The year-end Biglaw management machine is starting to grind into motion. The compensation committee is starting to look at the numbers for individual partners — to decide who will be rewarded and who will be de-equitized. And the firm’s A/R collections crew is starting to pressure the partnership to get bills out the door and talk to clients about what will be paid by year’s end. The associate bonus committee? If one still exists, is must be having a hard time reserving conference room space to meet.
The end of the year is a serious time for law firms. For many individual lawyers in Biglaw, it is the time of year when their die may be cast, in terms of compensation, lateral movement options, or even their continued employment. As anyone who follows Biglaw knows, we are living in interesting times, with many firms navigating choppy seas in terms of client demand, financial performance, and expense management. And at many firms, there has never been a wider gulf between the rank-and-file partner and firm management when it comes to the ability to make or influence decisions about the firm. Partners at many firms are often clueless about what the firm is doing and why, to the extent that partners are asked to vote on lateral candidates or even mergers based solely on the “reassurances” and “enthusiastic outlook” of management.
The net effect of this divide between management and the partnership? An increasing sense among partners that they are simply assets of legal “brands” rather than owners or even stewards of a professional enterprise. For many, it is a bit of a hopeless feeling, especially when they consider the Biglaw options down the street, which usually present the same level of management opacity to the putative “owners” as their current firm. But just because management likes to tell the partnership to “leave the managing to us, you just focus on building your practice” does not mean partners aren’t entitled to information — even if it’s just the personal views of the managing partner on certain issues.
Here are five questions for your managing partner. The topics are varied, but the answers given should give partners a good sense of both their relative standing within their firms and the values that drive the business decisions of their leadership….
Last week, we wrote about a recruiting snafu involving Kasowitz Benson. The high-powered litigation firm had an unexpectedly high yield for its 2014 summer program, so it started making phone calls in which it either pressed students with offers for a fast decision or effectively rescinded the offer, urging the student to go elsewhere.
A rescinded offer is bad news, especially in an age when fewer students have tons of offers to choose from. But a rescinded offer of a summer associate position is better than a cold offer at the end of the summer, right?
After our story about the controversial Kasowitz calls went up, we heard from multiple former summer associates at Kasowitz with additional allegations of shady behavior — specifically, cold offers….
‘Congratulations on your offer! Take your time deciding.’
The weather here in New York is turning nice and crisp; Sunday is the first day of fall. But because on-campus interviewing gets underway earlier and earlier, “fall recruiting” is almost over for many law students. Those who are lucky enough to be fielding multiple offers for 2014 summer associate positions are now deciding where to go.
But some students are still making up their minds. And one leading law firm wants them to decide faster — or else….
UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): We’ve added comment from the firm below.
Being a summer associate just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, there are still fun parties and social events to attend, but in the back of everyone’s mind is the creeping worry that out of all the classes of 100 percentoffer rates, they might be the one to get left behind. They’re very, very worried about making the cut, especially considering the fact that others have been forced to apply for deli clerk jobs. They realize even more that they hold their own futures in their hands, and this year, they were literally begging for more work and more hours.
These were the conclusions drawn from the American Lawyer’s 2013 Summer Associate Survey. Am Law polled 3,817 law students at 134 firms about their summer experiences and used the results to rank 112 summer programs. This year’s crop of would-be lawyers were even more worried than last year’s, which speaks volumes about the unease coursing through Biglaw during a time when layoffs and buyouts — on the staff, associate, and partner level — were running rampant.
But even so, the overall rankings were positive (though perhaps the summers rated their firms so highly out of fear for getting no-offered, we’re not sure). If you’re a law student trying to figure out where to spend your summer, you’re probably asking: which law firms came out with the highest scores?
Three of your Above the Law editors — David Lat, Elie Mystal, and Joe Patrice — recently sat down in the ATL offices to discuss the law firm recruiting process. After on-campus interviews and callbacks are done and a student is weighing multiple offers, how should he or she pick the right firm?
The gang weighs in with this short podcast after the jump. Good luck to all those who are still interviewing or choosing between offers….
As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.
Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?
Biglaw summer associate programs are like lions in winter: shriveled husks with but an outline of their past glory.
Instead of talking about it, we decided to make an illustration so we can all look at it in horror. We’ve compared the sizes of the 2007 summer classes at the top 50 largest law firms to the sizes of these firms’ 2013 summer classes. It’s a little bit like comparing the size of House Stark before and after they started messing with the Lannisters.
Winter is coming, would-be summer associates. Here’s a picture for those of you who are confused by math….
Back in February, with the help of a report from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), we described the summer associate hiring market as “anemic.” Recruiting volume in fall 2012 was down compared to fall 2011, and the entry-level recruitment environment, in general, was characterized as “flat and faltering.” No wonder we haven’t heard many tales of summer associate glory — they’re probably still too terrified to have fun.
Be that as it may, amid news of layoffs and rumors of stealth layoffs, right now, Biglaw firms are handing out offers of employment like candy. But have you ever stopped to think about why they’re passing out $160K offers so freely?
Perhaps it’s because the size of their summer classes are significantly smaller than ever before…
Last week, I shared some thoughts regarding Biglaw summer associates. I thought it would be interesting to interview a current summer associate, and I was happy to hear from some brave volunteers.
The summer associate who is the subject of this interview has an impressive résumé and is off to a solid start at their highly-rated law school. That their credentials are strong is not surprising, considering the challenging job environment for those hoping to land a summer associate position in the first place.
The words of our interviewee are unedited, except to protect their anonymity. I’ve added some responsive parenthetical commentary after each response. I thank our interviewee for their candid observations and thoughtful opinions in response to these questions….
Summer is finally here, and the halls of Biglaw are more clogged than usual. But it is not because the partners have been hitting the desserts harder at their monthly meeting in an attempt to look even worse during bathing suit season. Nope, the guys and gals walking the halls do not look like your typical Biglaw legal eagle. They are too young, too fit, and too excited to be there.
Yup, it is summer associate season. A new crop of recruits, eagerly brandishing their 1L transcripts as evidence of their legal ability, ready to conquer Biglaw. Or at least to eat as much good free food as they can, while pretending to “work” in between breakfast with the real-estate group, lunch with the litigators, and a social event after-hours with whatever motley crew of “presentable” lawyers the firm can pull together.
There were strict rules as to which lawyers were allowed to interact with the summers. It usually came down to looks/personality, and enthusiasm for the firm. Everyone wanted the summers to leave with a good impression. No firm wanted to be lowly-ranked on the summer associate surveys that would follow summer associate season. “Uh-oh, our five summer associates in Miami gave us a 3.8 out of 5 on their happiness scale. This is a crisis — next year we need to rent a party boat for an impromptu cruise to Key West, and make everyone take the survey while still happily boozed up.”
Quaint as it now seems, that kind of thinking (if only a bit exaggerated) was normal for Biglaw in the go-go late-90s and 2000s. Oh how times have changed….
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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