Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Problem With Billable Hours

They Work Long Hours, but What About Results? is an interesting Oct. 6, 2012 article from the New York Times. It points out two important facts. First, many corporations, including law firms do not evaluate based upon efficiency. Second, when an employee is billed out per hour, efficiency is in conflict with the real world. Nothing new here, but the article is an interesting read.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

October 27, 2012 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Virtual Law Offices

The September 2011 NYS Bar Journal ran a series of articles on virtual law offices. (sorry, no link available yet). There are actually several firms doing this and a business has been set up to help these firms establish their virtual office. The idea is that these firms establish a client portal where they can interact with clients. While I have never actually particpated in this, it appears to be a type of document exchange and chat process. 

For certain types of non-litigation practices, I can see that there is a place for this type of firm. It certainly is a major step about businesses which sell legal forms, but do not practice law. As some of the articles point out, there are ethical issues that must be considered as well as unauthorized practice of law issues if your client is from a jurisdiction that your not admitted in.

It seems to me that while a pure virtual office may be extreme, many full service firms may develop such a portal to handle simple document exhanges such as wills, power of attorney forms, incorporation and name changes. Of course, all of that can also be done via a legal form, but many non-attorneys may still need help.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

August 21, 2011 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vault.com Releases 2012 Vault Law 100 Prestige Rankings

 Vault.com recently unveiled its annual Top 100 Law Firm Prestige Rankings. Their top 10 ranking is as follows:

1.    Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz

2.    Cravath, Swaine & Moore          

3.    Sullivan & Cromwell      

4.    Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

5.    Davis Polk & Wardwell                                                  

6.    Simpson Thacher & Bartlett                   

7.    Weil, Gotshal & Manges  

8.    Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton                     

9.    Kirkland & Ellis  

10.  Covington & Burlington  

Though I have no doubt that this company was seriously attempting to rank employers, I find such a survey laughable. What makes these firms amongest the top 10? Is it the pay? What about working conditions and partnership potential? Or is the quality of their work. 

I do not think lawyers, or law students  for that matter, should give this survey any weight. But I am afraid that some will because they do not have much else to guide them.

So how do you pick a law firm. There is only one way, in my judgement. Go there. Spend time with the associates. Kick the tires if you will. Now, I recognize that is often difficult. The only real way to know what your getting into is if you have a close friend or relative who works in the department you want to work in. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

 

 

June 14, 2011 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 20, 2010

U.S. News Now Ranks Law Firms

I thought I have seen it all. However, I just learned that U.S. News and World Reports started to rank law firms. Wow! I could not think of a more subjective and useless rating system. First of all in federal cases and in most states, individual lawyers sign pleadings and it is of course individual lawyers who provide the representation. A management side may have a significant amount of experience in the construction industry, but none in the field of public education. Even though both firms may practice labor law, their experiences may vary dramatically. 

Oh, by the way what is labor law anyway. In firm A it might encompass labor and employment law while in firm B it might encompass an ERISA practice. Unfortunately, as with law firm rankings the general public may rely on them. And that is the problem

For an example of who they ranked, the best management labor law firms are as follows:



Fisher & Phillips LLP

Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national law firm founded in 1943, was one of the first law firms to cente...

Labor Law - Management

1Ford & Harrison LLP

Ford & Harrison is a national labor and employment law firm with close to 200 lawyers in 18 offices...

Labor Law - Management

1Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is a full-service global law firm, with over 1,000 lawyers in 17 office...

Labor Law - Management

1Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan Lewis provides comprehensive transactional, litigation, labor and employment, and intellectu...

Labor Law - Management

1Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. ("Ogletree Deakins") is one of the nation's largest ...

Labor Law - Management

1Proskauer Rose LLP

FIRM OVERVIEW: Proskauer is a global law firm with more than 650 lawyers worldwide. Recognized for ...

Labor Law - Management

1Winston & Strawn LLP

Labor Law - Management

1Jackson Lewis LLP

Labor Law - Management

1Jones Day

Labor Law - Management

1Littler Mendelson P.C.

Labor Law - Management

September 20, 2010 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Martindale Hubble Top Ten Labor and Employment Firms Based Upon Number of District Court Cases In Past 2 Years

Updated - April 2010
 Rank

Top 10 Law Firms: Labor & Employment

Change in RankLast MonthMonths on list
1 Littler Mendelson P.C.
1 18
2 Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart
2 36
3 Jackson Lewis LLP
3 36
4 Morgan & Morgan
4 35
5 Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
5 36
6 Fisher & Phillips LLP
6 36
7 Seyfarth Shaw LLP
7 36
8 Ford & Harrison LLP
8 36
9 Beasley Allen Law Firm
9 12
10 Constangy, Brooks & Smith
10

2

May 1, 2010 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Seyfarth Shaw plans to link merit pay and billing rates for associates

Seyfarth Shaw, one of nations largest labor law firms plans to link merit pay and billing rates for associates according to a recent article in the National Law Journal. http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202444464787&Seyfarth_Shaw_plans_to_link_merit_pay_and_billing_rates_for_associates_

As the article states:

The Chicago-based firm said last year that it would shift away from the lock-step method of paying associates based on their years of service to a merit-based system. Seyfarth told associates in a meeting today that pay beyond their first year will be based on their skills in 11 new core competencies, said Jeremy Sherman, a partner in the Chicago office who helped design the new system.

The firm has been developing the training, compensation and evaluation program during the past 18 months, Sherman said. Associates will be placed in one of three bands based on their skills in 11 areas, such as client service and legal research and analysis. They won't advance until they demonstrate to partners that they're proficient in their existing band. Within each band, there will be three sub-levels. That means the firm will have nine associate salary rates and nine related billing rates.

"A key component of the new system is that associate billing rates (like associate compensation) will be aligned directly with band placement and hence competency levels," Sherman said in an e-mail.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 3, 2010 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Law Firm Abuse

I see it almost every day in law school. Law students talking about and sometimes dreaming about getting a job in one of those big law firms. However, as I repeatedly tell my students, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. Big law firm life is not very pleasant-generally. They do not pay you all that money for nothing.

What do I mean by that? They expect your life. Above The Law recently reproduced an email from a big firm that expected associates to check their blackberries once per hour and be on call 24/7, except when they were sleeping or in a tunnel. The partner was critical of an associate who did not pick up an email from a partner after he left work at 7:30 pm. What a life. The email from a partner to all of the law firm associates states:

Now more than ever there are many talented lawyers and law firms competing for our business. Doing really good legal work is not enough. Clients expect that and well they should given what we charge for our services You must all realize that we are in a service business. In this day and age of faxes, emails, internet, etc. clients expect you to be accessible 24\7. Of course, that is something of an exaggeration—but not much.

LESSON NUMBER ONE: You should check your emails early and often. That not only means when you are in the office, it also means after you leave the office as well. Unless you have very good reason not to (for example when you are asleep, in court or in a tunnel), you should be checking your emails every hour. One of the last things test you should do before you retire for the night is to check your email. That is why we give you blackberries. I can assure you that all of our clients expect you to be checking your emails often. I am not asking you to do something we do not do ourselves. I can assure you that  [names deleted] all check their emails often.

Yesterday I was working with a relatively new associate on a project which both he and I knew was a rush. It was for a relatively new client whom we were trying to impress. The associate did a nice job under pressure. Before I left the office at about 7:30 I sent an email to this associate asking him to perform a task—fax a draft letter for review and comment. I assumed the task was done. Turns out the associate left the office and did not check his emails until this morning. I assumed the task had been completed. It had not been. In this case it was no harm no foul, but I think we can all imagine scenarios when this could be a disaster.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 23, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Students From Lower Tier Law Schools Are Happier At The Big Firms

Legal Blog Watch has an excellent September 4, 2009 story which discusses a study by the American Bar Foundation, and which was reported on in the September 2009 American Lawyer. In a nutshell, the study demonstrates that lawyers from less elite schools are happier at big law firms than others.

This comes as no surprise to me-having worked at 2 large NYC law firms and have litigated against a dozen or so of them. It is not uncommon for students from Ivy League Schools to have a chip on their shoulder. They think that they are better than this and they are in for a surprise when they actually have to produce.

Don't get me wrong. Many of these same graduates are very bright. However, when your in practice for a while where you went to law school is about as important as where you went to college.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

October 14, 2009 in Law Firms, Law Students | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Students From Lower-Tier Schools Are Happier at BigLaw

Carolyn Elefant at Law.com reports on a new study that concludes students from lower-tier law schools are happier at large law firms.  She writes:

Great credentials may or may not make better lawyers, but apparently they don't make more satisfied lawyers. That's the conclusion of a study entitled "After the JD" by the American Bar Foundation, which found that those graduates of non-elite law schools who work at Am Law 100 and 200 firms are happier than their colleagues from top-tier schools, and they tend to stick around longer too. The September issue of The American Lawyer (and this excerpt at The Am Law Daily) analyzes the study results.

The conclusions reflect common sense: Grads of lower-tier schools often work harder to nab positions at BigLaw and, as a result, they're more grateful for the opportunities. In addition, these grads may have fewer options than their top-tier colleagues so they probably don't suffer from the "grass is greener" syndrome.

Craig Estlinbaum

September 5, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vault 2010 Law Firm Rankings

U.S. News and World Reports does it, so why can't associates rank law firms? They at least have first hand knowledge. Yes, it is that time of year again. The 2010 Vault rating of law firms by associates is out. Available here.

Ranked number one for the seventh year in a row is Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The remainder of the top 10 are:

  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  • Covington & Burling
  • Kirkland & Ellis

Now, I wonder if these rankings mean anything to associates. Anyone care to comment??

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

August 19, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

E-Mail First Impressions

We all know that an address as well as a nice looking office impresses many clients. That is just the way it is. The Legal Blog watch ran an excellent August 12, 2009 posting, here, questioning whether an employer's email address matters. It was inspired by a "Tweet" from Tweeter which provided:

Esquire's Rule #1033. If your lawyer's email address ends in hotmail.com, gmail.com or yahoo.com (or aol.com), find a new lawyer.

I actually believe that there may be some truth to this posting. In this day and age, it is hard to explain why a company or a law firm would not have their own domain. Its not real expensive. Therefore, an inference can be draw that money is tight at the firm. Then a client may question why is money tight-maybe they are no good.

Something to think about.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein


August 12, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cravath, a Top Law Firm, to Pay New Hires to Delay Startis is an interesting June 12, 2009 article from the N.Y. Times. It reports that Cravath is willing to pay associates $80,000 to delay there start year for a year. Wow! This demonstrates just how inefficient big law firms are. How about paying your associates a bit less, while at the same time giving them a bit more of a life. I do not mean to pick a bone with Cravath as the problem is with big law firms in general. Most students and associates I know, and I know quite a few, would gladly take a 25% cut in salary for a 25% cut in hours.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

July 15, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big Firm Layoffs

A Study Why Major Firms Are Shrinking is an interesting June 7, 2009 New York Times article. It focuses on the continuing decline of White and Case- which is a classic white shoe large NYC law firm. The reason for the layoffs should come as no surprise-the economy. As the article states: 

In the first quarter of 2009, demand for legal services in New York decreased by nearly 10 percent over 2008, according to the Hildebrandt International Peer Monitor Index. At least 10,000 employees at major firms across the country have lost their jobs so far this year, according to the macabre but wildly popular “Layoff Tracker” run by another blog, lawshucks.com.

At the root of the law-firm crisis, legal experts say, is the credit crisis, which has pulverized the need for traditional practice areas like structured finance, mergers and acquisitions and private-equity transactions — the very things that have always kept a high gleam of polish on the city’s whitest shoes. The downward trend has been unrelenting: fewer Wall Street deals mean fewer Wall Street lawyers.

While the legal industry is hardly battling the existential threat that is facing, say, the newspaper trade, Big Law — especially in competitive New York — is facing a potential paradigm shift as fundamental as the one that has hit investment banks and the auto industry. Big, as a business model (let alone as an expression of the national mood), seems bound for obsolescence.

Most associates at these firms work for their money. If you ask them, and I know quite a few of them, many of them would gladly work for 20% less if they worked 20% less hours. It seems to me that the economic crisis has given big firms the opportunity to take advantage of this, but too few have.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

June 7, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Law Firm Goes After Laid Off Associates Loan

Like many firms, Thacher apparently advanced first year associates relocation and bar costs. Thacher apparently did this in the form of a loan. Now that the firm is dissolving, it has rescinded the offers and is going after the money it advanced their associates. Thacher response, its not them; the bank wants to go after the associates. As a March 9, 2009 Law.com article states:

First-year associates laid off from dissolving firm Thacher Proffitt & Wood aren't just out of jobs -- they owe the firm money.

In an unusual move, the firm's dissolution committee and bank are pursuing the former associates for repayment of salary advances issued last year to cover their bar and startup expenses, even as the former associates scramble to find new jobs against a backdrop of law firm layoffs.

Omer "Jack" Williams, a former Thacher managing partner who left retirement to chair Thacher's seven-member dissolution committee, says associates knew the money was a loan when they took it. "In the exit interviews, we made it clear we anticipated they would pay their loans back," he says.

  Former managing partner Paul Tvetenstrand, now a partner with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, says Citigroup -- which held the firm's debt -- made the decision to go after the money. "The bank has asked for those loans back. It's not the firm. The firm is in dissolution," he says. Williams says the committee wasn't explicitly ordered to pursue the associates for repayment by the bank, but "the situation is the bank is our secured creditor, for better or for worse. And our main obligation as the dissolution committee is to collect all receivables."

Williams says the committee hasn't taken any legal action to collect the loan balances and hasn't discussed what it will do if associates don't pay. Other members of the dissolution committee include former Thacher partners Jonathan Forstot, John Kim, Robert McCarthy, Douglas McClintock and Donald Simone, all now at Sonnenschein.

Do you believe this! If I were one of those associates, I would make them sue me and consider filing  counter claim for breach of contract. Of course, this would all depend upon what the contract stated.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein


March 29, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

DLA Piper to Cut Most Partners' Pay

Here is a new one. Partners at a major firm are actually going to cut their own pay that is according to a law.com article entitled DLA Piper to Cut Most Partners Pay. As the article states:

DLA Piper informed all of its U.S. partners on Friday that it will reduce pay for most of them by 11.5 percent in 2009, while strong performers will get more money.

The firm projects revenue will decline 7 percent in 2009 and profits will drop 6 percent, said U.S. Managing Partner J. Terence O'Malley in an interview with The Recorder. The move applies only to its U.S. operations, which count 1,380 lawyers.

"We are very pleased with how we are performing relative to the competition, but it's a tough economic environment," O'Malley said.

"We are conservatively budgeting this year to be a down year."

This was not the firms first cost-saving measure. They have already laid off about 80 associates.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

March 22, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Bad Economy Is A Boom For Employment Lawyers

Employment Lawyers: We're Busier Than Ever is an interesting Nov. 14, 2008 article from the American Lawyer. As most of us employment lawyers know, hard economic times are boom times for employment articles. This article interviews several lawyers who discuss this well known trend. As the article states:

Mandelman didn't have specific billable hours at his fingertips when he talked to The Am Law Daily, but employment firms nationwide say they are setting workload records as companies lay off employees at rates not seen in many, many years. In September alone, 284,000 jobs were lost in the U.S., and the number might be just as high for October once the final numbers shake out.

Jackson Lewis is on pace to bill about 15 percent more hours in 2008 than last year, managing partner Patrick Vaccaro says. Littler Mendelson billed 30 percent more hours this September than last, and expects October to end up being the busiest month in the firm's history, says Marko Mrkonich, Littler's president and managing director. Other firms that represent management, including Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Seyfarth Shaw, also say their work hours have jumped substantially since September, though they couldn't provide figures.

"Employment law practitioners are uniformly saying they are much, much busier," says John Fischer, the founder and director of the National Employment Law Institute.

Law students take note.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 29, 2008 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 21, 2008

White and Case Lays-Off 70 Associates

The November 17, 2008 National Law Journal is reporting that White and Case, a white shoe New York Law firm is laying off 70 associates. That article is available here. White and Case is the 6th largest firm in the country. As the article states:

Layoffs have hit one of the largest law firms in the country.

White & Case on Tuesday dumped a total of 70 associates and counsel, or 3% of its attorney workforce. The firm said it also was letting go of 3% of its support staff.

Friday will be the last day at the firm for the majority of those who were laid off, said White & Case spokesman Nicholas Clarke.

The law firm did not say which offices or practice areas were hit by the cuts, but did say it was reducing its "global" legal head count.

Law firms make money by attorney billing more hours. Therefore, a reduction in attorneys is serious business for law firms because that will result in less revenue. This is just a sign of the times. Law firms are a business like everything else.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 21, 2008 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Morgan Lewis Barred From Litigation Because It Offerred To Represent Witness

Morgan Lewis is one of this nation's premier employment law firms. However a Oct. 29, 2008 law.com article entitled "Judge Calls Morgan Lewis Actions A Bid To Thwart Informal Discovery" May Tarnish there reputation.   What happened? They reportedly approached a non-party witness and offered to represent them for free to insulate them from having contact with plaintiffs counsel. As the article states:

These witnesses are not parties to the litigation in any sense and there is no chance that they will be subject to any liability. They were clearly solicited by Morgan Lewis on behalf of [the hospital] to gain a tactical advantage in this litigation by insulating them from any informal contact with plaintiff's counsel," Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Ambrosio held in Rivera v. Lutheran Medical Center, 22050-05.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 17, 2008 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Going Going Gone is a short November ABA Journal article which documents that some law firms are cutting back on vacation benefits because of the economy. Why? Because of the need to increase billable hours.
This is example number one in my book about why law firms have to change. They have to learn that a happy worker is more likely to be a productive and long term worker. If you are going to treat junior associates as high price prostitutes, as many large firms do, you are not doing the attorney or the firm any good. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 12, 2008 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Law Firm Layoffs and The Economy

A Oct. 20, 2008 New York Law Journal article, available here, reported that Clifford Chance laid off 20 litigation associates. As the article states:

Clifford Chance has laid off 20 U.S. litigation associates, citing continued "sluggishness" in the practice.

The cutback affects 17 associates in New York and three in Washington, D.C. In a statement yesterday, the firm stressed that the layoffs were not performance-related and said the affected associates would receive severance and outplacement assistance.

Though a number of law firms have already announced significant layoffs in response to slowing economic conditions, most have been in practices tied to the hard-hit market for mortgage-backed securities. Clifford Chance was itself one of the first firms to cut structured finance associates last fall, when it fired six.

Clifford Chance is, of course, one of this nations largest law firms. One has to wonder which firm is next?

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 4, 2008 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)