Steven J. Harper

Bruce Stachenfeld

There – I always wanted to write an article that had such a strange title that people would look at it and wonder what I was talking about. So here goes….

Everyone just loves to beat up on the big law firms. I keep reading articles everywhere that say:

They are overpriced.

They are inefficient.

Their partnerships destroy innovation.

They are terrible places to work – sweatshops – associates are worked to death until they quit.

Their business model is broken.

There was even a book that came out a year or so ago with a great title, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). To me the book described the law business as part of a dying profession that is enmeshed in a conspiracy to ruin the lives of all in it — except the fat-cat senior partners at the top of the pyramid. I admit I read it a while ago and it is a bit hazy in my mind, but the author, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, clearly is not a fan of the current state of Biglaw….

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* ATTENTION LAW STUDENTS: Tomorrow is the last day to enter our annual Law Revue competition. The deadline is tomorrow at 5 so send them in. Entries have been coming in all day, so don’t get left out. [Above the Law]

* It looks like the Supreme Court just made a decision even worse than McCutcheon. [SCOTUSBlog]

* New York’s disciplinary procedures for lawyers are “deficient in design and operation.” So come to New York if you plan on being a shady lawyer, I guess. [NY Times]

* More on the law school apology by Erwin Chemerinsky and Carrie Menkel-Meadow that Lat wrote about yesterday. [The Write Stuff]

* And, hey, while we’re at it, here’s Steven J. Harper’s take on the same Op-Ed. [The Lawyer Bubble]

* UC Hastings Professor Osagie Obasogie is quoted in this informative piece about the changing nature of collegiate debate as it ventures more and more into the domain of critical race theory. As one of the people who helps run the CEDA tournament discussed in the article, I thought this was an interesting account. [The Atlantic]

* FBI makes a cheesy video to teach young Americans not to spy for China. It’s really worth a watch. [National Journal]

* A high school teacher in Australia won a defamation suit against a student who said mean things on Facebook. [IT-Lex]

* The Legal Broadcast Network interviewed Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency about how improved tools help law students. [Legal Broadcast Network]

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* The shaming of Professor Rene Reich-Graefe continues, with Steven Harper weighing in. Law professors… so many people are onto your game of creating rosy scenarios to dupe prospective law students. Maybe you could spend more time trying to fix the problem in legal education, and a little less time trying to hide it? [Belly of the Beast]

* I enjoy reminding subway performers that their career choices are illegal. [Above the Law: Redline]

* Can’t Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, and Jim Beam settle their differences over a beer? [Wall Street Journal]

* I only hope Northwestern’s law students have as much legal success as Northwestern’s football students. [Deadspin]

* The ABA wants comment on whether for-credit externships can also be paid. [Faculty Lounge]

* I miss Kash. I hate drones. [Forbes]

* This isn’t a legal link. There’s no legal standard regarding gender specific displays of pubic hair. There’s just a double standard. [Fashionista]


For a while, interest in the Dewey drama seemed to be flagging (at least according to our traffic statistics). But lately it has revived, thanks to the recent criminal charges against the firm’s former leaders, plus the arrival on the scene of Zachary Warren — a total Dewey & LaBoeuf-Cake.

Interest in Zach Warren has been keen — and not just because of his good looks. His tale seems to resonate with Above the Law readers because, as Matt Kaiser recently noted, “he seems like one of us.” Although Above the Law’s readership is expanding, with more than a million unique visitors a month, it’s still fair to say that a young lawyer, recently graduated from a top law school, is within ATL’s demographic sweet spot.

Over the past few days, we’ve learned more about Zachary Warren. Dewey want to share this knowledge with you? Of course we do….

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At a roulette wheel in Vegas, you know the odds. The folks with all their money on red have a less than 50 percent chance of winning (47.37 percent, to get technical). There will be highs and there will be lows, but over the long haul, those poor saps swizzling their comped drinks will come out on the losing end.

On the other hand, you put all your money on black because the guy on your flight told you to. Intellectually, you recognize you have the same odds of pulling out a victory as the overmatched retirees from Kansas City betting on red, but you’re absolutely positive you’re going to win.[1]

Welcome to the positive expectation bias. Rational thought flies out the window as you ignore facts you know (or at least strongly believe) to be true, instead placing blind faith in the proposition that everything’s going to turn out well for you.

Law firm managing partners are expected to be a little more risk-averse compared to other chief executives, but it turns out law firm managing partners are not immune to a little irrational gambling from time to time….

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I recently participated in an excellent symposium about the future of legal education that was sponsored by the Seton Hall Law Review. Congratulations to the law review editors on putting on a great event, and thanks to them for inviting me to be a part of it.

Most of the presentations took the form of detailed papers that will be published in the law school’s symposium issue. But there were a few moments of levity, represented by the following seven notable quotations (comments that I found either amusing or interesting):

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The idea of “happiness” is the basis of an ever-growing body of research. In fact, while economists traditionally measure a nation’s prosperity by looking at GDP, there is a growing movement for them to consider a different measure, something akin to “Gross National Happiness.” One of the best-known efforts to move away from a reliance on GDP as a measure of national welfare is the UN’s Human Development Index, which amalgamates three metrics: lifespan, educational attainment, and adjusted real income. Then there are dozens of much more subjective surveys of national happiness, many of which find Costa Rica to be the happiest country in the world. Others say it’s Norway. (Then there is this preposterous “Happy Planet Index,” which ranks the U.S. at number 113, between Madagascar and Nigeria.)

Of course happiness research is performed in more narrowly targeted ways, such as examining specific professions. Earlier this year, Forbes reported on a “Career Bliss” survey of 65,000 employees that ranked “law firm associate” as the unhappiest job in America. (See Joe’s take on that survey here.)

This week, over at In the Belly of the Beast, Steven Harper is asking “Are Lawyers Becoming Happier?” Harper takes a look at two recent studies that suggest the answer is “yes.”

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* Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan gets the death penalty. Looks like that gradual end of the death penalty won’t be fast enough for him. [CNN]

* Man gets 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old who later killed herself. The judge explained that he’d already been punished with “the scarlet letter of the internet.” The new sentencing guidelines are really web-literate. [Jezebel]

* Infilaw is taking over Charleston School of Law eliminating all the pretense. [Post and Courier]

* On that note, Steven J. Harper discusses President Obama’s call to eliminate the third year of law school. Simpler Harper: Law schools and the ABA are too vested in ripping off students to listen to reason. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* The “most intimidating man in hip-hop” is a Columbia Law grad. Hip-hop has come a long way from allegedly dangling rappers off hotel balconies. [GQ]

* The Internet Strikes Back: A new crowdsourcing tool tracks IP trolls. [Technology Law Source]

* A call for former law clerks to fight for an end to sequestration. [Judicial Clerk Review]

* The state-legal yet federal-illegal status of medical marijuana leads to some very complex tax returns. You should smoke up to take the edge off. [TaxProf Blog]

* For those beginning law school, here’s some advice from the National Women Law Students’ Organization. [Ms. JD]

Last week, we focused a lot on a controversial study about the economic value of going to law school. Today, I want to look at some more useful approaches to the question.

Looking at the lifetime earnings of of J.D. holders compared to people with undergraduate-only education based on historical data about J.D. earnings couldn’t have less to do with the current decisions facing prospective law students. Prospective law students are looking at a shifting market for legal employment, and they are dealing with skyrocketing tuition. Are there any studies that are looking at the economic value for them?

In fact, there are… and while the outlook doesn’t paint the rosy picture some law professors seem really invested in, there are rational arguments available for those who want to convince people to go to law school…

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One of the more amusing law firm nicknames belongs to Weil Gotshal & Manges. As we noted a few years ago, some refer to the firm as “We’ll Getcha & Mangle Ya.”

Alas, the nickname is less funny in the wake of yesterday’s big layoff news. The firm announced it will be cutting 60 associates and 110 staffers from the payroll. Despite the generous six-month severance for associates, some probably feel like their legal careers have been mangled. The firm also plans to reduce the compensation of about 10 percent of its partners (roughly 30 out of 300, some income and some equity partners).

Let’s take a closer look at the layoffs and try to make sense of them….

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