All those professional responsibility lectures, and bar prep, and boring CLEs that I attended after becoming a lawyer, and all the boring CLEs I dutifully watched on the Internet after I escaped the probationary period, consistently preached the evils of non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
It raises ethical concerns! It dilutes what it means to be a lawyer! This is a profession, not a business! All the usual complaints from a profession convinced that it’s made up of beautiful and unique snowflakes with unimpeachable judgment.
But the better question is, “Don’t non-lawyers own law firms already?” And to the extent the answer is “of course,” shouldn’t the profession be bending over backwards to approve ownership models that better serve the firms and their clients than the status quo?
The new data on Biglaw’s performance in the first half of 2013, mentioned earlier in Morning Docket, shouldn’t surprise anyone. For the first half of 2013 (January through June), when compared to the same period in 2012, gross revenue is up slightly (by 1.5 percent), average hours per lawyer are down slightly (by 2.5 percent), and expenses are up slightly (by 3.5 percent). This is a pretty typical report card in the “new normal” — up a little on this metric, down a little on that metric, and overall basically running in place.
But the survey, from Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group, did contain a few interesting tidbits — including depressing information about partner productivity….
* As “one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation,” Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the D.C. Circuit, was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Congrats! [Blog of Legal Times]
* Biglaw firms saw “anemic” growth in the first half of 2013, and according to the latest Wells Fargo survey, some “minor cuts” are expected in headcount. Well, that’s just great. [Am Law Daily]
* “It is a period of significant change for the firm. That requires some hard decisions.” Patton Boggs has already conducted layoffs, so what could possibly be next for the firm? [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Sorry guys, but it looks like Reema Bajaj’s bajayjay will be out of session for the foreseeable future. The attorney accused of exchanging sex for office supplies has agreed to a three-year suspension of her law license. [Chicago Tribune]
* Rather than be bought out by InfiLaw (it could “diminish the value of their degrees”), Charleston School of Law alumni are trying to organize a merger with a public school. Good luck with that. [Greenville News]
* Nebraska will offer a doctorate in space law, which makes sense because… f**kin’ magnets, how do they work? But really, we’re willing to bet it’s because of all of the crop circles in the state. [Miami Herald]
* No joke necessary: This law school claims its rights are being infringed upon because it has to disclose how many of its graduates — 7 percent at last count — have passed the bar. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Two of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. If convicted, the pair will face up to 20 years in prison, and they don’t even have a Facebook fan page to show for it. [Bloomberg]
It’s hard to get a good read on the direction of the economy these days. And the same could be said about the direction of Biglaw.
It seems that every week brings a new survey, report, or set of predictions. And they often point in different directions. Sometimes they are pessimistic, claiming that layoffs (including partner layoffs) are just around the corner. Sometimes they are positive, noting that despite the challenging economy, legal spending is up. And sometimes they fall somewhere in between.
Today brings news about past performance — which, while not a guarantee of future performance, can sometimes offer hints. It’s about how large law firms fared in the year just ended. And it’s good news….
* “[W]e cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows.” And we especially can’t have all those people in the shadows without hundreds and hundreds of drones in place. Civil liberties be damned! [Huffington Post]
* According to this Wells Fargo survey, Biglaw did quite well in terms of revenues last year. Given that PPP was up nearly five percent, it’s now appropriate to bitch about why your bonuses weren’t even bigger than they were. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* “Being a lawyer is a damn good profession.” To be fair, it could be an even better profession if things in legal education were subjected to some serious change, and Hofstra Law’s new dean seems to understand that. [New York Law Journal]
* Stoners everywhere would like to know when the federal government is going to legalize marijuana, but to be frank, they should thank their Lucky Charms they’re not getting prosecuted in states where it is legal. [TIME]
* Russia is officially trying to prosecute a dead man — a dead lawyer, no less. That said, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to say that not even Yakov Smirnoff himself could come up with a reversal for this one. [New York Times]
* Oh my god, some of Lat’s pop culture prophecies are coming true: Casey Anthony wants to become a paralegal. Nancy Grace is in the process of birthing a herd of cows over Tot Mom’s ambitions. [ABC News]
* The grand jury in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case thought there was enough evidence to indict the Ramseys on child abuse charges. This would’ve been a great thing to be outraged about in 1999. [CBS News]
* I’ll be tweeting from the LegalTech show today. Follow me on Twitter to get all the latest updates. [Twitter]
During the Great Recession, it felt like associates were being laid off in droves. In the past year or so, the big trend has been staff layoffs (often fueled by sending staff functions to an outside service provider).
Associates, staff — what about partners? Well, it seems that their time has come, at least according to some new surveys….
* Billable hours in Biglaw are down 1.5 percent, and 15 percent of U.S. firms are planning to reduce their partnership ranks in early 2013. Thanks to Wells Fargo for bringing us the news of all this holiday cheer! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Hostess may be winding down its business and liquidating its assets, but Biglaw will always be there to clean up the crumbs. Jones Day, Venable, and Stinson Morrison Hecker obviously think money tastes better than Twinkies. [Am Law Daily]
* How’s that “don’t be evil” thing working out for you? Google’s $22.5M proposed privacy settlement with the FTC over tracking cookies planted on Safari browsers was accepted by a federal judge. [Bloomberg]
* Perhaps the third time will be the charm: ex-Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins was convicted, again, for helping Refco steal more than $2B from investors by concealing the company’s fraud. [New York Law Journal]
* H. Warren Knight, founder of alternative dispute resolution company JAMS, RIP. [National Law Journal]
In the next few months, we’re going to see a lot of lawyers switching jobs in Washington, D.C. Regardless of who wins the election — my current prediction is that Barack Obama will prevail (sorry, Anonymous Partner) — many lawyers will move into and out of government in the weeks before and after Inauguration Day.
For those who joined the Obama Administration early, three or four years is long enough to make them nostalgic for private sector paychecks. What use is a punched ticket if you never redeem it?
In fact, the movement has already started. Today we bring you news of two notable moves from the nation’s capital. One of them involves a lawyer leaving a top government post, and the other concerns an in-house lawyer entering the firm world….
* Dewey know whether Judge Martin Glenn approved this failed firm’s $71.5 million partner contribution plan? We certainly do, and D&L’s chief restructuring officer, Joff Mitchell of Zolfo Cooper, is simply “delighted” about it. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Bitch better have my money? The United States is suing Wells Fargo under the little known Financial Institutions Reform, Recover, and Enforcement Act for allegedly screwing it out of approximately eleventy billion dollars. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “Flat is the new up for the legal sector,” except in Cleveland, because law firms there have been on hiring sprees throughout 2012. But unfortunately, there is a down side — it’s Cleveland. [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]
* Diversity: no longer just an old wooden ship. Almost every law school-related amicus brief filed in Fisher v. University of Texas has backed the consideration of race in admissions decisions. [National Law Journal]
* There’s officially at least one benefit in attending Thomas M. Cooley Law — the school collects so much money from students that it’s able to attract big-name speakers, like ex-rocker Henry Rollins. [Michigan Live]
The Dewey & LeBoeuf drama continues to unfold. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there have been a few notable recent developments. Citibank just filed a vigorous response to allegations by Steven Otillar, a former Dewey partner, that Citi colluded with Dewey to take advantage of individual partners. Meanwhile, three former leaders of the firm — former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and former CFO Joel Sanders — have filed objections to the global settlement with former partners.
It’s not a pretty picture. And here’s what we’re wondering: Could it happen to another major law firm, sometime in the next twelve months?
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.