This Ship Be Sinking …And Burning

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14th, 2010 by bl1y

David Hechler at Corporate Counsel reports that 20-25% of current attorneys want out of the business.  The other 75-80% are unemployed and want in.

The massive law firm layoffs were not merely a result of decreased work, that’s only half of the story.  Law firms hire knowing that they suffer from fairly high attrition rates.  In a good year, when there are jobs in finance, consulting, and other lawyer-friendly industries, a firm may see 10-15% of its attorneys jump ship.  So, they hire knowing that they’ll lose people along the way.  But, then when the economy tanks and no one can leave their law firm, the firm finds itself over staffed.  Even if work remained at the same level, you have too many people and layoffs are still necessary.

So, then the axe falls.  And, while layoffs are not strictly merit based, there’s no denying that merit has some role.  The superstar associates aren’t going to get cut.  It’s somewhat merit based, but not entirely, since the whole thing is comparative.  Law school grades are also merit based, and someone’s always at the bottom of the curve.  But, you’d be wrong in thinking the 10-25th percentile at University of Chicago or Northwestern were idiots.  The people who were laid off were not necessarily weak links, simply the weakest links.

But, what many law firms may not have considered is who jumps ship in a good economy.  The smartest, hardest working associates, building up the most experience and connections are the ones who have the easiest time leaving the firm.  They’re the core of the people who bail out.  So, law firms that laid off associates likely laid off the people who would have stayed at the firm their entire career, and kept people who would have left.

Guess what’s going to happen now that the finance market is starting to recover.

I feel sorry for the people who were in the middle of the pack, didn’t get cut but might not be able to find a better job.  They’re going to be stuck with workloads that should be handled by twice as many attorneys, and their bosses aren’t going to be quick to bring on extra help.  Lawyers are risk adverse, and so they will be slow in hiring.  And, laid off attorneys aren’t gaining experience, so there isn’t going to be an abundance of midlevel associates to hire anyways.

Basically, law firms just really screwed themselves, and their remaining associates.  So…yeah, na-na na-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.

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Sterling Dissolves

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25th, 2010 by bl1y

The ultra-prestigious firm of Sterling, Huddle, Oppenhiem, & Craft has officially dissolved.  On May 14th ABC decided to cut the cord on the lack luster legal dramedy The Deep End.

Firm cans all of its first year associates?

The show finally got it’s first taste of realism.

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Edit War: Battle of Latham

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 19th, 2010 by bl1y

While edit warring got put to a stop yesterday with another 3 day protection of Latham’s Wikipedia article, the battle is still raging on in the Discussion page.

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.

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Pio Pio Pio

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 18th, 2010 by bl1y

Law firm edit war is moving up to the next level.

With Latham’s Wikipedia page now unlocked, information regarding mass layoffs, plummeting vault rankings, and the coining of the term “Lathamed” have been restored.

And now that we have started our first major engagement, it’s time to roll out the Edit War Strategic Informational Defense Command.

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Edit War: Battle of Latham

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 17th, 2010 by bl1y


More news from the front lines.  It appears that our first all out battle of edits has commenced over at the Wikipedia article for Latham & Watkins.

All information regarding Latham’s notorious layoffs have been removed, and following a brief revising skirmish, the page has been placed under temporary protection.

That protection expires today, and you can bet by tomorrow the fighting will have started back again.

*Update*

For those of you finding your way here from the coverage on ATL, the edits of various law firm Wikipedia pages have been summarized here.

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Edit War: Cadwalader Lives in Disneyland

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 17th, 2010 by bl1y

Cadwalader, fun to say, more fun to edit.

On April 19th, a user under the name “Disney44″ made several edits to Cadwalader’s Wikipedia entry, removing any information regarding layoffs.  Easily enough undone.

Sorry Cadwalader, but if you’re going to lay off 130+ attorneys, including first years, and then post a 28% increase in profits per partner, you gotta own up to it.

This makes Cadwalader the second (after Fish & Richardson) firm to undo the edit war updates.

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Edit War: Fish Fights Back

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on March 30th, 2010 by bl1y

Back on February 5th I edited the Fish & Richardson Wikipedia article, adding information about the closing of the firm’s corporate practice, layoffs of 110 staff and attorneys, increase in revenues of 4.7% and increase in profits of 20%.

On February 14th, those changes were deleted by the user Lneal, so I of course have put them back.  “Lneal” is most likely an employee of Fish & Richardson.  Wikipedia shows Lneal has made 26 edits, 25 of which were to the Fish page (the other was Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton).

I don’t know of any ethics opinions on point, but I have to imagine that Wikipedia articles have the potential to be an attorney advertisement, if significantly edited by the firm, and if editing in an advertisementy way.  Not only does Wikipedia not allow articles to be used as advertisements (violates neutral tone rules), but since Wikipedia articles don’t carry Warning: Lawyer Advertisement! labels, they could be prohibited advertisements under professional responsibility and ethics rules.

*Update*

After some research, I’ve found that there is an Elizabeth Neal who was hired as Fish and Richardson’s director of events and communications in 2008.

As Director of Events & Communications, Elisabeth Neal will be responsible for external communications including material, website, and client alerts. She also manages all firm events and regional marketing activities and works closely with the practice group and business development marketing team to coordinate firm-wide marketing initiatives as well as cross-marketing opportunities.

My guess is Lneal is “Liz” Neal.  Keeping tabs on the firm’s Wikipedia page certainly seems like it would be part of her job.

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Elite Grads More Likely to Get Laid Off?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24th, 2010 by bl1y

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.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #38

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on March 11th, 2010 by bl1y

Your boss will sacrifice your career just to avoid the littlest of blips on their balance sheets.

In 2009, major law firms laid of 4,633 attorneys and 7,563 staff members.  This does not count smaller firms not covered in mainstream legal news, stealth layoffs, deferred start dates, and reduced offers.

Many of those people on whom the ax dropped had their lives turned completely topsy-turvy.    A lot of lawyers have been unable to find jobs, even after sending out many hundreds of applications.  Others have been forced to move back in with their parents, like yours truly, which often means leaving the state in which you’re admitted to practice, taking another bar, and spending a whole lot of time unqualified to practice while getting re-admitted.  Junior associates are particularly screwed.  They have less savings, and little valuable experience.  Firms go to law schools to look for junior associates.  It’s rare for firms to look for people with 0-2 years of experience.

Even people who have kept their jobs are seeing decreased salaries and disappearing bonuses.  With how hard associates were hit, you have to wonder how much bleeding there was at the partnership levels.  And as it turns out, not much at all.

According to a report from the Zeugheuser Group, gross revenues are down 3.8%, and profits per equity partner have dropped only 0.8%.

Now, like any other business, law firms are perfectly free to shed weight to increase or maintain profits.  However, the right to fire at-will employees does not entail the right to be free from criticism for making those decisions.

8 firms reported profits per equity partner of at least $2 million for 2009, with Quinn Emanuel taking the cake at a whopping $3.1 million.

[Edit: Really screwed the pooch on the math in this next part the first time around...]

To put these numbers in perspective, in a firm with $1.6 million in profits per equity partner, canning 1 first year associate saves 10 partners 1% of their profits.  Firms don’t publish a lot of information about the number of equity v. non-equity partners, but odds are firms are saving much less than 10% of profits.

Despite being in their rights to lay off associates, it’s pretty douchy to say to the highest cost bearer that they need to take a potentially 70, 80, or 90% cut in income, just so the equity partners will lose so little money they won’t even notice.

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Edit War: Bingham McCutchen, Fish & Richardson, and Wilmer Hale

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on February 5th, 2010 by bl1y

Today sees three new targets in the Law Firm Wikipedia Edit War, all thanks to what should be an embarrassing article from The Boston Globe.

Bingham McCutchen laid off associates, and then posted not only increased profits per partner (which can happen when you cut expenses), but also increased revenue.  How you cut staff while having an increased workload is beyond me.  Sounds like their clients are getting ripped off.

But, what makes Bingham’s actions particularly bad is that the firm chairman described 2009 as the “best year ever.”  Yeah, unless you were one of the people for whom it was the worst year ever.  Douche.

Fish & Richardson also conducted lay offs while posting an increase in profits.  Their managing partner had a little more tact and described the recession as “a painful year for everyone.”  Of course, it’s not nearly as painful if you’re one of the Fish partners.  They saw a staggering 20% increase to profits per partner.

And last, but certainly not least, Wilmer Hale…oh Wilmer Hale, you sick sons of bitches.  Wilmer Hale only posted a 7% increase in profits per partner, but the reason they’re going up on the ol’ wall of shame is lying to the press about layoffs.  In June 2009, AbovetheLaw.com reported stealth layoffs at Wilmer Hale.  Wilmer Hale denied that any layoffs had taken place, and even said none were planned or expected.  Then in July, just one month later, announced that layoffs had occurred.  And, then again in October.  What the Hale?

List of Wiki Raids:

Bingham McCutchen

Cadwalader

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost

Fish & Richardson

Latham

Morgan Lewis

Nixon Peabody

Paul, Weiss

Pillsbury

Wilmer Hale

Winstead

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