Slaughter and May

Joe Borstein

Joe Borstein

Did you hear that sound? Listen carefully. What is that row? It’s the sound of alternative legal providers’ footfalls, gaining on you.

According to Legal Business magazine (a UK-based trade publication), one of the top ten “overall advisors” in the UK market is Axiom. Huh? Let me repeat that. In a survey of major corporate clients in the UK, one of the top ten “advisors” is NOT a law firm, but an alternative legal services corporation.

Step quickly, chaps! We’ve got a spanner in the works, and pretty soon we’ll be ten a penny! (look it up)

Legal Business noted, that this breach of the coveted top ten, was “significant” and “demonstrate[ed] how non-law firm providers are winning over some bluechip clients.” I take something different from these results: Big Law take note, alt.legal firms are not just “winning over some bluechip clients,” we are gaining the respect and trust of their corporate counsel clients. To be recognized as commercially viable is one thing, but this recognition awards that ephemeral prize of every attorney’s desire: prestige. For those of you who believed that change is coming, keep reading. For those that don’t… well, the link probably won’t work on your Blackberry anyway.

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There’s no Biglaw intercity rivalry that can match the one between London’s venerable Magic Circle and New York’s elite white-shoe firms. Both groups of firms are the clear alpha dogs in their markets, attracting the top talent and most lucrative clients.

There are, however, some significant differences between the two groups in how they operate. For example, U.K. firms tend to follow a lockstep (rather than “eat what you kill”) compensation model. Last month, friend of ATL Bruce MacEwen took a deep dive into the relative performance over the last several years of the Magic Circle firms versus their New York cousins. The piece is highly recommended: it’s chock-full of data, and its findings suggest the groups are moving in different directions….

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Some Biglaw firms put on variety shows and have associates sing, dance, and act out lame sketch comedy. It’s all about associates demeaning themselves for the amusement of partners in new and more interesting ways. And I guess it’s supposed to engender some kind of camaraderie, though it’s not clear how.

But sketch comedy can go horribly wrong. Like, any time a white guy shows up in blackface.

That’s a problem. And yet this Biglaw firm doesn’t seem to understand why….

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Earlier this week, we showed you a home movie taken inside Slaughter & May’s offices in 1981. What we learned was that practicing law at the highest levels in the early 80s involved no computers, a lot of switchboard operators, and casually telling women in the office that they had good backsides.

The natural question after watching the whole video was, “Where are they now?” Whatever happened to the young associates showing off their window views and pretending the British tax laws are interesting?

We don’t have answers for every face recorded all those years ago, but we do have updates on the current whereabouts of a few of them.

But most importantly, we can tell you whether the guy with the killer porn stache guy is still rocking it today!

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An actual switchboard!

Most of you weren’t practicing Biglaw in 1981. Indeed, the vast majority of you weren’t practicing in 1981. Which is why this find is such a gem. Someone unearthed a home movie taken in the home office of a Biglaw firm in 1981.

How long ago was 1981? They still had a f**kin’ switchboard! Like, with wires and stuff.

If you’ve ever wondered what law looked like in an era before computers or basic standards of appropriate behavior, here’s your guide….

UPDATE (7/10/14 1:45 p.m.): Be sure to check out our update revealing the identity of the genius behind this time capsule.

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Times are still tough in the legal industry. The industry shed 1200 jobs last month and we hear about layoffs — mostly staff, but some attorneys too — on a weekly basis. On the flip side, Citi Private Bank tells us that Biglaw is growing again with improvements in both demand and billable rates.

Now comes news that some global firms are handing out salary increases and bonuses?

Maybe good times — or at least above-average times — are here again….

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This Lawyerly Lair is on a pleasant, tree-lined block in Chelsea (click to enlarge).

No, we’re not talking about “law clerk” as in judge’s aide. It’s hard to afford a seven-figure home on a public servant’s salary. We’re talking about “law clerk” as in someone who’s working at a law firm, essentially as an associate, but is not yet an admitted attorney in the jurisdiction.

This “law clerk” and his partner, also a law school graduate, just picked up a spacious Manhattan co-op for a little under $1.7 million. Their housing hunt was chronicled in the pages of the New York Times. Let’s read more about them, and check out the place they finally chose….

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Unless you’ve made some deliberate, heroic effort to not know, you are aware that the most feverishly anticipated baby since 0 A.D. is now finally among us. This is a huge deal. People love babies. People love princesses and what not. So: huge deal. Thus, as we await the naming of the boy Windsor and as a flimsy topical pretext, let’s have a look at how the Magic Circle, the UK’s legal royalty, rate in the ATL Insider Survey.

The Magic Circle comprises five venerable London firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters, and the terrifyingly-yet-diffidently named Slaughter and May. Powerhouse “Slaughters” is the only one of this prestigious group lacking a New York office. The other four are among the most truly global firms and are among the top ten firms in the world measured by revenue. S&M is also the only one of the group for which we lack sufficient survey responses to generate ratings based on the ATL Insider Survey. After the jump, see how the others’ New York offices stack up in terms of Compensation, Hours, Training, Firm Morale, and Culture.

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Chief Justice Roberts: he ain’t evolving.

* In light of Chief Justice Roberts’s historic vote to uphold Obamacare, should we expect JGR to be more liberal going forward? According to Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath (affiliate link), “Do not expect a new John Roberts. Expect the conservative he has always been.” [Talking Points Memo via How Appealing]

* Law firm staff layoffs: they’re not just an American thing. Slaughter and May is dropping the ax on 28 secretaries. [Roll On Friday]

* “[A]ny robot or high school graduate can calculate numbers in a matrix to arrive at the highest possible sentence. But it takes a Judge — a man or woman tempered by experience in life and law — to properly judge another human being’s transgressions.” [Justice Building Blog]

* Professor Dershowitz’s $4 million Cambridge mansion? Robert Wenzel is not impressed: “if I lived in that house, I would want to attack Iran and most of the rest of the world, also.” [Economic Policy Journal]

* A man sues a strip club, alleging that a stripper ruptured his bladder when she slid down a pole and onto his abdomen. Ouch. [Legally Weird / Findlaw]

* Still on the subject of Torts, two attractive blonde sisters walk into a bar — and discuss who can be held liable if a man suffers a heart attack during a threesome. Video after the jump….

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Say hello to the Global 100 for 2011. This is the American Lawyer’s list of the world’s 100 largest law firms, ranked by total revenue.

There’s a lot of economic anxiety these days, with fears of a double-dip recession running rampant. But looking back — the list is compiled based on 2010 revenue numbers — the legal business seems to be hanging in there. As noted by Am Law, total revenue for the Global 100 increased by 3 percent last year.

Lawyers are a competitive lot. So you’re probably less interested in the overall figures than in how different firms fared in the rankings….

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