Trendspotting

paper documents paperless office stack file folders.jpgBack when we worked at a law firm, one partner was obsessed with the concept of the “paperless office.” He wanted to have as many documents as possible scanned and stored electronically, in order to eliminate any unnecessary use of paper. It was a bit OCD of him, and his jihad against paper was viewed with mild amusement around the firm.
Perhaps this partner was ahead of his time. Back in 2006, law firms were described as the “last frontier in going paperless.” But now the trend is moving strongly in the direction of a paperless world. These days it seems that everyone wants to go commando.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Paper(less) Chase”

post bar travel scaled back.jpgNow that aspiring lawyers have taken the bar exam, they can relax and try to forget about it until the fall, when results come in. One way of relieving stress is “the bar trip”: a post-bar exam vacation to an exotic locale, for sun, surf, or snow, depending on one’s travel preferences.
The bar trip — the last hurrah before immersion into the grim realities of law firm life — is a tradition among law grads. But we’re hearing that the recession may be interfering with the tradition this year. With Biglaw start dates pushed back, and talk of lower salaries running rampant, law grads may be feeling less celebratory this year.
Purely anecdotally, law grads have told us that they’re scaling back. They’re not going on extravagant bar trips, and in some cases, not going on bar trips at all.
Are we only friends with fiscally conservative types, or is this actually a trend this year? Are you thinking of a “staycation,” or are you still planning a trip around the world?
If you’re traveling, please tell us where you’re heading and for how long. If you are heading out of the country, we hope you’ll be sure to spend some time in internet cafes checking out the latest ATL news.
Earlier: Post-Bar Travel: Open Thread

Typical unemployed associate.JPGMany have noted that the jobless rate hit 9.4% today, and many are calling that excellent news. Bloomberg reports:

The U.S. lost fewer jobs than forecast in May, reinforcing signs that the deepest recession in half a century is starting to abate….
“The recession is very close to an end,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, whose payrolls forecast matched the closest estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. “The labor market is still pretty awful, but vastly better than it was.”

Did anybody else just hear Kevin Bacon screaming “all is well”?
But maybe the new numbers are positive. The L.A. Times tells us about the happy experiences of the “funemployed”:

Michael Van Gorkom was laid off by Yahoo in late April. He didn’t panic. He didn’t rush off to a therapist. Instead, the 33-year-old Santa Monica resident discovered that being jobless “kind of settled nicely.” …
What most people would call unemployment, Van Gorkom embraced as “funemployment.”
While millions of Americans struggle to find work as they face foreclosures and bankruptcy, others have found a silver lining in the economic meltdown. These happily jobless tend to be single and in their 20s and 30s. Some were laid off. Some quit voluntarily, lured by generous buyouts.

Not to have a type A meltdown, but what the hell are these people talking about?
I call shenanigans, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Funemployment Rate Reaches 9.4%”


craigslist recruitment above the law.jpgEarlier this month, duty called us to a midtown Manhattan bar to cover a Pink Slip Party for our sister site, Dealbreaker. Geared toward those laid off from Wall Street, the “party” was a depressing scene meant to bring job-seekers together with potential employers. There were more recruiters than potential employers around, though, and there were lines of people in suits waiting to sit at booths to go over their resumes with the recruiters.

Job seekers are similarly disadvantaged in the legal market, thanks to continuing layoffs. One unemployed lawyer is trying a novel new approach. He wants to turn the headhunter payment arrangement inside out, and pay a recruiter to find a job for him. From his Craigslist ad:

This economy sucks. It probably sucks for recruiters too! Therefore I want to make life a little more interesting. This may not be a huge amount of money, but if you’re already on commission it’s more than usual I imagine.. For any recruiter that helps me a permanent position as an associate attorney in relevant areas (defined below) I will pay the following immediately:

$60,000- $69,999 per annum I will pay you $3,000

$70,000 – $90,000 per annum I will pay you $4,000

$100,000 + per annum I will pay you $5,000

I am also looking for contract work in the short term. I will pay $300 for anything which is supposed to last more than a month.

This seems to make sense. Sometimes job seekers are advised to avoid working with a recruiter because it makes them more expensive, since the employer has to pay the recruiter a fee on top of the new hire’s salary. If the new hire foots the recruitment bill, the game changes.

Some people don’t like this idea. The Craigslist poster, who asked to remain anonymous, has had some angry responses, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Job-seekers Paying Recruiters: Hot New Trend?”

Facebook logo MySpace Friendster Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgYou can use Facebook to accumulate friends, poke strangers, and tag photos. And if you’re a lawyer in Australia, you might be able to use it to serve a complaint.

Our legal friends in the Land Down Under have made an interesting ruling. From the Associated Press:

A court in Australia has approved the use of Facebook, a popular social networking Web site, to notify a couple that they lost their home after defaulting on a loan.

The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court last Friday approved lawyer Mark McCormack’s application to use Facebook to serve the legally binding documents after several failed attempts to contact the couple at the house and by e-mail.

The lien notice could have been sent by Facebook messaging–the judge specified that posting to a Wall was not kosher–but the couple got wind of the plan in news reports and took their profiles down.

We love rulings that legitimize the use of Facebook in the workplace. Next up: legal notice via gchat?

Australia OKs Facebook for serving lien notice [Associated Press]

bailout water confusion.jpgWe previously reported that firms are starting to launch global financial crisis practice groups.

But we wondered what (if anything) those groups would be able to do for their clients.

According to the National Law Journal, clients are just as confused about the bailout as everybody else. Even the ABA doesn’t actually know what to make of what Congress just passed:

Carlton Fields, which as nearly 300 lawyers throughout Florida and Georgia, is forming a “recovery task force” comprised of 15 to 20 lawyers. The task force was first proposed to be called a “bailout task force.” It will focus on “what kinds of opportunities will be available with the congressional plan,” said Jay Steinman, chairman of the firm’s Miami real estate and finance group.

The firm has been asked by the American Bar Association to create a “white paper” on what the bailout plans means. The analysis will be completed this week by Carlton Fields partner Sandra Porter, and the firm will do weekly updates.

Is it possible that a large part of the legal community is waiting for Carlton Fields to tell them what is actually happening? It’s been a weird month.

In face of economic crisis, law firm clients range from panicky to opportunistic [National Law Journal]

Earlier: New Practice Groups Coming to a Firm Near You

ropes gray logo.JPGLast week we told you that Jenner & Block held a firm-wide pep talk to assure associates that everything was going great.

Apparently, this is the new trend. Terrified associates are being told that they have nothing to fear, for now.

Last week Ropes & Gray’s chairman Brad Malt sent out this email:

We’re living in extraordinary times, and I know many of you are concerned about what the current turmoil in the financial markets might mean to us here at Ropes & Gray. I’d like to offer some thoughts on why we are well positioned to weather the turbulence in the marketplace.

Our firm is over 140 years old, in no small part because we always build for the long term. We have weathered many recessions, starting with the Panic of 1873, and we have always emerged stronger. Today, we possess many competitive advantages, including diversified practice offerings and a diverse client base. Thankfully, we do not depend for our bread and butter on the kinds of companies or markets that are most troubled right now. While recent events have felt unsettling for many people, nothing that is happening should distract us from continuing to execute our strategic plan and deliver excellent client service.

The recent turmoil in the financial markets has also presented the firm with important opportunities to advise clients, including some of the companies affected by recent events. Among the many examples, we obtained a temporary restraining order for our broker-dealer client, Ameriprise Financial Services, in the first case involving a money market fund to “break the buck.†An extraordinary cross-disciplinary and cross-office team reached a multi-billion dollar agreement to purchase Neuberger Berman’s investment management business and Lehman Brother’s fixed income and alternative asset businesses. We are representing various senior officers of major financial institutions in investigations of sub-prime lending activities and related class action lawsuits. And we have advised numerous hedge funds, CDO funds, mutual funds and other clients on other aspects of the market situation, including analysis of distressed securities, advice about credit default swap counterparties, advice about the new short-sale restrictions, and bankruptcy rules.

In the longer term, we are very well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that will arise from the changing market environment, and we continue to invest in lawyers and staff to help us do so. We were delighted recently to welcome our associate Class of 2008, and we actively continue to hire for summer 2009 and beyond.

To be clear, we are not immune to what’s happening in the wider world. However, I believe the strengths we have built in our firm, our proven agility in addressing changing market landscapes, and the dedication and high caliber of you, our people, will enable us to withstand the short-term market challenges. As always, we are grateful for your continuing hard work and commitment.

This letter reads somewhat like DPW and Debevoise emails where those firms touted their post-meltdown successes.

O’Melveny & Myers shows firms how to send a spooky reassurance email after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “We’re Super: Thanks For Asking”

lawyers hate gas.JPGAtlanta-based law firm Balch & Bingham has decided to let their employees work four days a week in response to high gas prices and gas shortages in some areas. People can take off Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, once the firm figures out how to shuffle things around so that there is adequate coverage on all days. According to the ABA Journal:

Managing partner T. Joshua R. Archer says the idea came to him on Tuesday, as he was walking the halls and overheard a secretary ask the office manager if she could leave early to get in line at a station that she’d heard had gas to sell.

“It seems like a good idea from an efficiency and productivity standpoint,” he tells the legal publication, pointing out that it should be easier to find gas when others are working. Plus, having a full tank reduces stress because it’s one less thing to worry about.

Sounds great. We’re sure that everybody who lives in a commuter suburb can appreciate laying off the gas one day a week.

But there’s a catch:

They also are expected to work the same amount of hours, over four days, as they ordinarily would over five.

Come again?

For the staff that could take advantage of this “perk,” how does a ten-hour day reduce stress?

Here was an opportunity for Balch & Bingham to do something really nice for their employees. You could have given them a half-day off, or a gas credit, or something. But instead it seems like Mr. Archer just came up with a way to get a nice press story without actually helping his employees or costing the firm a single cent.

Even Terri Garr’s “Schooner Tuna” boss was able to figure out the difference between a cheap gimmick and a helping hand.

New Law Firm Perk: Work Shorter Week Until Gas Shortage Ends [ABA Journal]

wall street bull backside.jpgIt doesn’t always feel like it, but the legal profession is actually very recession proof. Deal work may be drying up, but the Good Book says “Whenever Hank Paulson closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

Of course, open windows are pretty dangerous if you work in a Manhattan skyscraper these days, but the National Law Journal peers through the looking glass anyway:

“A year ago we were writing deals, figuring out how to grow businesses and expand products; now the markets are trying to figure out when the next shoe drops,” said Michael Missal, head of the global financial markets group that K&L Gates unveiled on Monday in Washington.

Despite its neutral name, K&L cited the “global economic crisis” as the reason for launching the group.

It’s amazing what clients will pay for. Can you imagine being a Global Economic Crisis attorney and pitching your services to a client?

CLIENT: We’re broke. We can’t get any credit. I’m going to effing kill Nancy Pelosi and her Mr. Slave.

GEC Partner: Well our firm can offer you the latest counsel on how to navigate through these trying times.

CLIENT: Really? So, how do I get a line of credit right now?

GEC PARTNER: I don’t know.

CLIENT: Well, how can I get around this communist era short-selling ban so I can at least make some money on the side?

GEC PARTNER: I have no idea

CLIENT: Well, what can you tell me?

GEC PARTNER: Here we have this wonderful, interactive map. It clearly indicates where you are AND where Nancy Pelosi is at all times. We’ve marked out various firearms shops along the way.

CLIENT: Isn’t this from Grand Theft Auto IV?

GEC PARTNER: That’ll be $700 please.

Bracewell & Giuliani at least calls a spade a spade after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New Practice Groups Coming to a Firm Near You”

price gouging.jpgIn Monday’s morning docket, we asked whether price-gouging investigations during hurricanes were the new trend among attorneys general. Judging from the many investigations launched over the past week, the answer is a resounding YES.

Louisiana AG Buddy “Rattlesnake” Caldwell caught our attention for his battle cry against high hotel and gas prices during Hurricane Gustav. Now that Hurricane Ike has reared its ugly head, other attorneys general are joining the war, including:

  • Florida AG Bill McCollum has hit up four gas stations with subpoenas. [The Gainesville Sun]

  • South Carolina AG Henry McMaster has begun gas price-gouging investigations. [The Greenville News]
  • New York AG Andrew Cuomo is chilling for the moment, just “issuing warnings” about high gas prices. [Central New York Business Journal]
  • Texas AG Greg Abbott is investigating gas prices and filed suit against a Comfort Inn for doubling the cost of rooms during Hurricane Dolly. [MSNBC]
  • John Lott at Fox News does not think the AGs are fighting the good fight:

    You would think that people had learned their lessons about price controls during the 1970s, though memories have surely faded. Price controls didn’t stop the cost of gasoline from rising. They just changed how we paid for them. Instead of prices rising until the amount people wanted equaled the amount available, chronic shortages of gasoline had Americans waiting in lines for hours. Yet, the supposedly permanent shortages disappeared instantly as soon as price controls were removed.

    But AGs are responsible for ensuring the law is enforced, not analyzing economic systems. So investigate and sue away, noble attorneys general! And if your AG isn’t following the trend, what’s up with that?

    In Defense of Price Gougers [Fox News]

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