Kudos to Northwestern for publishing some fairly non-sugar coated information about the legal market.
Right now it looks like information about the layoffs will make the cut, but that would be only a small victory. I want to get in the drop in Vault rankings, rumors about stealth layoffs, and the fact that “Latham” is now synonymous with layoffs, as in “I got Lathamed despite having only good performance reviews.”
Feel free to weigh in on the discussions, but remember to keep things civil and respect the Wikipedia rules.
Since this is the first real fight over law firm Wiki content, it’s important we get in as much information as possible and set a good precedent for updates to other law firm pages.
A deferral is bad. A rescinded offer is worse. But what about multiple deferrals or indefinite deferrals?
Last year, Blank Rome announced that its incoming class would be starting in January 2010, deferred from the normal Fall 2009 starting time.
Then, some of the associates were deferred until May 2010.
But, now May’s here, but not all the associates will be. Blank Rome confirmed that four associates had been deferred for a third time. This time though, there’s no projected start date. An indefinite deferral is pretty douchy. If you’re lucky enough to get an interview somewhere else, they’re going to ask about your previous job and why you aren’t working there now. You’ll want to say you were deferred, so they don’t think you were no-offered. But, that will raise doubts in the new firm over whether you’ll jump ship as soon as a start date (and presumably a much bigger paycheck) show up.
I think at this point, the nice thing to do is rescind the offers, give kids a letter stating that the recension was purely economical and not merit based, and then tell them they’ll be first in line as new positions open up. By giving an indefinite deferral instead of a recension, the firm is hoping the associates-to-be won’t look too hard for other work, keeping them free if the firm needs them later. And for that, they’re getting their Wikipedia page raided.
List of Wiki Raids:
Fish & Richardson
You will not get a big law job.
This year Northwestern sent the highest percentage of its students to the big law jobs almost all law students covet. But, even at the top of the pack, Northwestern managed to secure these positions for only 56% of its students, and that number includes students who have seen their start dates deferred and might ultimately never start at a big firm.
Yes, we’re in a recession, and hiring is way down. But, even in a great year, like 2008 where graduates had seen two massive pay increases during law school, the top school only got 71% of its grads into big law. So, best case scenario, 71%, and that’s the best school in a top hiring year. It’s all down hill from there.
Now, yes, not all students want to go into big law, and that affects the numbers. A lucky few will land clerkships, and others will opt to do public interest work or go to a midsized or small firm, not out of necessity, but choice. Still, the vast majority of law students want the big law job and the big law paycheck, and the odds on getting it just aren’t very high.
Unfortunately, there is not yet any sort of survey that compares the jobs students got to the jobs they would have preferred, so any survey is of only very limited utility. I knew of two people from my graduating class who were unable to find work at a firm. One of them, after about 40 OCI interviews didn’t manage to eke out a single callback. That’s just the people I knew about, so there were undoubtedly many more. This was at a top 5 school.
You may looking at your T3 school and thinking “Whatevs, I don’t want to work 3500 hours at Skadden or Cravath. You can’t pay the loans with prestige. I won’t look at the super-prestigious firms, hell, I won’t even look at the top 100! Big-ish Law, here I come!”
The survey data doesn’t consider Big Law to be the mega-prestige houses, or even the AMLaw 100. “Big Law” for these purposes are the largest 250 firms. That’s like considering a “top law school” to be anyone in Tier 1 or 2, or Sarah Silverman to an HB10.
Yes, this is an actual ad seeking a secretary to draft appelate briefs for a law firm.
And yes, this is an actual ad seeking a secretary to draft appellate briefs for a law firm.
My secretary didn’t even manage to answer my phones or even send me an e-mail when I would get paged over the intercom. Helloooo! If I’m getting paged it’s because I didn’t answer my phone, which means there’s a good chance I’m out of the office and won’t hear the page. Freaking send me an e-mail to let me know I’m needed! This is why I have a Blackberry!
Okay breath. ….Whoooo. Gotta remind myself I don’t have to deal with that type of shit any more.
But really, I’m pretty sure if you’re looking for someone to write legal briefs for you, this person is called an attorney. Unauthorized practice of law much?
As reported on AboveTheLaw.com today, Willkie Farr has deferred it’s class from fall 2010 to January 2011. Deferrals are pretty common these days, but what makes Willkie’s actions stand out is that they assured their newbies as recently as January or February that they would be starting on time. Now you can find this information on Wikipedia!
This really sucks for people who have already signed leases and made other moving arrangements expecting to have a paycheck coming in this Fall. Willkie is offered no stipend, but is allowing associates to take a $20,000 salary advance, to be paid back over the first year of work. $20k might sound like a lot for a big lump payment, but it has to cover associates living in New York City for 6 months. The associates are going to be stuck with security deposits, broker fees, moving expenses, probably some furniture costs (especially if moving from a furnished dorm), and the price of building a professional wardrobe.
List of Wiki Raids:
Fish & Richardson
Karen Shapiro over at The Legal Intelligencer has just written an article on how to make yourself into an even bigger, more insufferable tool, Stand Out as a Lawyer Through Personal Branding. Now, I could understand if the article was aimed at attorneys working in solo practice or boutiques, where the attorney and the firm aren’t really distinguishable and branding yourself is part of firm marketing. But, nope, this article is about branding yourself within the firm to build your reputation with your coworkers.
Once the freshness of starting a new legal job dissipates, some lawyers can experience a sense of malaise that may come in part from feeling like their uniqueness just doesn’t matter. There may be a sense of serving as a mere “cog in the wheel” of legal machinery. While the legal work produced may at times seem rote or somewhat factory-driven, the truth of the matter is lawyers are not simply interchangeable, fungible beings. You are each unique individuals who have something distinct to offer.
Yeah, you’re all special, unique snowflakes. The doc review you do is distinct and no one else quite does it like you. What is this shit?
Especially in today’s economy, you will benefit from understanding what makes you distinct and special. Make a list of the ways you contribute something special at work for your superiors, your colleagues, your clients and your prospective clients. Perhaps its your energy, your focus, your creativity or your intellect. In many cases, it’s the blend or unique mix of attributes or endearing quirks that makes a person remarkable in their workplace. Think of interesting combinations of traits you embody or aspire to embody, such as “quiet confidence,” “sophisticated yet fun” or “gentle giant.”
I don’t know who would brand themselves as a gentle giant in the law firm context, but “quiet confidence” or “sophisticated yet fun” basically cover the rest of law firm associates. “Personality-Deficient Drone” and “Newly Personality-Deficient Drone,” respectively. So much for the “you are each unique individuals” thing.
The only associates who don’t fit either the “quiet confidence” or “sophisticated yet fun” molds are the drunk slackers, and not only should they not brand themselves as such, they’re just not going to brand themselves at all within their law firm because they realize it’s such douchy, toolish behavior, and completely useless.
But, just to play along, I decided to do a little work on my brand:
He doesn’t have a drinking problem,
He has a life problem.
Yeah…maybe not. I’ll just stick to the classics.
As reported on AboveTheLaw.com this morning, the new NALP data has been released, so you can see the offer rates to the summer associates of your most (and least) favorite law firm. I decided to check in with my old boss for an update.
My old firm gave offers to 9 of its 15 associates. Ouch. 40% no-offer rate is pretty damn harsh, especially for a firm that averages close to 100%. But, there’s more to the story than just the firm giving fewer offers because of a down economy.
My firm generally takes 10 summer associates, and gives offers to all of them, so giving 9 offers is actually pretty much in line with their normal hiring practices. This makes sense if you consider that by the time these people start work the economy will be in a very different state. More than a year will have passed since the end of their summer program. Curbing the offers could easily result in under-hiring. So, why the low offer rate?
My firm was pretty late to the game in conducting layoffs. Our big cut came 8 months after the famous Lathaming. And while firms that made cuts early on also scaled back their summer program, mine did not. They likely gave out the same number of offers to rising 2Ls, but since other firms were giving fewer offers, my old firm’s offers got accepted at a much higher rate. And, since NALP rules prohibit firms from creating “exploding offers” (where if you’re not in the first X number to accept, you lose your spot), they had to take everyone who accepted, giving them a bigger class than normal. The bigger summer associate class of course meant that hiring the same number of people required no-offering quite a few.
It’s hard to tell just what information can be gleaned from data like the NALP reports, but here’s my suggestion to everyone with the good fortune of having more than one firm to choose from: offer rates are still king. Sure, a down economy means a lot of firms are giving out fewer offers, but don’t use that as an excuse. Firms knew the economy was hurting when they gave offers during OCI. A high no-offer rate means the firm was uanble to accurately judge the economic climate and failed to adjust its strategy accordingly. In other worse, even in a bad economy, a low offer rate means bad management.
# Its neutrality is disputed. Tagged since March 2009.
# It is written like an advertisement and needs to be rewritten from a neutral point of view.
Anyone who’s taken a professional responsibility class or the MPRE knows that there are a lot of rules regulating attorney advertising. And, if you’ve been on the internet at all in the last couple years, you’ve probably figured out that almost every major law firm has a Wikipedia entry.
Not surprising, most of the articles were created by, or heavily edited by, employees of the law firms. This isn’t typically problematic. The Wikipedia articles generally contain information about the size of the firm, the firm’s history, the location of its offices, and its main practice areas. The pages do not contain any contact information, but do link to the firm’s official website.
I would argue that at this point there are no ethical problem. Using the New York Code of Professional Responsibility (since a ton of big firms are headquartered in NY), an attorney advertisement is defined as such:
“Advertisement” means any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about that lawyer or law firm’s services, the primary purpose of which is for the retention of the lawyer or law firm. It does not include communications to existing clients or other lawyers.
What makes the garden variety law firm Wikipedia article okay is the “primary purpose” language. A Wikipedia article’s primary purpose is to serve as an encyclopedic article and provide neutral, factual information.
Things get dicey when firms do more with their Wikipedia articles. Some firms have added awards and honors, probably not too bad, still somewhat encyclopedic. Other firms have gone so far as to delete negative information on their articles. At some point I think adding in praise and editing out criticism creates a biased article that could constitute an advertisement. But, I want to know what you think. Is any editing of your own firm’s page advertising? Is it only advertising if you create a highly biased article? Or, is it never advertising?
You might be thinking “So what? Firms can advertise. Maybe this violates neutral tone and bias rules on Wikipedia, but it’s not an ethics issue.” You would be wrong. The NY ethics rules have this requirement for advertisements:
Every advertisement other than those appearing in a radio or television advertisement or in a directory, newspaper, magazine or other periodical (and any web sites related thereto), or made in person pursuant to DR 2-103(A)(1), shall be labeled “Attorney Advertising” on the first page, or on the home page in the case of a web site. If the communication is in the form of a self-mailing brochure or postcard, the words “Attorney Advertising” shall appear therein. In the case of electronic mail, the subject line shall contain the notation “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.”
Since no law firm Wikipedia article I’ve seen has labeled itself as attorney advertising (and would probably be removed from Wikipedia if it did), any Wikipedia article that qualifies as an advertisement violates the Code of Professional Responsibility.
As online resources like Wikipedia grow and gain credibility, and as law firm PR departments become more web-savvy, we could see a potential shit-storm of ethics violations in the next couple years.
A new study tracking trends in lawyer layoffs has found that among junior associates, graduates of top 10 law schools are more likely to be laid off than their lower ranked counterparts at the same firm. The article from The Blog of Legal Times doesn’t give a good look at the data, and it’s wording isn’t too precise, so it might be that the study didn’t control within firms, or just within big law. In that case, it makes sense that more top grads are getting laid off, because layoffs happen more at big firms which mostly hire top grads. But, let’s assume the more interesting story is true, that law firms are choosing to shed the elite grads and hold on to the lower ranked associates.
During a panel moderated by Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer, Peter Zeughauser (owner of the Zeughauser Group) suggested that top 10 students with their ever so famous “sense of entitlement” might not be putting forth the same level of effort as lower ranked students and are just there to pay off their loans before moving on to their true passion.
They may have no intention of pursuing a Big Law career and aren’t that productive while at the firm, which would make them more likely to be laid off.
But, law school isn’t terribly cheaper at lower ranked institutions, so there’s not really much reason to think that students outside the top 10 don’t have the same incentive to make big bucks and then move on. Over at AboveTheLaw.com, Elie Mystal presents a more plausible explanation for why a seemingly less qualified associate would keep his job:
If you were the only lawyer hired from [insert lower ranked school of your choice here], there’s a good chance that people at the firm had a strong and positive feeling about your potential. If instead you are one of many junior associates from [insert favorite T-14 diploma mill], then it might be easier for the firm to let you go when they have a few more just like you
Also, if you’re from a lower ranked school, there’s a better chance that you got your position through networking, rather than just on the merits. A partner who gets you into the firm in the first place is also going to go to bat for you when it’s time to decide who gets cut. A qualified student from an elite school might be the better employee, but if he doesn’t have anyone in his corner, it’s easier for him to get the axe.