I think we learned a lot from the last ATL/Kaplan Liveblog during the bar crawl in NYC. But instead of applying those lessons (many of them involve pictures of pretty women in various states of undress), I’m going to kind of keep doing what I do: provide you with a drunk eye view of the world filtered through my curious psychology.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be the only one liveblogging. And I expect this one to be a bit more, well “lively” than the last one since I won’t be dodging through traffic. But remember, a liveblog is only as good as you make it, your comments are welcomed and appreciated (except for yours, yeah, you know who you are).
Let’s do this. Click below to join in on ATL’s trip to Chocolate City…
Last month we wrote about a Biglaw firm that’s in big trouble. The firm in question: Dow Lohnes, a former Am Law 200 firm that has been hemorrhaging lawyers and clients (and lost two more partners last week, to Venable). In our story about Dow Lohnes, we noted that “[i]t seems possible that the firm could merge out of existence — if it’s lucky enough to find a partner.”
Fortunately for the remaining lawyers and staff at Dow Lohnes, the sinking ship has located some lifeboats. A larger and stronger firm, a member of the Am Law 50 and Vault 100, will be picking up many (but not all) of Dow Lohnes’s lawyers.
Who’s the white knight riding to the rescue of Dow Lohnes?
Do you remember how people used to regard blackouts as an excuse to have a party? You’d eat all the ice cream in your freezer and invite friends over to play Monopoly by candlelight and maybe have sex because what the hell else can you do for entertainment? This doesn’t happen as much as it used to because now “blackouts” are usually accompanied by “Global Warming fueled mega-disasters.” It’s hard to party when the power failure is caused by an angry God as opposed to an incompetent public power company employee.
The government shutdown isn’t exactly like a blackout, but it’s certainly been caused by totally incompetent public employees. That’s as good an excuse for any to have a party in D.C.
In New York, Kaplan Bar Review sponsored a law-school bar crawl. In D.C., we’re going to do something a little bit different, probably because the thought of our readers crawling around black D.C. scares everybody but me. We know how much law students like taking tests, so on October 16th, ATL and Kaplan will be hosting a trivia night…
Some of the programs against which we compete are very old and rich programs. We do have some scholarships and financial aid, but not a lot … Schools that are very rich are able to fill their classes with the very best kids, and price is no object for them.
There’s a lot less to go around once you descend from the ethereal heights to the altitudes that most of the law school industry subsists at — where we subsist and a great majority of our competitors subsist. Things are tougher for us. There’s a pain cascade that can be discerned where I live, that my rich competitors only have to read about.
Earlier this year, K&L Gates generated some (generally positive) press by issuing an unusually detailed disclosure of its firm financials. The report reflected a reassuringly conservative financial position, with zero bank debt and limited retirement-plan obligations (a trouble spot for many other law firms).
It looks like K&L Gates is keeping to its conservatism. It’s trimming its headcount in D.C. and Seattle, presumably to reduce expenses….
Washington, D.C. has the most densely concentrated population of lawyers in the nation. The capital has an astounding 1,356 percent more lawyers per capita than New York. One in 12 District residents is an attorney. The nation’s capital is home to just one-fifth of one percent of the national population but accounts for one in every 25 of its lawyers. Could there be some correlation between this total saturation of D.C. with J.D.s and the seeming contempt that the rest of the country holds for the place? Washington’s negative perception problem is such that Slate’s political gabfest felt compelled to devote this week’s podcast to explore the proposition “Washington Is Really Not That Bad.” Examples of this not-badness included the fact that people don’t have to bribe officials to get their social security benefits. So it was kind of a low bar.
In any event, D.C.’s lawyers work in myriad capacities in Congress, government regulatory agencies, non-profits, and lobbying firms. But obviously Washington is very much a Biglaw town as well. The frustration and malaise brought on by the sequester and partisan gridlock seem to be affecting the business of Biglaw. As Lat noted yesterday, large firms there are struggling: revenue, demand and productivity are all lagging at D.C.-based law firms when compared to firms nationwide. So this might not be the ideal time to check in on how lawyers at large D.C.-based firms perceive their professional experiences. But we’ll do it anyway.
Our ATL Insider Survey (13,500+ responses and counting) asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Washington stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…
D.C. is dysfunctional, as pundits constantly complain about. Has the lack of productivity on Capitol Hill expanded to affect the private law firms of Washington?
Perhaps. According to Citi Private Bank’s recent survey of law firm performance, which showed that the first half of 2013 was bad for Biglaw nationally, D.C.-based law firms did even worse than their counterparts in other cities.
We don’t do enough reporting about the struggles of contract attorneys. We should do more, because that’s where the jobs are. Biglaw firms have been able to keep traditional associate hiring down thanks to an explosion in the use of contract attorneys. Getting one of these hourly wage jobs actually represents success in a market saturated with underemployed attorneys.
Now I remember why I don’t do a lot of reporting on contract attorneys: acknowledging that these, and not high-paying traditional associate salaried positions, are the jobs coming back in the “recovery” is terribly, terribly sad.
This might come as a shock to you, but being a document monkey on an hourly wage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. These hard-working people generally want to work as much as possible (kind of the opposite of traditional associates) for obvious reasons. But they are often frustrated by all sorts of bureaucracy and poor treatment in their quest to wring some value out of their J.D. degrees.
We have some emails detailing the struggles of one group of contractors working on projects in D.C. Hopefully, this will inspire other contract attorneys to share their experiences with “the new normal”….
One could argue that justices of the United States Supreme Court are underpaid. After all, their former law clerks get wooed with $300,000 signing bonuses upon leaving One First Street, which is more than what the justices earn in a year (as just noted by The Economist).
Even though she’s supposedly “retired,” the super-energetic Justice O’Connor remains exceedingly busy, occupied by iCivics work, sitting by designation in circuit courts, and promoting her new book (affiliate link). But she still has some free time — including time to go to the grocery.
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…
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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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