There’s no Biglaw intercity rivalry which can match that of London’s venerable Magic Circle and New York’s elite white shoe firms. Both groups of firms are the clear alpha dogs in their markets, attracting the top talent and most lucrative clients. However, there are some significant differences between the two groups in how they operate. For example, U.K. firms tend to follow a lockstep (rather than “eat what you kill”) compensation model. Last month, friend of ATL Bruce MacEwen took a deep dive into the question of the relative performance over the last several years between the Magic Circle and their New York cousins. The piece is highly recommended: it’s chock-full of data and its findings suggest the groups are moving in different directions.
Using publicly reported data for the years 2008—2013, Bruce focused on such metrics as headcount, percentage of equity partners, PPP, RPL, and profit margin. The Magic Circle firms—Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, and Linklaters—are of course a well-defined group (Slaughter and May, the only member firm without a New York office, was excluded). For New York, these firms were selected as the comparison group on the basis of “historical roots, geographic footprints, and business models”:
One could query the absence of Cravath, Wachtell, Skadden, etc., and we refer you to Bruce’s piece for a fuller articulation of these choices. The U.S. market for the highest end legal services is much more fragmented and diffuse than its U.K. counterpart, and which precise group of firms is the closest equivalent to the Magic Circle is endlessly debatable. But for the purposes of this comparison this group will certainly serve.
* When it comes to all of the same-sex marriage cases that are currently before the Sixth Circuit, the deciding vote could be cast by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a Republican appointee. [National Law Journal]
* Weil Gotshal snagged a partner from right under one of its largest competitor’s noses. Ray Schrock, formerly of Kirkland & Ellis, may someday co-chair Weil’s restructuring group. [WSJ Law Blog]
* “I got the reward that most volunteers get — which is I ended up having to read many, many hundreds of pages.” This Ogletree Deakins partner figured out how to undo Obamacare in his spare time, and all he got were these lousy bifocals. [Greenville News]
* On-campus interviewing season is almost upon us, so we’re going to give you all of the tips you can stomach. Here are a few more ways that you can hit all of your interviews out of the park. [The Careerist]
* Albany Law and the University at Albany are shockingly not already affiliated with each other, but they’re exploring an “operational alliance.” Will that mean fewer faculty buyouts, or…? [Albany Business Review]
For some reason, very few law firms are prepared to deal with the headcount issues. It is interesting because the reaction from them also is peculiar. I think it was reported—I don’t know, maybe 12 months ago—that Weil Gotshal had a significant layoff of lawyers. They reduced—I think it was their associates, but maybe it was of counsel as well—and there was quite a negative reaction in the press to that.
I am not privy to any of their numbers or anything that is going on in the firm, but, as a restructuring person, my reaction is, “Look, this is someone getting their house in order. This is an appropriate thing to do.” It is no secret that revenues across the industry are down. And, so, you either need to take market share, or you need to right size your organization.
It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.
If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?
But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.
The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?
* As you may have heard, Apple is buying Beats Electronics for $3 billion. Apple is being represented by Weil, but don’t worry, no one forgot about Dre — he’s got Munger Tolles and Skadden Arps on his side. [Am Law Daily]
* Haynes and Boone will have a new managing partner as of January 1, 2015, and to make sure he fulfills the good old Texas stereotype of things being bigger, he wants to grow the hell out of the firm’s Houston office. [Dallas Business Journal]
* Stephanie Avakian, a WilmerHale partner in the New York office, was tapped by the Securities and Exchange Commission to become its deputy director of enforcement. Yay! [DealBook / New York Times]
* “We can’t turn law schools into graduate school for the study of law,” says a law prof who thinks legal education is straying from being professional education. Aww, write a paper about it. [Harvard Crimson]
* A Los Angeles couple has been accused in the hit-and-run death of Judge Dean Pregerson’s son. The judge isn’t “looking for blood,” but some jail time would probably help. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]
* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]
* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]
* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]
Want to see what it looks like when a fourth-year Weil Gotshal associate plans to marry a family law practitioner from a small firm? It looks like it’s going to rival the epic display of elegance and class that is the upcoming Kimye wedding.
Please save the date for the “Boss Wedding,” which is what they’re calling this dignified affair…
* The federal judiciary is hiring for staff and public defender positions lost during the government’s sequestration throughout the better part of last year. Ready, aim, fire those résumés! [Legal Times]
* New York Biglaw firms always manage to find their way to the top of the Am Law 100 rankings. When all’s said and done, being so close to Wall Street definitely has its perks. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
* Absolutely no one should be alarmed about the fact that Kasowitz Benson’s profits per partner have dropped by 15 percent — well, no one but the equity partners, that is. Have fun with that. [Am Law Daily]
* The managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers is worried people will think his personal injury firm is going under, not Jacoby & Meyers Bankruptcy. Either way, those commercials won’t die. [New York Law Journal]
* A professor at George Mason University Law was pepper sprayed IN THE FAAAAAACE by an unknown assailant in his classroom yesterday afternoon. We’ll obvious have more on this story later. [ARLNow]
* La Verne is the first law school to offer flat-rate tuition. There will be no scholarships and no discounts. Students will pay $25K/year, nothing more, nothing less. This is, dare we say, wise. [National Law Journal]
* “Passion over pension.” Mekka Don, the Weil Gotshal corporate lit attorney turned rapper, just released his first CD, and it’s all about leaving Biglaw to follow his dreams. Go buy it here (affiliate link). [MTV]
* Lawyers from top New York City firms like Skadden, Proskauer, Stikeman, Weil Gotshal, Kaye Scholer, and Bailey Duquette took to the ice to compete for the Lawyers’ Cup. The team with Canadian imports won, obviously. [Forbes]
* Andre Bouchard was nominated to replace Judge Leo Strine as Chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery. We can only hope he’ll be as outspoken as his predecessor. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* UNC Law has been receiving fewer applications, and perhaps that’s the reason why its acceptance rates have gone up, up, up — from 36 percent to 45 percent — in the last year alone. Yikes. [Daily Tar Heel]
* A woman alleges her Uber driver “fondled [her] legs, groin area and breasts” as she tried to give him directions. That extra customer service is what makes it cost more during peak times. [Chicago Tribune]
* A watch repairman was so pissed about this Yelp review he sicced his lawyer on the man who handed out the two-star report. Of course his lawyer’s one-paragraph demand letter barely makes sense. [Gawker]
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
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