Steven Harper

A not-so-little house on the prairie. It looks like a Wright, right?

Are you having a difficult time finding a position in the depressed legal job market? Maybe you need to think about relocating. Have you considered moving to Iowa? As noted by Vivia Chen over at The Careerist, the “Life Changing” state is experiencing a lawyer shortage.

Lawyer jobs and husks of corn aren’t all that Iowa has to offer. The state also has a reasonable cost of living, including some very well-priced real estate.

Take the Iowa home of a former partner Biglaw partner and former general counsel to a major media company. This lovely residence is currently on the market for a surprisingly modest sum….

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As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.

What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”

It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”

The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?

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Today, as you probably know, is the deadline for filing your taxes. As was the case last year, the combination of April 15 falling on a weekend and the little-known holiday of Emancipation Day pushed the filing deadline back a bit.

Did you appreciate the extra time to fill out your tax return? Partners at Dewey & LeBoeuf probably did, due to some problems with their K-1 forms.

And speaking of partners at Dewey, their numbers continue to decline. Let’s look at the latest defections, as well as the tax issue.

UPDATE (10:30 AM): The game of musical chairs continues. Six more Dewey departures, which we learned about shortly after publishing this post, after the jump.

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As you may have noticed from the run on allergy medicine, spring is in the air (even if spring bonuses aren’t). Spring is a time for new beginnings.

On that note, we’re thinking of launching a few new columns here at Above the Law. If you’re interested in writing for us, please read on for details.

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* Thinking of going to law school and leading a stereotypical Biglaw life of luxury? Perhaps you should consider taking ex-K&E partner Steven Harper’s class at Northwestern. You might just change your mind. [Chicago Tribune]

* The HuffPo’s unpaid bloggers are going to stay that way for now, because Jonathan Tasini’s $105M class action suit has been dismissed. Perhaps he’ll get another SCOTUS case under his belt. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Parts of Junie Hoang’s lawsuit against IMDb have survived dismissal, but she can kiss her $1M damages claim goodbye. Too bad, because at her age, she could really use the retirement money. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Hofstra’s going to Havana, but it’s not to get career advice from Fidel. Instead, students will learn about U.S. export law. Sigh. You don’t need to go to Cuba to find out you can’t bring back cigars. [National Law Journal]

* Who’s the latest lady love in Lindsay Lohan’s life? Shawn Holley. LiLo reportedly whispered sweet nothings into her lawyer’s ear after she was freed from the bonds of supervised probation. [Los Angeles Times]

If you think that making partner is like winning the Biglaw race, you haven’t actually been paying attention to what’s been happening to partners over the past few years. Sure, Biglaw partnerships overall are enjoying higher profits now than they were during the darkest days of the recession (while associate salaries remain stagnant, of course). But average “profits per partner” numbers can be misleading.

Steven Harper, the former Kirkland & Ellis partner turned law professor, writes that the income gap between the top earning partners and everybody else is “exploding.” It’s never been more lucrative to have a nice book of business.

And to keep it for yourself….

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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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This morning’s news that Boies Schiller is making a mockery of the Cravath bonus scale simply reinforces the prevailing view (pace David Lat) around here that the 2011 Cravath bonus scale is fundamentally unfair.

Agreeing on this point is former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper (whose apparent pro-associate stance may make him a sort of Biglaw apostate). As Harper points out, “equity partner profit trees have resumed their growth to the sky. As the economy struggled, Cravath’s average partner profits increased to $2.7 million in 2009 and to $3.17 million in 2010 … That’s not ‘treading water.’ It’s returning to 2007 profit levels — the height of ‘amazing’ boom years that most observers had declared gone forever. Watch for 2011 profits to be even higher.”

And yet associate bonuses remain stagnant at 2009 levels. Furthermore, as ATL commenter “The Cravath Cut” is so fond of noting, when viewed as a percentage of profits, bonuses appear especially measly, at least from the associate p.o.v. (The current $7,500 market rate for first-years is just 0.23% of Cravath’s profits per partner. Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equalled 1.36%.) Despite these numbers, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone Biglaw’s rank and file will follow Cravath’s lead.

Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. We thought it would be interesting to see what the implications of matching Cravath are for those firms with much lower profit margins. Which firms’ partners willingly take the biggest hit by keeping up? Are these firms arguably more “generous”? After the jump, check out those firms that pay the largest percentage of PPP in bonuses.

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There are a lot of unhappy lawyers. We all know that. Part of their discontent is due to the fact that many young people go to law school who may not want to be lawyers, or do not take the time during law school to figure out what type of practice best fits their personality and goals. It was for this reason that I was so excited to learn about Steven Harper’s class for pre-law students. Getting to potential law students before they take on an obscene amount of debt is one way to prevent accidental lawyers.

But what about those individuals who actually want to be lawyers, but due to certain biases are not able to pursue their dreams? The answer is the same: get to them in college….

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We are almost three months into my one-woman quest to convince the world (or at least ATL readers) that bigger is not always better. Isn’t that why Jamie Oliver is moonlighting as a lunch lady? Unfortunately, some people still are not convinced. So I called in an expert, Steven Harper (previously featured here).

Harper, a Kirkland & Ellis partner turned novelist, has been studying and writing about attorney unhappiness and Biglaw for some time. He also teaches a class to undergraduates at Northwestern University entitled “American Lawyers – Demystifying the Profession.” The class, which is now in its fourth year, offers undergrads “ten weeks of reality therapy” about what it means to be a lawyer. Although most of the students end up going on to law school, at least they are better informed.

What wisdom does Harper impart to his young charges?

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