law departments conducted by Endispute, Inc. in [two years omitted] reveal that a third of the respondents faced actual cuts in their legal budgets and that, as the size of the legal departments increased, so too did the pressure to reduce legal costs. A [year omitted] Louis Harris survey of executives and legal officers of Fortune 500 service corporations reveals cost containment as a top priority for law departments, and a survey of major corporate clients in the United Kingdom demonstrates that this is now a worldwide issue.

The pressure to move away from standard billing, based on the billable hour, is likely to increase. Indeed, [name omitted], the recently appointed general counsel of [company name omitted], is leading an intense campaign to adopt alternative billing mechanisms. Her efforts have been broadly publicized and resulted in a highly visible panel at the [year omitted] ABA meeting.

In what years did these things occur? What decade are we discussing? And who the heck was the recently appointed general counsel of what company? Those citations and more after the jump….

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As you may have guessed from reading many of my posts, I am the self-appointed spokeswoman for women in small law firms. I recently read a post on the Careerist about women lawyers and ambition. Vivia Chen cites some sobering statistics from a survey done by More magazine: 43% of women (out of 500 35-60 year-olds surveyed) are less ambitious now than ten years ago; 73% would not apply for their bosses’ jobs (38% of them do not want to because they do not want to deal with the politics, pressure and responsibility); and 92% of women rate job flexibility as their number one career priority.

From this survey, Chen concludes as follows: “If you’re a female lawyer (or aspiring to be), you might be wasting your energy on the wrong endeavor. In fact, if you’re gunning for any high-paying, high-profile job in a male-dominated field, you might as well put the brakes on right now. Not only are your odds of success remote, but you won’t be happy.”

So now what do I say to my small-firm sisters? You are all lazy bums?

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Back in June, when we spoke about the latest job data from NALP, it became clear that the class of 2010 — my graduating class — had some of the worst employment outcomes of the last 20 years. We knew this because of the way NALP categorized its data, differentiating between jobs that require and don’t require bar passage, and between full-time and part-time jobs.

But apparently the American Bar Association isn’t interested in helping people understand these outcomes on a school-by-school basis. The ABA doesn’t want you to know how schools fared in finding full-time legal employment for graduates of the class of 2010.

That’s right, the same folks who claimed just two short months ago that “no one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA,” will now be removing those helpful job characteristics from the 2011 Annual Questionnaire….

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It’s no secret that the legal market is still in the tank. Unemployed associates have grown accustomed to scrounging the Internet for any and all job openings that might materialize – even sketchy postings offering $35,000 salaries to sharp dressers.

Just how bad has the economy gotten? Bad enough that Craigslist isn’t just for associates anymore. That’s right, now even partners are lowering themselves to the point of hawking their wares on this oh-so-prestigious platform. In the last week, we’ve seen not one, but two ads on Craigslist aimed at the upper echelon of law firm life.

One poster is an aspiring partner seeking the right law firm to take on his or her amazing legal talent. The other is a solo lawyer seeking a partner to start a law practice.

Are these two a match made in Craigslist heaven? Keep reading to see if either of our contestants has the goods to succeed in the partner matchmaking game.

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Week in, and week out, without fail, we write about the state of the legal economy. Sometimes we have good news about employment prospects for law school graduates, but the reality of the situation is that things are probably going to get worse before they get better.

And these days, apparently you can run into career trouble even if you go to a top-tier law school in a major city.

Here’s the photo for out latest caption contest….

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Stephen Venuto

People came in wanting to work, which is a shift. Students’ primary goal three or four years ago was to ensure they had a terrific social experience. They short-changed themselves a little.

Stephen Venuto, head of on-campus recruiting for Biglaw firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, commenting on the new environment of summer associate programs during the legal recession.

This year, Orrick made offers of full-time employment to 47 of 52 summer associates. The firm’s 90 percent offer rate was at the lower end of the spectrum of the 17 national firms surveyed by Am Law.

Luz Herrera

The economy had to tank and a lot of people had to become unemployed for law schools to ask: ‘How can we help people hang out their shingle?’

Luz Herrera, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, commenting on the need for law schools to establish solo practice incubators. In 2007, CUNY School of Law was the first school to introduce such an innovative program for its graduates.

Edwards Angell & Wildman Harrold: A match made in heaven?

What results from the coupling of an angel and a wild man? One might think: angel + wild man = air traffic nightmare.

In the law firm context, however, the result is quite different. Edwards Angell is merging with Wildman Harrold, to form Edwards Wildman Palmer. The merger will take effect on October 1 and “will bring together 650 lawyers across two legacy firms renowned for their deep experience, shared dedication to client service, and highly collaborative cultures,” according to the new firm’s website.

What else do we know about Edwards Wildman Palmer? And what might be motivating this merger?

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