April 06, 2007
Landers on Diversity Hiring in Boston Law Firms
Posted by Alan Childress
Renee Landers (Suffolk--Law), right, has posted to SSRN her article, "Pluc Ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose: The Representation of People of Color (and Women) in Boston Law Firms." It is also in 50 Boston Bar Journal 15 (Nov./Dec. 2006), and her abstract is:
In this short article the author analyzes the reasons why increased representation of people of color and women among law school graduates has not been matched by proportional increases in the representation of women and people of color in the ranks of large law firm partners in Boston and nationally. The article attributes this lack of progress to the factors identified in the recent report of the ABA Commission on Women on the situation of women of color in law firms and to other deeply imbedded structural and economic practices of firms, such as the highly leveraged structures and the ever rising demand for billable hours. Pipeline issues may further impede progress of lawyers of color.
The article concludes by challenging law firms to realize the investment they have made in diversity programs and in recruiting and training associates by examining assumptions about law firm cultures and practices that erect barriers to the achievement of women and people of color.
Update: while perusing the Suffolk website, I came across this announcement of new hiring coups, featuring our own Jeff Lipshaw. Oddly, it does not mention either his available vacation rental home in partial Michigan, or even the nearby bigger house one can rent as a better deal especially when subsidized by Jeff and Alene. But the school otherwise seems proud to have snagged him.
March 23, 2007
Merit Promotions In Illinois
Congratulations to Jerry Larkin on his appointment as Administrator of the Illinois Registration and Disciplinary Commission("ARDC"). Jim Grogan was named Deputy Bar Counsel. These two longtime bar prosecutors will continue the fine work of the ARDC. I had the privilege of working closely with both Jerry and Jim during my association with the National Organization of Bar Counsel. (Mike Frisch)
February 14, 2007
HALT Internships in DC: Application Process + Promises No Photocopy Work
Well, actually, the work promises to be very substantive but not entirely Xerox-free: "Minimal grunt work! ...You won't make copies for anyone but yourself." The attorney-watchdog and law-reform group HALT has a revolving internship program, for college and grad students. It's in its Washington, D.C. headquarters on K Street. This link explains the advantages (including "Food!" and nearby Metro) and application process.
We have posted here and here on some of HALT's important work, including their letter grades for states' lawyer disciplinary processes. Michigan gets a C, unsurprisingly--though even then that mark is based on Incomplete "promptness" information due to the state's failure to report such stats to the ABA, and it appears the score would be lower if its actual MPH were considered. Anyway, I like the fact that the group's name does not appear to be an acronym for anything.
February 01, 2007
Porter on Vaulting the Maternal Wall in Law Firms and Law Jobs
Posted by Alan Childress
Nicole Porter (St. Louis Univ.--Law) has posted to SSRN her essay, "Re-Defining Superwoman: An Essay on Overcoming the Maternal Wall in the Legal Workplace." It is also published in 13 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy 55 (2006). Its abstract:
In this Essay, I discuss the work/life balance challenges facing women lawyers who are mothers. Despite these challenges, I believe that mother-attorneys can successfully manage a career and a family. In reaching this conclusion, I attempt to dispel the myth that mother-attorneys need to be “Superwoman” in order to succeed in this profession. The essay first discusses the obstacles women face - from stereotypical views of their competence (both in the workplace and at home), to the difficulty of maintaining a successful and meaningful law practice while working a reduced-hours schedule, to managing the guilt that inevitably accompanies the fact that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, all at once.
While I examine the many possible legal and structural solutions to the problem of the “maternal wall,” I ultimately conclude that major change is unlikely to occur in the near future. Accordingly, in an effort to adopt an optimistic view of being a mother-attorney, I conclude this essay with my advice on changing what is in women's capacity to change immediately - their own actions and attitudes. In my opinion, the key to being successful is to focus on the goals and expectations that matter to you - rather than the goals perceived to be set by society. I do not advocate mediocrity; quite the contrary, I suggest women strive to do the highest quality work possible while focusing on the aspects of work and home that really matter to you, your family and your career. Feeling guilty that you cannot be both “mother of the year” and “superstar attorney” at the same time is a fruitless waste of energy, and will ultimately keep women from being both happy and successful as attorneys who have the joy of also being mothers.
January 05, 2007
Michigan State Bar Seeks Executive Director
The State Bar of Michigan has posted this job announcement for a new Executive Director, to oversee the bar organization, presumably in Lansing and governing both pieces of the state. Deadline: February 15. [Alan Childress]
December 03, 2006
WSJ Reports, "White House Lawyers Up"
That from the WSJ Law Blog's Peter Lattman, here. Not a really monumental hiring 'moment,' I assume, at the halfway mark of the administration's current term. But the headline gives me the opportunity to congratulate GW-grad, Lovettsville co-resident, former Marine, and all around good-guy Chris Oprison for his new position as Associate Counsel to the President. If I get a parking ticket near the White House, or have a relative in Armenia needing a visa...? [Alan Childress]
November 29, 2006
Moving Laterally, Out-House to In-House
Julie Goldberg, right, a recruiter from Korn/Ferry, has a post over at Law.com on what it takes for an in-house law department to recruit lawyers away from law firms, particularly given the escalation in salaries at big firms in large financial centers.
I agree with most of it - though there is a certain irony to reading about the attractiveness to lawyers of precisely the stock-based compensation that academic corporate lawyers are wont to debate - but one paragraph caught my eye as being wrong:
Although in-house lawyers put in long hours, their schedules have one big advantage over those of lawyers working in firms -- predictability. Do not underestimate the appeal of knowing that weekend and vacation plans will not be ruined. Work/life balance is now openly acknowledged as a factor in employment decisions, and top-notch lawyers demand time for life outside the office.
I don't know which corporation Ms. Goldberg is thinking about. I'm pretty sure that if you counted up all the hours I would have billed, had I been billing them, in the first year after I left the law firm to go in-house, it would have been somewhere in the 2,700 hour range (compared to my high water mark, as I recall, in the law firm, of about 1,950). That year also included something like eleven trips to Germany in ten months negotiating a joint venture, one of which was on about four hours' notice in the middle of a vacation - on a Tuesday morning, I was sitting by a beach in northern Michigan, and at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, I was in a conference room in Munich.
The great difference, to me at least, was the primacy of the result versus the primacy of the clock. I know there are lawyers who can generate passion around what they do for others in the big firm context, but I couldn't. The billable hour clock was always ticking in the background. The 2,700 hours were fulfilling in a way the law firm hours never managed to achieve, and became something like the sense of time when you are fully engrossed in something other than watching the clock.
November 20, 2006
Washington State Bar Seeks Executive Director
The Washington State Bar Association posted a job announcement for a new Executive Director, to oversee the bar organization, in Seattle.
Deadline: December 1. [Alan Childress]
November 18, 2006
Texas Center for Legal Ethics Seeks Executive Director
The non-profit Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism posted this announcement for an Executive Director to run its office (in Austin). "The Executive Director is responsible for the professional, administrative, and financial work...and to develop new programming opportunities for education and training in the areas of legal ethics, professionalism, and grievance avoidance." Complete job description here from the state bar site. Deadline: Dec. 15. [Alan Childress]
November 13, 2006
Tracking the Diversity Talk/Actions of the Profession and Especially Law Firms
There is a blog, named Law Firm Diversity: A Rational Discussion, that follows diversity in law firms, even specific named ones, as well as the issue of diversity of race and gender in the profession generally. For example, a post links this article from the Boston Herald on whether what law firms say about diverse hiring and promotion matches what they do--and how minority job applicants should research and detect that. And a series of posts from November 9 link specifically to stories on Indianapolis's Ice Miller, the head of NY's Weil Gotshal, and the University of Michigan's first response to the state's constitutional amendment on affirmative action. It seems to be an updated source to track the reality of such programs in the profession and particularly in law firms beyond their public relations. Although one may not necessarily agree with the political premises of the blog, it does seem to be a useful resource for such links and it helpfully follows the firms' public pronouncements about diversity.
UPDATE: The site Feminist Law Professors by South Carolina law prof Ann Bartow is a similarly useful blog resource to follow events and especially theory related to the gender diversity of the profession. Here is a link to its subcategory on "the legal profession." [Posted by Alan Childress]
November 11, 2006
Are the Low Numbers of Female Supreme Court Law Clerks a Statistical Blip? (Or: 'Let's Ask Justice Thomas to Check')
Posted by Alan Childress
David Kaye (Ariz. State, Law) and Joseph Gastwirth (GW, Arts & Sci. [Stats Dept.]) have just posted on SSRN Law & Soc'y: Legal Prof., their new article, "Where Have All the Women Gone? 'Random Variation' in the Supreme Court Clerkship Lottery." Only 7 of 37 of this year's Supreme Court law clerks are women, a drop nearing 50%, leading to a popular-media outcry. Justices Breyer and Souter have publicly defended the low numbers as the product of "random variation in the applicant pool," but apparently did not convince many onlookers, some of whom assert "insidious discrimination" in the drop.
The authors test the claim using their experience with statistics (David Kaye, for instance, is one of the most respected statisticians in the law school world and coauthor of the book Prove It With Figures; and Gastwirth edited Statistical Science in the Courtroom). They conclude that the numbers are not improbable and within an expected range, given the applicant pool. [Elsewhere they have reported, similarly, that this year's drop is not "statistically significant," adding "that for all the raised eyebrows, the numbers are not so dramatic as to establish that this year's decline is anything other than the 'random variation' asserted by Souter and Breyer."] But this relatively clean bill of health only works, they note in the SSRN article, court-wide. Some individual Justices have numbers so low that it is hard to explain them by chance or fluctuations.
In any event, all the statistics-crunching and the conclusion, they point out, depend to some extent upon the foundational truth of public assertions about who applies and particularly the claim that women are underrepresented in that source pool. The authors do not claim, of course, that the numbers may be chance when compared to the larger population of women law students or even students with particular credentials. That was not their investigation. And they ackowledge that their job was hampered by working from public statements rather than disclosed real data about the applicant pool. They call for public disclosure of information on applications and hiring.
The full abstract is below the fold. Also find my take on the matter, especially the problem of using the 'pool' as the reason for this year's dip, or generally for such inquiries.
I would add (and the authors are no doubt aware) that even if the Court's public statement about the available applicants happens to be true, that pool is not randomly created. It is not "neutral" itself, to explain how a drop in numbers might well be neutral. Particular feeder judges, inflexible credential requirements, repeat-player recommenders, and all sorts of other non-random variables initially create the pool. Earlier I argued (as to clerks' influencing decision-making) that "it must be kept in mind that the hiring of the clerks is not a random and independent act--their ideologies are often taken into account both directly and through their references, feeder judges, and mentors." The same may be said for their diversity in terms of gender and race. Pointing to a blip in the source pool does not really explain the intuitively low hiring rate, particularly when the non-randomness of the pool (beyond even the hiring criteria) is controlled to a significant extent by the Justices' actions and traditions themselves.
If the Justices are not going to look for hiring factors other than those 'tried and true,' or find new feeder judges--or else at least impress upon their current sources the importance of their being more diverse in hiring--then all the statistical 'neutrality' of the Scotus hires for matching the "available pool" (or more accurately, the study suggests, for falling within an expected range in that pool, if only at the shallow end) is wholly meaningless. The Court can do better, and should.
The authors, of course, do not deny this. But the conclusion of possibly neutral numbers (and especially their more supportive conclusion as reported elsewhere) is only as good as the randomness of the source pool. That reserve is unarguably filtered through all sorts of sieves that the Justices might not accept from other institutions.
Certainly unarguable is the authors' call for public disclosure of data on which fuller examination can be made. I doubt the Court will do this anytime soon, since the Justices could say they don't answer to federal law since they are federal law. Or they could say nothing. But they did not say nothing or tell us to mind our business; instead they publicly proclaimed this a product of statistically blippery and asked us to trust them without (as far as I know) having either: (a) consulted a trained statistician, (b) consulted a court employee who has experience heading an office for years whose main job was to compile and crunch hiring numbers and claims of mere blips--hey, that's Clarence Thomas!, or (c) provided the audience with source data to verify it.
The Justices really have a duty to give such information, in my mind, now that some of them have come out in public to claim this is neutral and not an issue--once they have effectively referred to the "available pool" as an explanation. Fine, let's see that pool. And even if the source pool is down this year and so is itself not very diverse, the Court should be scrambling to find a cooler pool. [Alan Childress]
In the world of American law, a Supreme Court clerkship is a position desired by many but attained by few. Considering the career trajectory of many clerks, perhaps it is not surprising that the New York Times would give front page coverage to some disturbing facts about this year's clerks -- only seven out of the 37 -- a mere 19 percent -- are women. This outcome, moreover, represents a shocking 50 percent drop from preceding years. Yet, two Justices portrayed this year's percentage as the result of “random variation,” a claim that strikes many observers as incredible.
This essay applies standard statistical reasoning to answer two questions -- what do the numbers prove, and how strongly do they prove it? We show that this year's decline in women is not at all improbable. Likewise, if the percentage of women applying for these clerkships is in the range of what one Justice suggested, then the small proportion of women is about what one would expect.
The situation seems different, however, when one examines statistics on each Justice. Some Justices hire considerably fewer women than would be expected by chance, while others hire somewhat more. There are many possible explanations for this pattern. We marshal data to assess the plausibility of some of them, but in the end, the available records do not allow a definitive conclusion. To assure public confidence in the Justices' assurances of gender neutrality, we recommend that the Court make statistics on the characteristics of those who apply for and receive clerkships publicly available.
November 03, 2006
Lawyer Career Tracks, Disparities, and Other Stats in Western PA
Over on Empirical Legal Studies blog, William Henderson (Indiana) posted this interesting summary of the Allegheny County Bar Association's comprehensive study and survey of its members. It echoes some great earlier work with data sets from Chicago lawyers and both University of Michigan and Indiana law grads. He notes that "[s]ome of the most significant findings involve large gender disparities." A few highlights, quoted or paraphrased from his post:
- Education. Fully 38% of respondents attended the two local Pittsburgh law schools (Pitt and Duquesne).
- First employment. The most common first employment was at a smaller firm, though women were more likely to start at larger firms (consistent with earlier findings from above studies).
- Fulltime or part-time. 87.5% of the members work full-time; 7.9% part-time (women are twice as likely to be part-time); 4.7% not currently employed.
- Practice setting. Women are more likely to start in private practice, but also more likely to eventually move into a non-private practice setting.
- Choice of employment. Respondents reported type of practice was the most important factor in choice of employment, with work/life balance and independence/flexibility coming in second. However, female attorneys were more likely to favor work/life balance while male attorneys were more likely to prioritize compensation and prestige.
- Billable hours. 28% of respondents reported a billable hour requirement in their current setting. The mean billable hours was approximately 1900 hours.
- Income. 20% of male attorneys and 5% of the females earned over $250,000 per year; at least some of this was driven by age differences.
- Job satisfaction. Females are also twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their employment situation (earlier studies contained similar but more nuanced findings). Female respondents reported higher incidents of job discrimination and lower pay for similar of-counsel work.
- Personal household duties. Female attorneys reported more hours devoted to household chores (10.5 hours/wk for females versus 8.55 hours/wk for males).
- Enter practice again. 70% percent of the men versus only 54.7% of the women stated that they definitely or probably would practice law again.
Bill has more details and links on this and similar previous studies. I would add that the "household duties" statistic is proof that males are significantly more likely to overreport their weekly time devoted to household chores, possibly by defining the watching of Lifetime Channel or HGTV as housework. [Posted by Alan Childress]
Where Have All the Law Clerks Gone?
A little while back, I asked where those law review editor/Coif/Supreme Court clerks types were going, if they weren't going into academia. Accordingly to Law.com today, they are going to Latham & Watkins.
October 27, 2006
Caron Posts on Ethics Treasury Job, and Tax 'Ethics' Paper
The TaxProf parent company and LPB honcho Paul Caron recently made two ethics-related posts. One announces a job opening in Treasury (in DC next to the White House) for an ethics attorney; apply by Nov. 13. The other post links to an SSRN paper called "The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Germany and the United States," and has its abstract. It involves comparative surveys of populations in the U.S. and Germany, so it is not about legal ethics as such, but rather public compliance. Finally, Paul announces he is a 1 in a 100 guy. That leaves 99 other Paul Carons wishing they'd thought of LPB. [Alan Childress]
How Recruiters Rank B-Schools and Their Students: Is Law Different?
Nancy Rapoport's post over at Money Law on the Business Week ranking of business school reminded me that back at the end of September I started to write the post that follows, and left it sitting back in the dusty cybervaults of TypePad.
Here, unabridged and unedited from about a month ago is additional fuel for Nancy's fire:
The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 20) ran its annual special report on business schools as ranked by corporate recruiters. The most interesting thing about it was not the result, but what attributes in students the recruiters said they most valued. According to the WSJ, the following percentages of corporate recruiters considered these attributes important in evaluating business schools and their graduates.
89.0%: Communication and interpersonal skills
86.9: Ability to work well within a team
86.2: Personal ethics and integrity
84.3: Analytical and problem-solving skills
82.9: Work ethic
74.5: Fit with the corporate culture
74.0: Success with past hires
72.5: Leadership potential
67.1: Strategic thinking
64.9: Likelihood of recruiting "stars"
Here are the questions that keep coming back to me:
1. How would law firm, corporate, and government agency recruiters rank the important attributes for law schools and their J.D. graduates (as opposed to M.B.A.s)?
2. Do business schools and their faculties address these attributes as part of teaching and research?
* * *
I know I had more questions, but I can't remember them anymore.
October 26, 2006
Quick Advice on Firing Associates
Over at LawBiz blog, law firm consultant (and attorney) Ed Poll has some quick tips on firing an associate in such a way, apparently, as to avoid his or her going postal. It is clear that he ultimately advises having a real severance policy, and marvels at law firms and law offices that do not, but short of that his advice seems useful for employers in this prickly situation. [Alan Childress]
October 18, 2006
Teaching-job postings in legal profession/legal ethics
I noticed in an SSRN email (Legal Scholarship Network) that Michigan State University's law school is looking to fill a chair in "Professional Responsibility, where a nationally significant scholar would be eligible for appointment to the Frank J. Kelley Chair in Ethics," among other openings they list. That chair is for "experienced teachers." Their list of openings for entry-level positions also names professional responsibility as a desired subject, along with commercial law, contracts, and civ pro. (Here is their general website.) In either event, the application is made to:
Prof. Kevin W. Saunders
Senior Associate Dean
Law College Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Any chair of an appointments committee who would like to post similar information on this blog about hiring needs in the legal profession, ethics, or professional responsibility should feel invited to do so as a Comment below this post.
A useful, and fairly complete, listing of the various Chairs of Appointments at several law schools (for both lateral and entry level positions) was blogged over the summer on PrawfsBlawg and is linked here. Sometimes it is especially hard to find information about lateral hiring, so I recommend the posting for that distinction and contact information. That site also indicates that Temple may hire a tenure track (entry level?) person in PR. (I also recall that the University of Tennessee was looking to fill a need in legal ethics, I believe by an entry-level or experienced person, but don't see it listed on that post.) Finally, Jeff has already recommended Brad Wendel's excellent and wry essay on the appointments process and its resume requirements. Good luck, everyone. [Posted by Alan Childress]
October 10, 2006
"We Thought They'd Be Busy Filing Their Returns Until April 15"
Today's Wall Street Journal features a story about the efforts of the Internal Revenue Service to recruit top law grads. Already outgunned by the ability of private firms to pay the big bucks, the IRS (this is no joke, read the article) recently discovered, after years of recruiting in the spring, that the prime season for recruiting law students is the fall. Even now there are glitches. One student reported that it took the Service five weeks to get around to arranging a callback, and then it was for a different job than originally advertised. Not to worry, however. The Service is rolling out a new line of slick marketing and recruiting material.
October 06, 2006
Outsourcing Law Firm Jobs and Document Production
Posted by Alan Childress
Clifford Chance is outsourcing 300 staff and IT positions to India over the next four years, the firm announced this week (as reported by the UK's Legal Week), following on its 2005 initiative to reroute much document production out-of-house to an Indian company. Some US law firms have also begun outsourcing document work, and the Orrick firm has already moved many of its staff and tech jobs to West Virginia since 2002. Although such cost-savings measures (CC estimates that the staff moves alone will save around $57 million) raise real issues of law firm economics and hands-on control over legal product by the profession, any such trend among US firms will also raise potential issues under bar rules of professional conduct and state laws governing the unauthorized practice of law.
A rather non-critical take on the trend--with the quick conclusion that the authorized-practice rules allow this--is found on a website by law marketing consultant Prism Legal. It quotes an opinion of a committee of the City of New York's bar association for approval of the trend and pronounces it as "good news for firms that want to send work offshore, including document review."
Next up: offshoring law professors?
September 29, 2006
Straddling the Fence - Career Questions
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw.
We kick off Straddling the Fence with some thoughts on careers.
I had lunch with one of the student groups here at Tulane a couple weeks ago (One of the very nice restaurants in the French Quarter, Bacco, features 10 cent martinis with a lunch order - 30 martini limit per person - but since I have never had the fabled three-martini lunch, much less a single martini lunch, I went with mango flavored iced tea. I am not a teetotaler by any means, just a very cheap drunk.)
The question came up about career choices, opportunities, and training. My bona fides in this area include the fact that I've been law firm associate, law firm partner, law firm of counsel, divisional general counsel, and general counsel of a public company. I've done litigation and corporate. I've been interviewer and interviewee. I have been hirer and firer. So the thoughts may not be right or helpful, but they do spring from a well-developed (if twisted) point of view.
Here are thoughts in no particular order:
1. "You Don't Know What You Don't Know, But It's Your Basic Skills and Attributes That Matter"
There are entering law students who know precisely why they are here, and what they want to do with their lives. If you are one of them, skip to the next paragraph. My brother-in-law wanted to be a sports agent representing skiers. But he never really wanted to practice law. He went to law school at Denver University, got his degree, and then knocked on doors until somebody hired him. The one that opened happened to be International Management Group, one of the largest agency and promotion firms in the world, and his career was off and running.
Most of us don't have that focus that early. For many of us, it's a default path where merely being bright and analytical provides some likelihood of a decent living and professional status. Don't worry if you don't know precisely what you want to do, because you don't know what you don't know, and it is going to take a while for you to find out. I was a history major, and tired of being poor, so I went to law school instead of graduate school in history. I had no business experience or acumen whatsoever. Tax, corporations, securities regulation, the UCC, even first year contracts, were all foreign to me. I gravitated to the natural writing, speaking, arguing kinds of courses - civ pro, evidence, federal courts - and assumed I was meant to be a litigator. It took ten years in practice, including having made partner as a litigator, to realize that I HATED being a litigator. I didn't know what the business lawyers did, and couldn't even begin to make a sensible decision as long as I didn't know.
Jeff Kindler, the recently appointed CEO of Pfizer, Inc., one of the largest companies in the world, started his career as a litigator at Williams & Connolly. He moved in-house at GE as senior counsel for litigation, and then got recruited to McDonald's, where he was first the general counsel, and then the president of the division that ran Boston Market and Chipotle. He then became the general counsel for Pfizer, and most recently its CEO. The point is that I suspect it's highly unlikely that Jeff knew when he started law school that he had the business acumen to run a huge company.
When I was hiring lawyers for in-house positions, I looked for "the best available athlete." Business people tended to believe that the critical thing was knowledge of their business area. My position was that a great lawyer could learn the business, but as the coach said in Chariots of Fire, I couldn't put in what nature left out. An example: I was hiring for the general counsel position of a billion dollar business. The best young lawyer I knew was an associate in a local law firm - and he had a number of very attractive qualifications: Harvard grad, African-American, great writer, smart as a whip, but he was a pure litigator with almost no business experience. To me, the basic skills and the diversity impact (we needed it badly) trumped the holes in the resume on business experience.
More below the fold.
2. Training and Path Dependency
Unless you loaded up on clinical course and outside clinical activities, you probably don't have much idea what it will be like when you practice. Even the big firm summer associate's usual fare of research memoranda (in between the river cruises, softball games, and museum parties) is more like law school than most of what you will end up doing as a lawyer.
There is a theory in economics called path dependence. It has to do with the long-term impact of our initial choices. I joined a law firm in 1979 just about the time of the downfall of the Shah and the return to Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini. That precipitated an energy crisis, the reaction to which was something called the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, under which the Department of Energy regulated how much gasoline could be sold to marketers under the Mandatory Petroleum Allocation Rules. We represented a large oil company, and I got stuck for almost two years doing responses to petitions for greater allocations filed in the DOE's Office of Hearings and Appeals by what seemed like every Stop 'n Shop in the country . (One of the best days of my life was January 23, 1981, when President Reagan, for whom I did not vote, issued an executive order ending the MPAR system.)
My concern at the time was the incredibly narrowing effect of this particular practice on my future. If I had wanted to be an expert in the minutiae of DOE regulation, it would have been a wonderful experience.
If your lifelong passion has been to write railroad car leveraged leasing agreements, or to represent amateur sports organizations, or to write constitutions for developing African nations, go for it. If, on the other hand, you don't know what you don't know, avoid the wrong path dependencies. Many lawyers move from the biggest firms in an area to smaller ones. It doesn't usually happen the other way around. Many lawyers move from major financial centers like L.A. or New York or Chicago to firms in smaller cities. It doesn't happen as often the other way around. Lawyers often move in-house after several years at a law firm. It doesn't usually happen the other way around.
The basic approach of general to specific or large to small or broad to targeted also enhances training, I think. Shortly after I made my move from litigation to corporate, I found myself as the representative of acquirer monitoring a shareholders' meeting of the close corporation (owned by a dispersed and highly dysfunctional and factional family). One of the family members asked if the acquirer could explain the reason for its interest, and there I was, standing in front of thirty people, most of whom hated each other, and were ready to transfer that emotion to me. Ten years' experience on my feet as a litigator was not wholly irrelevant at that moment, nor was the kind of judgment you get making quick legal/business decisions along the way.
3. Theory in Practice
"Don't give me theory. Just tell me the rules." There are kinds of practices in which one will rarely need to resort to the kind of theory that law professors are inclined to teach. Just sit in the average county courtroom on the morning when uncontested divorces are being finalized, or driver's license reinstatement hearings are going on. (In Wayne County, Michigan, where Detroit is the county seat, the civil motion call was on Friday mornings. If you had a motion to dismiss, or a motion for summary judgment, or a discovery motion, the call would start at 8:30 a.m. or so, but the order of the motions was determined by the signing in of BOTH lawyers. If your opponent did not show up early, you were forced to sit through a hour or two of the matters that only needed one lawyer, like uncontested divorces and drivers' license reinstatements. I was pretty sure after a while I could do an uncontested divorce in my sleep, even though I knew nothing about it.)
It doesn't have to be deep theory, but whether it's in litigation or negotiation, law is best practiced as narrative. (See Dennis Patterson's great article on this subject.) Expect why the theory behind a statute supports your client's cause, and you are a long way toward winning. Expect why a provision doesn't work or doesn't make sense (rather than we just don't want it) and you are a long way toward making a deal.
4. Deep Focus and Ball Juggling
I once hired a brilliant young corporate lawyer from one of the firms that regularly ranks in the top two or three in the country in size, profitability and significant corporate deals. His job was to be the general counsel of one of our business units. He decided after a year to leave. I think the issue was the way his work had been organized in the law firm versus the way it was organized in the in-house practice. In the law firm, he worked on mega-deals, putting in mega-billable hours, but never having the pressure of competing priorities. He worked on one deal until it was done, and then moved onto the next. Moreover, he had the luxury of being able to devote exquisite amounts of attention to the projects.
In-house practice is almost all about priority setting. There are matters you simply must let fall off the table. My dictum was that if a contract involved less than $100,000, and was terminable at will or in less than a year, our law department would not review it (beyond making sure it qualified under those criteria). If you are emotionally incapable of letting some slip by at less than the best, then consider putting yourself in a place that can accommodate you.