Unemployed

The partners of the law firm of Howrey LLP, founded in 1956, have voted to dissolve the existing Howrey partnership. The dissolution will take effect on March 15, 2011, according to a press release that was issued earlier tonight by the firm.

The firm’s chairman and CEO, Robert Ruyak, has not been the most popular person during Howrey’s long and painful disintegration (which arguably started over a year ago, with some key partner defections). But few would disagree with the statements he made this evening.

“This is a very difficult time for our firm, for our attorneys and for our staff,” Ruyak said. “Many of us have spent our entire legal careers at Howrey and remain proud of what we built. We find some solace in the fact that our people have been so well received by their new firms. They are first class professionals and deserve the respect accorded to leaders in their fields.”

We extend our sympathies to everyone at Howrey who will be affected by the firm’s demise, and we wish them the best of luck as they search for new workplaces. Many superb lawyers and staff have worked at Howrey over the past 55 years, and as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many are being courted and welcomed by other law firms — a testament to their talents and abilities.

Additional commentary and links, as well as the full press release, appear below.

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It’s a little risqué, so we’ve placed it after the jump. If your sensibilities are delicate or you don’t like crudeness, please stop reading here.

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Job openings in the legal industry are up by 97 percent (December 2010 over December 2009).

A Sign of Hope for More Hiring, New York Times

(Speaking of jobs, Above the Law has a new jobs board. If you’re looking for a new job, check out all the listings over here. If you’re an employer with a position you’re looking to fill, please email winnie@breakingmedia.com. Thanks.)

Law firm layoffs might be down, but they’re not out. Today we bring news of staff layoffs in the Los Angeles office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

We heard reports that approximately 12 out of 18 support staff members have been or will be laid off. According to these reports, eleven were laid off earlier this month, and one will be leaving in a few weeks.

In response to an inquiry from Above the Law, a spokesperson for the firm confirmed the essential accuracy of these reports. No associates were affected by the reduction, she noted.

“This was a difficult move; we had to let go of some very good people,” said Gerard F. Cruse, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, in a statement issued to ATL. “But, despite the fact we had another record year last year, the recession has impacted our L.A. office and we couldn’t continue to be overstaffed there. We are confident about its future and are planning the L.A. office’s expansion.”

Some additional information, after the jump.

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a story; then, an attempt to find a job for an unemployed former editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Here’s the story: After I wrote The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, I thought about how to maximize sales of the book. I had the clever (if I do say so myself) idea of sending free copies to the editors-in-chief of a bunch of law reviews. I figured that those folks were likely to (1) read a book and (2) be “opinion leaders” on their respective campuses, so word of the book would spread.

But there was a fly in my ointment. If you send a law student a book, the student is likely to read the book and pass it on to a friend, who will do the same in turn. That generates readers (which is nice), but it doesn’t generate sales (which is nicer).

How do you prevent this?

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Are you ready for some stop-gap measures?

Given that law schools keep pumping out more graduates than the market can handle, the state of Oregon is trying an interesting approach to deal with the mass of lawyers being unleashed into the system. Following in the footsteps of Georgia and Utah, Oregon will now require new lawyers to enroll in a year-long mentoring program.

People sitting for the February bar were informed that they will be subject to this new requirement. The goal of the program is to provide some guidance for all the unemployed law graduates, especially those who are thinking of going out there and hanging a shingle.

Because, you know, it’s not like three years in law school actually prepare you to start a career…

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Like many of you, I read the epic New York Times article on law school debt over the weekend. To answer the most consistent question I’ve received in the past 36 hours: no, I don’t feel like I’ve “won.” And I don’t feel like the NYT has somehow validated some of my commentary over the past two years.

Because the New York Times article, by David Segal, simply captures a story that everybody who has been paying attention already knows: law students are getting themselves into serious debt problems, with no plan for how to pay the debts back. This we know.

But there are things we don’t know. How do you get prospective law students to pay attention to the harsh economic realities before they sign up for law school? What can be done to make those economic realities a little bit less harsh? And what can be done after somebody makes a ruinous investment in higher education?

Now, as far as getting prospective law students to pay attention, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe a big-time article like this in the NYT helps. We already know, however, that unless it shows up in the U.S. News Law School Rankings, prospective law students don’t really care.

So let’s focus on the other questions…

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So lawyers, if you’ve recently been laid off or have been out of school for over a year without a job, it’s probably time to look at your résumé and take out any reference to the fact that you’re, you know, “dynamic.”

Sure, you might be. But so is everyone else. And, more importantly, nobody cares anyway.

LinkedIn’s analytics team reviewed 85 million LinkedIn profiles and came out with a list of the most “clichéd and overused” phrases found on people’s resumes.

As they succinctly say, “You know what they are — those ambiguous ones that really don’t tell you anything.”

Here are the 2010 top 10 buzzwords used in the U.S., according to them….

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Brandy Kuentzel, laid-off K&E lawyer turned reality TV star.

Apologies for this very belated coverage of the season finale of The Apprentice, which aired last week. Alas, no member of Team ATL — not even Marin, our resident reality TV addict — actually watched the show. The final episode was a bit like the proverbial tree falling in the forest without anyone around to hear it.

But it seems numerous ATL readers tuned in, even though ratings for the show are down 75 percent since the premiere season. So here’s a post, triggered by your many email pleas for coverage.

We extend warm congratulations to Brandy Kuentzel, the Chicago Law alumna and laid-off Kirkland & Ellis associate who emerged victorious in the reality TV competition. In the finale, Kuentzel defeated a fellow lawyer, Clint — a 40-year-old SMU Law grad described in his NBC bio as “living off of credit” — for the opportunity to work for Donald Trump.

One Brandy fan gave us some background on her: “She went to University of Chicago, started at Kirkland SF as transactional associate. After she got laid off, she started a mobile truck cupcake business.” (Digression: Why is driving a cupcake truck such a popular fallback option for lawyers? See also Kate Carrara, of Philadelphia, and Lev Ekster, of New York.)

Continued our tipster: “Brandy has an insane background story. She’s from Alaska, and moved out at an early age to self-finance her education, after graduating as valedictorian of her high school. Oh, and she is insanely hot. Google her.”

As you can see from her photo, Brandy is most definitely a hottie. But, interestingly enough, Brandy Kuentzel wasn’t quite as smoking hot back in her law firm days….

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The following will shock no one who has been paying attention to how law schools are trying to openly game the U.S. News law school rankings and mislead prospective law students. When it comes time to collect employment data, law schools are selectively surveying their graduates: they’re seeking survey responses from employed graduates, while ignoring graduates who are unemployed. They’ve been playing this game at least since the recession started.

And now we have evidence. A tipster emailed pretty much everybody in the legal blogosphere spilling the dirt on how his law school is trying to inflate employment statistics. He claims that the directive from his law school is not at all subtle. If you are employed, the school hounds you to complete a graduate employment survey. If you are unemployed, the school would like you to ignore it. That way, when the school hears from U.S. News or NALP or the ABA — or Law School Transparency, which just issued another request to law schools for more comprehensive employment data — law school officials can throw up their hands and say, “It’s so hard to get our graduates to fill out a jobs survey.”

Still confused about how law schools massage the facts? Let this tipster explain it to you….

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