November 10, 2010
Who are the best legal employers to work for?
The ones who are hiring, you're probably saying. But if you're about to graduate law school and have the luxury of being able to make some choices, check out this article from the National Jurist Magazine that compiles information from several ranking lists to determine who are the best legal employers in the land.
So what makes a great legal employer? The question has been answered in many ways by different sources. Some take a wide approach, like Fortune magazine’s '100 Best Companies to Work For' and compare legal employers to other companies. Some are focused just on law firms, such as Vault’s prestige and quality of life rankings and American Lawyer’s summer associate rankings. And some are focused in a niche, such as Working Mother’s 'Best Law Firms for Women.'
We have chosen to highlight four law firms that have ranked high — one in each of the abovementioned publications.
And those four firms are:
- Based on The Vault's rankings, its Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto with offices in New York, Washington D.C. and Orange County, Calif., because it has a high quality of life for its associates, partners and staff. Its office space got particular kudos from employees, who ranked it No.1 among the nation’s law firms. They noted that the award-winning workspace gives each associate their own office and 'the décor is modern yet comfortable.'
- From Working Mother magazine, the nod goes to New York's Andrew & Kurth particularly among female attorneys because of its flex-path partnership track. This allows associates and counsel who show a long-term commitment to the firm to reduce their hours during the years they are raising a family. They enjoy their home life, and the firm holds onto valued employees.
- According to Fortune Magazine, it's Bingham McCutchen making its 6th appearance on the list of 'best companies to work for.' The firm goes out of its way to ensure its inclusion in these lists, including those in individual cities where its offices are based. It continually makes the list, according to one source, because '[y]ou’re not just a cog in the wheel here . . . . You have a voice and you have a chance to do great things based on your individual talent. We want all of our attorneys to feel they are stakeholders. That is the kind of environment we seek to create. You want to go to a firm where people are going to succeed and have opportunities to do well.
- Finally, American Lawyer's contribution to the group is Philadelphia's Cozen O’Connor because of its commitment to summer associates. 'When firms were canceling summer programs, withdrawing offers and deferring classes, we ran our usual summer program and our entry-levels started as planned,' said firm CEO Tad Decker.
You can read the rest of the collective wisdom National Jurist has divined from various employer ranking lists by clicking here.
Upcoming symposium on the status of the legal profession
Here's an upcoming skills-related symposium to tell you about sponsored by the American Inns of Court and hosted by Georgetown Law School on March 31 to April 2, 2011:
A Symposium on the status of the legal profession titled "Symposium on the Status of the Legal Profession: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century" will be held at The Georgetown University Law Center on March 31 to April 2, 2011. The symposium is presented by the American Inns of Court and the Georgetown University Law Center with assistance and support from the Honourable Society of theMiddle Temple in London. The purpose of the symposium is to discuss timely topics relating to the practice of law and the administration of justice.
This American Inns of Court national event provides Inn leaders and members unparalleled opportunities to meet and exchange ideas while fulfilling continuing legal education requirements coordinated by The Georgetown University Law Center.
Building on the friendship between distinguished members of the Bench and Bar in the United States and the United Kingdom, the symposium will be an inspiring and memorable event
featuring fascinating speakers and timely topics relating to the practice of law and the administration of justice.
All members of the legal profession will be inspired by the distinguished group of judges and lawyers assembled to be presenters, as well as the state of the
art program sessions that will examine the special challenges of technology; professionalism and civility on the Bench; legal education, training and mentoring;
and the influence of the media on the image of the legal profession.
We are delighted that the following distinguished judges and lawyers have already agreed to be presenters at the symposium:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Lord Nicholas Phillips, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice John Murray, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ireland
• Fred Thompson, Esquire, actor and former United States Senator
• Michael Chertoff, Esquire, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
• Robert S. Bennett, Esquire, former counsel of President William J. Clinton
• Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, former Attorney General for England and Wales
and Advocate General for Northern Ireland
• Judge David Sentelle, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
• Judge Carl Stewart, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
• Chief Justice Norman Veasey, Retired, Supreme Court of Delaware
Included among the diverse topics that will be discussed are: the special challenges of technology, professionalism and civility on the bench, legal education, training and mentoring, and the influence of the media on the image of the legal profession.
Fred Thompson and Justice Breyer in the same room. Cool.
Registration information, along with additional details, can be found here.
Charles Calleros and Kevin Gover to Receive ABA Diversity Award
Congratulations to Charles Calleros and Kevin Gover, recipients of the 2011 Spirit of Excellence Awards for their work in promoting diversity in the legal field. Both are professors at Arizona State’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. Charles is also a well known scholar and friend of many in the lawyering skills community. Charles and Kevin will receive the awards on February 12 at the ABA mid year meeting in Atlanta.
Things We Can Live Without
ProfHacker asks what things did we think we couldn’t live without but which, it turned out, we can live without? The commenters at the end of the post give examples, mostly tech items, but also a TV and a spouse.
November 9, 2010
Is Blekko a Google-killer?
Thanks to Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog for alerting us to the launch of Blekko, a new search engine. Is it a giant Google-killer? To find out, read the reviews below.
Pandia Search Engine News: Search Engine Blekko, the hype and the facts
A micro-trend in the making? CUNY School of Law has had an incubator project since 2007
So take that, UMKC! As noted below, UMKC School of Law has just launched a solo and small firm incubator project intended to help new grads get their careers off the ground. In reporting the story, one of ATL's astute readers pointed out that CUNY School of Law has had its own "incubator" project since 2007. It's described in this New York Times article entitled "Lawyers Learn How to be Businesslike" dated January 8, 2008:
[When] Mr. Munson [a then recent CUNY law grad] set out on his own . . . after leaving his first job with the Legal Aid Society, he quickly realized that whatever he knew about law would not help him much in private practice, which is essentially running a small business.
The program aims to help and encourage new lawyers to go into private practice on their own in communities where there are few lawyers, and where people cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars per hour for legal service. For 18 months, it offers training by experienced practitioners in all matters of building a law practice: drumming up business, keeping accurate books, and hiring and firing.
You can read more of the NYT's coverage of the CUNY program here.
UMKC starts "Solo and Small Firm Incubator" project to help new grads find work
U. of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law recently announced that it has launched a "Solo and Small Law Firm Incubator" project in partnership with the Missouri Bar Association for the purpose of assisting new grads with their careers. According to the press release:
Developed with assistance from The Missouri Bar Association and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association's Solo Practitioner/Small Firms committee, the Incubator will assist recent graduates entering solo and small firm practices. It will provide affordable office space for about nine tenants, as well as practice management assistance and mentoring so that graduates can gain support in launching their own practices, while also providing pro bono or affordable legal services to the underserved Troost area corridor.
Apparently this is an off-shoot of UMKC's "Solo and Small Firm Institute" which began in 2004.
Above the Law provides these additional details and commentary:
UMKC [has] . . . had an Entrepreneurial Legal Services Clinic since 2002 and offer more than a couple of courses in entrepreneurship and the business of running a practice. As Carolyn Elefant points out, the law school incubator concept isn’t entirely new, but UMKC takes matters a step further than other programs.
Many states have implemented some kind of “bridge the gap” program in an effort to connect new graduates with experienced lawyers, but I wonder how much oversight actually takes place. Consider the following: law students graduate into the awkward position of thinking they’re supposed to know the answers to legal questions that arise in practice, when in fact they do not. Thus, it’s likely that these new attorneys are not asking enough questions of their mentors.
On the other side, the mentor has his own clients and daily issues that will necessarily come between him and his altruistic efforts. Add to these problems the reality that these new solos and their respective mentors are in different offices (i.e., not down just down the hall), and the overall result of the program is, much like the education it means to supplement, good in theory but weak in practice.
By contrast, the UMKC program seems to provide a closer nexus (for those of you immersed in the revelry of Civ Pro outlines) between the new practitioner and his support system. In addition to having support from the local bar, the program bears the UMKC name, which should keep its administration actively involved, and will be housed just a stone’s throw from the law school, giving it a physical proximity that I think is conceptually important for those new attorneys. (There’s something reassuring about help literally being right around the corner.)
Hat tip to ATL.
After "thank you" . . . .
On the Harvard Business Review blog "The Conversation," a short essay explains "the principle of reciprocation" and how "understanding its nuances can enhance your ability to build stronger networks, create more trusting relationships, encourage long term collaboration and become more influential over others."
More on lawyers and social media
Dealing with Trusts in Same-Sex Marriages
The November Issue of the Washington (D.C.) Lawyer offers a detailed article on trusts in same-sex marriages. Here is the summary of coverage:
Part one of this article addresses when a trustee is taking a beneficiary’s family status into account whether a same–sex couple should be considered married for purposes of trust administration. Part two discusses the extent to which a trust instrument can effectuate a settlor’s intentions concerning a beneficiary’s same–sex marriage, such as whether to recognize the marriage and whether a beneficiary can be divested of his or her interest in the trust because of a same-sex marriage. Part three discusses multijurisdictional problems that may arise if the same–sex marriage law where the trust is being administered conflicts with the law of the jurisdiction in which the beneficiaries reside, particularly in the context of same–sex divorce. Finally, part four identifies liability and planning issues that should be considered in the rapidly changing legal landscape.
The article covers the applicable law in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, three jurisdictions with very different viewpoints. The article should be helpful to practitioners in other states.
Spelling as a Lawyering Skill
Is good spelling a lawyering skills that clients want to see? According to the Argus Leader, a Sioux Falls lawyer says yes. In his Yellowbook half page color ad, the publisher admittedly included a spelling mistake in the headline: “The Trial Lawyer Fighting for your Justic” Attorney Manny de Castro is suing for the cost of the ad plus lawyer fees and damages resulting from humiliation and loss of business. He argues, “All things being equal, when someone looks for a service in the phone book, they’re going to choose the person that knows how to spell.”
November 8, 2010
Should attorneys make blogging and social-networking part of their weekly routine?
That's the argument in this editorial from the National Law Journal: Attorneys should set aside time each week to engage in social networking or blogging because it can enhance one's book of business.
For some firms social media is a success only if it brings in new business. This is problematic, because social media and business development don't exactly go hand in hand. A huge amount of traffic to a blog can often translate to zero new matters if the attorneys don't have a strategy to convert traffic into contacts and convert the contacts into clients. If attorneys make the time to blog — great. If they can invest the additional time to engage in conversations — even better.
. . . .
Is it worth the time and effort? Why not spend the time doing traditional marketing or making phone calls? Why not spend the time relaxing and watching TV? Engaging in social media in your free time is not yet as socially acceptable as watching TV — it requires you to leave your comfort zone and learn new habits and new ways of communication. Social media can open your eyes to untapped sources of information and relationships that would have been impossible to build otherwise — and those are things you will never gain from watching the nightly news.
Ok, but how does one find the time to blog or engage in social media?
Lawyers don't have the same amount of free time as the average American, so where do they find time for social media? 'I force social media and blogging into my schedule,' said David Donaghue, author of the Chicago IP Litigation Blog, recently named one of the top 40 under 40 attorneys in Chicago. With all of the demands on the lives of attorneys, you won't find time for social media unless you make a place for it. It has paid off for Donahue, though, helping him gain significant exposure and close new business.
You can read more here.
BigLaw continues to shed jobs as does legal marketplace in general
With respect to BigLaw, the pace of job loss has slowed according to this story from the online ABA Journal Blog. To date, 1,400 large firm jobs have been lost this year which, while not insignificant, pales in comparison to the huge number of jobs lost seemingly every month in 2009.
The headcount at the top 250 law firms has dropped two years in a row. Last year the overall decline was 4 percent and this year it was 1.1 percent, the story says.
Four law firms lost more than 100 lawyers, including the nation’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie. The firm has 3,774 lawyers, 175 fewer than last year, according to the NLJ. Others are White & Case, down by 198 lawyers; Latham & Watkins, down by 147; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, down by 109.
Nine firms, on the other hand, got larger. Ropes & Gray had the largest percentage increase, with a 21.6 percent boost in headcount.
In a related story from the ABA Journal Blog, the legal sector in general lost 300 jobs in October, reversing a temporary growth trend.
New web-browser "RockMelt" allows users to merge social networking and surfing
From The New York Times:
On Monday, RockMelt, a company founded and financed by a group of Netscape alumni, will release a new Web browser, 16 years after Netscape introduced the first commercial Internet browser, and 12 years after the company was sold to AOL after its defeat by Microsoft in the so-called browser wars.
. . . .
At first glance, RockMelt looks like an ordinary browser, a digital windowpane onto the Web. But along the side of its main window are two thin rails with icons, one showing a user’s friends on the left, and another displaying a user’s favorite social sites, including Twitter and Facebook, on the right.
A “share” button makes it easy to post a Web page, a YouTube video or any other items, to Facebook, Twitter or other sites. Similarly, users can update their status or keep tabs on their friends’ activities on any social network right on their main browser window. They can also easily add and remove friends, or chat with them, on the left-side rail.
When a user searches the Web using Google, RockMelt not only delivers the Google search results, but also fetches the pages associated with those results, so a user can preview those pages quickly and decide which to click to.
You can read the rest here.
West publishes many, but not all, e-textbooks for Amazon's Kindle
The Law Librarian Blog is providing a link to the full list of West e-textbooks now available for students (including titles in the West Nutshell Series) as well as Kindle compatible titles for practitioners. Apparently it's somewhat difficult to search for these on Amazon so this link is a good place to start if you're wondering whether your favorite West textbook is now available in a Kindle compatible format.
As Joe Hodnicki says:
The 155 eBooks currently available, according to the marketing announcement 'cover a wide range of West, Aspatore, Foundation Press, and LegalWorks publications, including codes, court rules, practice guides, trial support, treatises, and Nutshell Series publications.' However, the current selection in none of those categories is deep and I cannot discern any rhyme or reason from a bibliographer's point of view for the offerings.
. . . .
Let's just say TR Legal's Kindle editions launch is indicative of the Company recognizing it is well behind the consumer eBook market curve and is too busy trying to catch up by running with the pack to be sufficiently innovative to be ahead of the curve. Here's a company with some world-class coding talent that's done nothing more than slap the Kindle boilerplate to some pBooks. That's something the Company could have outsourced to an independent contractor (perhaps did do so) or assigned to contract employees to keep them from watching YouTube while on the job.
If John West saw this, he would be rolling over in his grave. I doubt he would be happy with TR Legal's current also-ran status in the eBook marketplace.
You can read more here.
Congratulations to George Gopen!
Congratulations to George Gopen, who is the 2011 recipient of the Legal Writing Institute’s Golden Pen Award. I have long regarded George as my legal writing mentor. Years ago, I attended George’s 12 hour program at Duke. I discovered an approach to writing that went way beyond what the conventional sources had taught me. He was on the cutting edge. My students and I have been the beneficiaries of his hard work.
Here is a lengthy 2007 interview with George posted on Idealawg. It offers a delightful autobiography and an outline of his writing philosophy.
Drafting Independent Contract Agreements
The October 2010 issue of the “Wyoming Lawyer” offers a helpful article on drafting independent contractor agreements. As lawyer/author Robert W. Wood notes, in the absence of a well-drafted agreement, an independent contractor may be viewed as an employee, a recharacterization that has consequences. The article offer detailed advice for the drafter. Drafting an agreement could be a good class exercise. Here is a link to the issue of the publication. The article is on page 53.
November 7, 2010
Clinicians complain that ABA ignores important stakeholders in deciding law school accreditation standards
The President of The Clinical Education Association ("CLEA") sent a strongly worded letter to the ABA committee considering changes to the law school accreditation standards complaining that comments and feedback from important stakeholders in legal education have been shut-out of the process.
CLEA . . . feels obligated to express its concern about the Committee’s shallow engagement with the wide range of stakeholders in this process and its apparent disregard of their many thoughtful, important written comments and other contributions on the pending issues.
. . . .
Representatives of CLEA have attended every public session of the Committee since the comprehensive review began. Until the July, 2010, meeting, our comments and those of other Council affiliates were invited; the comments were concise, respectful, immediate, and in our view helpful. At the opening of the July meeting, the Chair stated that, as in the past, time permitting the affiliates in attendance would have an opportunity to comment at the close of the two-day session The next day, as the meeting wound down two hours early, the Chair declared that the Committee would
not take the affiliate contributions after all. Then the announcement that no feedback would ever again be permitted at Committee meetings appeared on the Committee web site. It is not clear to us whether this decision reflects the views of the Committee as a whole or was an executive decision by the Chair.
Closing off comments and putting up roadblocks to a broad and deliberative consensus based process impedes the process of developing good accreditation standards. While we understand that there will be an opportunity for comment farther down the line (although we fear that that opportunity will come too late to affect the Committee’s deliberations), we are nonetheless troubled that the Committee would choose to shut out the views of the stakeholders in legal education just as its work reaches the most difficult and contested matters on its agenda. We also note that the Committee’s work is governed by the Regulations of the Department of Education, which require that the Council’s constituencies be afforded a “meaningful opportunity to provide input into the review.” 34 C.F.R. §601.21(b)(4).
The claim is that the committee reviewing accreditation standards is being too heavily influenced by the American Law Deans Association ("ALDA") while those organizations representing the teachers such as SALT, AALS, CLEA and ALWD are being ignored. You can read the rest of the CLEA letter here.
Hat tip to Best Practices for Legal Education.
USNWR will end print publication as it transitions to an online format
A touchy subject for many academics who, let's face it, hate the USNWR law school rankings, the "magazine" just announced it will be ending its print run and instead continue to publish online with the occasional hardcopy run for special issues. December's issue will be the last hardcopy version sent to subscribers.
[A]n internal memo has been sent out informing staffers at U.S. News & World Report that the Washington, D.C.-based news magazine is “shutting down.”
The magazine has, in recent, been shifting more of its content online as it has been cutting its frequency of publication. The summer of 2008 saw the magazine go from weekly to biweekly, and in November of that year, it was announced that it would be publishing monthly.
You can read the full, alledgedly internal memo from USNWR regarding its decision to end the magazine's print run here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
Legal consultant urges corporations not to foot bill for law grads' training
This post from the Law Department Management blog urges corporations to not pay for the learning curve associated with new law school grads because it is an expense company shareholders should not be expected to incur.
[S]hareholder dollars should not go to training law firm lawyers.
On-the-job, on-the-tab training for junior associates should not be a concern of corporations trying to compete. If you want value from your law firms, pay only for the work of those who can deliver it – their productivity and quality today adjusted for price – and let the firms worry about how they will keep their pipeline of talent flowing tomorrow.
This is not exactly earth-shattering news but it does serve as yet another example of what real-world employers are demanding from law grads regarding their practice-readiness.
Hat tip to Eric Young.