– a former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal on the basis of anonymity, commenting on the firm’s alleged habit of issuing IOUs to partner-level attorneys due to lack of cash flow.
Wall Street Journal
I am more depressed than usual. I blame Mystal and his expose on What You Can’t Do With a Law Degree. I know if given the chance, I could make the most divine half-caf-extra-whip-extra-hot-mocha. But, alas, I am destined to stay a lawyer.
That is little solace, of course, because it is hard to get a job, hard to keep a job, and in my experience, hard to stomach the job. And, according to that Wall Street Journal article that everyone posted as a Facebook status, law firms want to keep the number of associates low, work them like dogs, and pay them like, well, high-paid professionals. This means that recent graduates are still screwed, and I am having trouble taking off my sweatpants today.
Just when I thought all was lost, however, I found a positive story about law firms. And, of course, because that is how we roll, it involves a small firm….
- Biglaw, Job Searches, Law Schools, Partner Issues, Partner Profits, Wall Street Journal, White & Case
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the Wall Street Journal has a good article about how various recession-era cutbacks have become entrenched in Biglaw. If you have been paying attention or are a current law student, you know the issues: smaller entry-level classes, stagnant salaries, and a partnership track long enough to make a first-year Ph.D. student laugh.
Basically, if you were already a Biglaw partner when the recession hit, you are likely to say, “What recession?” Your profits per partner have probably gone up, despite the general economy’s woes. Other industries use economic downturns to retool their business models and develop new ways to compete. Not Biglaw. It appears that Biglaw has used the recession to fire a bunch of people, exclude new partners, and keep associate salaries and bonuses at recessionary levels. They haven’t developed a new business model; they’ve just found a way to reduce the costs of the old business model.
Biglaw partner: It’s great work if you can get it. The WSJ even found one partner who was so busy loving himself and his life that he appears to be totally oblivious to the struggles of everybody else…
According to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), small law firms have adopted the mantra: merge or die. Indeed, the number of law firm mergers is staggering. “At least 60 mergers occurred in the U.S. and abroad last year, the highest level since 2008 and a 54% jump from 2010, according to legal-industry consulting firm Altman Weil Inc. Industry experts expect the figure to rise this year.”
Why the up-tick in mergers? The economic downturn has caused a shift when it comes to legal service providers: it is a “seller’s market for the first time in 20 years.” In other words, law firms are not able to raise rates in order to increase profits. So, small firms turn to mergers as a way to increase their revenue and allow them to compete with all-purpose, larger firms. Randall H. Miller, who as managing partner at Denver-based Holme Roberts & Owen LLP helped engineer its acquisition by Bryan Cave, explained that “[l]ittle by little, our ability to service our clients’ needs ha[d] been limited by our smaller size,” which was why he pushed for the merger.
Yet, small firm to large firm mergers are not the answer for all small firms. The article featured several potential problems….
- American Bar Association / ABA, Deaths, Department of Justice, Election 2012, Facebook, Morning Docket, New York Times, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Wall Street Journal
* It’s about freakin’ time. Guess who’s jumped on board the ever popular “blame the ABA” bandwagon? None other than David Segal, the New York Times equivalent of the law school scam blogger. [New York Times]
- Clarence Thomas, Constitutional Law, John Yoo, Quote of the Day, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Wall Street Journal
– Berkeley Law professor John Yoo, in an interesting Wall Street Journal piece discussing how his former boss, Justice Clarence Thomas, has defended the Constitution and embraced originalism during his twenty years on the high court.
There are 64 open jobs in occupational therapy for every 100 working in the field, the [SimplyHired.com] site’s data show. Yet online job listings for these positions get 50 times fewer clicks than the hardest-to-place industry — the legal field. Meanwhile, unemployed lawyers now find themselves in the country’s most cutthroat race for a job, with less than one opening for every 100 working attorneys.
— from a recent Wall Street Journal article, Where the Jobs Are.
I’ve always wondered what kind of salary contract lawyers make these days. Okay, not really, I kind of already know, because a lot of my friends are contract lawyers. But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of contract lawyering, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article yesterday, by Vanessa O’Connell, on the trials and tribulations of these lawyers-for-hire.
The Journal editors decided to give the piece a cutesy title by using a play on words: “Lawyers settle… for temp jobs.” Lawyers are supposed to be settling cases, and now they’re settling for temporary jobs. Oh, that’s so very witty.
What the WSJ folks might not have realized is that when you’re an unemployed new lawyer in this kind of economy, or even if you’re an older one, you don’t really have the option of “settling.” It’s depressing, but you kind of just accept the fact that this is the hand that you’ve been dealt.
But maybe there is a bright side to this situation after all. Maybe these contract attorneys are making serious bank in these temporary positions….
[T]he imperatives of law enforcement distract soldiers and intelligence agents from their primary war-fighting mission. We don’t want our soldiers pausing on hostile battlefields to read detainees Miranda warnings, take down witness statements, and collect evidence in plastic baggies. They should remain focused on finding and killing al Qaeda terrorists.
Those inside the legal bubble know that it’s a terrible time to be graduating from law school, so as Ashby Jones notes, this Wall Street Journal article about the sucky job market for law grads holds few surprises. Well, really no surprises: it’s tough this year for law grads.
But it’s good that the Wall Street Journal is spreading the word outside of the legal bubble, letting non-lawyer readers of the WSJ know that the law school golden ticket is currently tattered and torn:
The situation is so bleak that some students and industry experts are rethinking the value of a law degree, long considered a ticket to financial security. If students performed well, particularly at top-tier law schools, they could count on jobs at corporate firms where annual pay starts as high as $160,000 and can top out well north of $1 million. While plenty of graduates are still set to embark on that career path, many others have had their dreams upended.
If you’re having a hard time explaining to non-lawyers just how shattered your dreams are, send this article along to them. It lays it out in a clear and concise matter, and includes simple, pretty charts explaining the supply-and-demand problem in the legal job market.
Now, what should you do if you’re in the enviable position of having post-graduation employment lined up?