It’s been a while since we’ve had a good New York to 190 post. As we’ve discussed before, associate salaries at New York law firms are long overdue for a raise. Starting salaries have stagnated in New York.
What’s worse, total associate compensation has gone down this year from last year, thanks to Cravath’s low bonus and the absence of spring bonuses. The buying power of a New York associate is pathetic.
But one new firm in New York seems poised to change that. The firm isn’t nearly as big as our salary market leaders, but the firm is leaving the stagnated Cravath salary scale in the dust…
Lawyers often let themselves be abused by clients. After all, the clients pay the fees, and because they pay the fees, they are entitled to behave how they want. Part of being a lawyer is learning that you have to accept clients who treat you and your staff like garbage.
And I’ve never understood that.
Sure, lawyers have clients that are emotional, anxious, demanding, time consuming, or confused, but our job is to try and use the “counselor” part of “attorney and counselor at law,” and help them through the journey as best as possible. Why that has to mean we just take their crap to no end is a ridiculous notion.
Small-firm lawyers are more often the recipients of abusive clients. The fees are usually being paid by an individual or small company instead of by some insurance company in another state. Instead of dealing with a legal issue that affects a whole company, it’s often someone’s marriage, injury, arrest, or contract dispute — something personal. The client has more of a one-on-one relationship with a lawyer and sees that lawyer as the reason for success, and failure.
The reason lawyers think state bars go after small-firm lawyers more than Biglaw lawyers is simple — there are more of us, and Biglaw clients usually (but not always) don’t see the bar disciplinary process as a worthy forum for their issues.
So we get threatened more, asked for fees back more, and often feel under siege by bad clients….
There are a lot of different definitions of success. Especially in this economy. For instance, some people think I’m not “successful” because I’m a 33-year-old man with two Harvard degrees making a blogger’s salary with no savings or assets while being mired in debt. On the other hand, I’m judgment proof, bitches.
People value different things differently.
In this weekend’s caption contest, we see a lawyer who doesn’t value having eyes quite the way most people do, and he wants an entire interstate to know it….
When we last checked in with Illinois attorney, Jason W. Smiekel, the man accused of taking out a hit on a former client (who also happened to be the ex-husband of Smiekel’s fiancée), he was busy trying to convince a judge to release him on bail. Apparently he didn’t think murder for hire was a “crime of violence.” Needless to say, that was an exercise in futility.
In August, Smiekel pleaded not guilty to seven counts of using interstate facilities in his alleged murder-for-hire scheme. At the time, readers who knew Smiekel assured us that we would “see in the end that he is the victim in this whole fiasco.” They believed that the divorce lawyer’s fiancée — otherwise known as the “hot hot hot blonde” (HHHB) — was to blame.
But based on the plea deal that Smiekel took yesterday, that doesn’t seem to be the case….
I’ve known some lawyers to proudly proclaim that in litigation, they leave no stone unturned. They boast that they will pursue every defense, review every document, and raise every argument. In doing so, presumably, they assure victory. They strive to win at any cost.
This approach makes sense when a well-funded client faces bet-the-company litigation. In that case, of course, a lawyer should pursue every possible path to victory, even if a particular path seems like a long shot. It may cost a lot to win, but even more to lose. In these cases, the economic interest of the attorney and the client are aligned. If the amount at stake warrants it, the lawyer can work the case to the max, and the client is happy to pay for it.
But smaller firms handling smaller matters know that many times, winning in litigation is relative to the amount at stake and the fees incurred. Every client is initially delighted to receive a favorable verdict at trial. But when the heat cools down, and only the bill remains, even the winning client may resent his lawyer when he reflects on the price he paid for his “victory”….
I have spent many hours talking to others about the future of the legal profession. My Biglaw friends (at least the one who remains) proclaim that the future of legal practice is not that different from the past — by which she means that Biglaw is the future. The attorneys I meet from small law firms, in contrast, predict that Biglaw is out and small firms will prevail. My unemployed lawyer friends believe that they, along with a bunch of other unemployed lawyers, will toil away as hourly document review attorneys in the future. I believe that the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Oh, sorry, that is Whitney. RIP.
Corporate Counsel recently published an article, Bye Bye Big Firm, that predicts that while small law firms will not overtake Biglaw, they will be a major part of the future of legal practice. The article offers several reasons for predicting this future trend:
Well, the economy keeps getting better, so we’re sure to see the Presidential election start to take on a more absurdist flair. Romney will attack the president for listening to Romney’s ideas on health care. Obama will attack Romney for being marvelous. And somebody will write a big time article about how political discourse in the 24/7 cable news and blogging world has hit a new nadir (oh, please let it be me).
But as the economy steadily improves, the election will be more about framing than substance. We’re coming out of a terrible recession, we’re recovering slowly because of the changing nature of the global economy. It’ll continue like this for a while regardless of who is president — unless we take away a woman’s right to choose, because only then will God love us and bring all of our manufacturing jobs back from China.
Or something like that.
That’s how it’s going to be unless the lawyers get involved. Because while the economy is slowly recovering for the rest of America, it seems like the economy is still stagnantly sucking for a bunch of attorneys and people with legal skills….
If you’re trying to grow a solo or small firm practice, you generally shouldn’t work for free unless you have a deliberate business development objective in mind. Conversely, if you have a client willing to pay, you generally should prefer to scale up your headcount instead of turning down work due to lack of bandwidth.
Does this mean you should never turn down a client who is willing and able to pay your fees?
No. There are lots of reasons it might make sense to turn down a paying client….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
Connecticut plaintiffs-side boutique litigation firm (12 lawyers) seeks full-time associate with 2-4 years litigation experience, top tier undergraduate and law school education. Journal or clerkship experience a plus; highest ethical standards and strong work ethic required. Familiarity with Connecticut state court legal practice is preferred, but not required.
The firm handles sophisticated, high-end cases for plaintiffs, including individuals and businesses with significant claims in a wide array of matters. Our cases often have important public policy implications, and are litigated in state and federal courts throughout Connecticut. Representative areas of practice include medical malpractice, catastrophic personal injury, business torts, deceptive trade practices and other complex commercial litigation, and products liability.
Additional information can be located on our website, at www.sgtlaw.com.