Posts Tagged ‘law firms’

An Article from the Philadelphia Inquirer: Less jobs for law graduates

Philadelphia-area law firms cutting back on summer internships | Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/07/2010 

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Philadelphia-area law firms cutting back on summer internships

By Chris Mondics

Inquirer Staff Writer

For top law school students, summer-internship programs at big, brand-name law firms have helped open the golden door to lucrative full-time employment. The failing legal industry continues to make headline news as IVY League and top tier law graduates have been unable to obtain jobs. No one cares about the tens of thousands of law graduates outside of this limited category. They’ve been dealing with this for years.

But at some firms, that door is starting to swing shut. Many prominent law firms in the Philadelphia region and around the nation report substantially smaller internship programs this summer, as firms cope with the downturn in the legal marketplace and client demands that only seasoned lawyers be assigned to their matters. Just like the federal government, the private sector is relying more on well experienced attorneys sometimes regardless of the name-brand in your portfolio. I’ll surmise that the purpose of this article is saying that since these “top” law graduates are unable to get jobs, the legal job market is pretty dismal. Somewhat of a litmus test perhaps.

What’s more, firms are shortening their programs and paying summer associates less. At least they’re getting paid, and we’ll be sure not to weep for the $10,000 lost in the pay cut. Cry me a river.

The changes range from canceled programs at the Center City firms of Morgan Lewis & Bockius L.L.P. and Ballard Spahr L.L.P. to reduced internships at Dechert L.L.P., Blank Rome L.L.P., and Reed Smith L.L.P., a Pittsburgh-based firm with a 150-lawyer office in Philadelphia.

Dechert went from 99 summer-associate positions at the height of the legal market in 2007 to 36 this year. Reed Smith, a 1,600-lawyer firm, said the number dropped from a high of 81 in 2008 to 21 this year.

“It was definitely a challenging market for our students and they did have fewer choices for this summer,” said Melissa Lennon, assistant dean in the office of career planning at Temple University Law School. “Challenging,” that’s when something is difficult but the goals is still accomplished, it’s more accurate to say nearly insurmountable.

Three years ago, when law firms were booming, the market for summer associates was far more robust. More about the elite group.

Law firms flocked to campuses to compete for top second-year students and brandished salaries as high as $2,700 a week or more.

And, summer associates typically received offers of full-time employment once they had their law degrees.

The programs themselves, with trips abroad and lavish entertaining, could seem more like summer enrichment for precocious college students than real employment.

But as a general rule, that sort of treatment is a thing of the past. Yes, we know. Just to provide some advice, when you’re attempting to lure sympathy from a reader, it’s better not to talk about how associates were spoiled and lived it up and moreso focus on how they were able to meet their basic living expenses with money to save. It is this type of journalism that feeds the non-lawyers lack of empathy when the economy is poor.

More typical is the summer program at the Wilmington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom L.L.P., where Temple second-year Nick Mozal is spending his summer in corporate law. Mozal said there has been some entertaining, but the big event so far has been a night at a Phillies game.

He’s just grateful to have summer employment with a big-name firm.  That’s better.

“I feel very lucky, and I was very excited for it to have gone so smoothly,” said Mozal, who did his undergraduate work at Bucknell University and was raised in Exeter, a town in northeast Pennsylvania near Wilkes-Barre. “You can pick up the paper and read lots of stories about firms laying people off and [new hires] being deferred.”

Jennifer Wallace, a summer associate at Duane Morris L.L.P., a 700-lawyer firm, said recruiters had warned during interviews last year that the market for summer positions would be tough. Even so, Wallace, a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, received multiple offers.

“The hiring partners and the people affiliated with the process were very up front in terms of what I could expect,” she said.

…James Lawlor, a Reed Smith partner who recruits and hires summer associates, said the firm has been doing less entertaining of summer associates, and when it does, it is more likely to schedule events at the firm’s Center City offices rather than at costly restaurants.

“We took away some of the bells and whistles,” Lawlor said. = unnecessary expenses which had they been spared previous years you might’ve been able to hire more associates in the future, but like the Titanic people thought the legal industry was ‘unsinkable.’

“We had a choice; there was going to be a day of reckoning where we would have two classes joining us in the same period, which struck us as undesirable,” said Geoffrey A. Kahn, a Ballard Spahr partner specializing in commercial litigation and white-collar defense who oversees hiring and recruitment at the firm.

The de-emphasis of internships in Philadelphia tracks national trends. The National Association for Law Placement, a trade association that focuses on the training and recruitment of lawyers, said that for all law firms, the median number of summer-associate positions offered this year had dropped to seven from 10 last year and 15 in 2008.

Moreover, NALP said that firms had been doing fewer on-campus interviews. And when internships are completed, they are making fewer offers of permanent jobs.

“For the class of 2011, those who went through the on-campus interview process last year, there were many fewer summer-associate positions available,” said James Leipold, NALP’s executive director….So the picture is not uniformly bleak.

No, just bleak for the majority of law graduates regardless of school and ranking the stark while irrational optimists attempt to hide the reality of the legal industry as a whole, beyond the current state of the U.S. economy.

Heather Frattone, an associate dean at Penn’s law school, said the school’s entire class of second-year students has managed to find some form of summer law employment, often going to work for the government or small firms…Interesting how they would define this, as whether paid or unpaid, temporary employment, internships, etc.

Summer programs not only give law students practical exposure to the work they will do as full-fledged lawyers, they also serve as key recruiting tools. And that is why they’ve been reduced: Law firms project they will need fewer lawyers over the next several years. [emphasis mine].  Translate, over the next SEVERAL years firms and other businesses will not hire attorneys, the legal industry continues to shrink! In other words, there will be no jobs for you! So why are you getting into debt with false hopes. Members of the industry are now telling you straight up there aren’t hardly any jobs and won’t be for the projected long-term.

But that doesn’t make the programs any less essential, said Alfred Putnam, chairman of Drinker Biddle, which has instituted a novel training program for first-year lawyers aimed at providing practical exposure before they are assigned to client matters – and before their time is billed to clients. Essential for whatever clientele and firms that are left and when convenient you will be squeezed out of a job as with any pecking order, except it will likely be sooner than later.

“I am happy we still have a summer-associate program and I am happy we are still hiring,” he said. “Unless you bring in new blood, the institution doesn’t survive.” At this point the legal industry needs a blood transfusion.

A Somewhat Honest Letter from New Jersey Bar Association President: Law Profession and Minorities

Letter From The President Of The New Jersey State Bar Association; Published: July 05, 2010

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To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

As members of the bar we represent a noble profession. Template characterization of the law field.

As we strive on behalf of our clients, we are also mindful of our obligation to improve the system of justice. This should extend to the members of the legal profession, those ‘officers of the court’ who have taken an exhorbitant amount of student loans with no system of justice looking out for their best interests as a whole.

The New Jersey State Bar Association is committed to addressing the issues that are critical to the profession and society.

Issues like the economy’s continued effects on our job market; the need to promote diversity in the legal community; the delivery of legal services, and our obligation to protect judicial independence. TTT/TTTT have no problem promoting diversity by being the primary institutions of U.S. legal education that will enroll minority students. Thus, those who had the ability to achieve and outperform are relegated to schools that have set them up for a future of disdainful looks and assumptions that the only reason they even attended law school, no matter how poor the ranking, was due to affirmative action.

Early this summer, I helped welcome over 100 new attorneys to the profession at a swearing-in event in Trenton. Each of them signed up for law school believing they would join a noble profession – a profession that would allow them to make a difference in society while earning a good living for their families. Unfortunately, the job market that greets them remains grim. [emphasis mine] Yet, the were struck by the harsh reality of the economy, closed doors, inadequate training and lack of opportunity. All the while working within the confines of this ‘noble’ profession: March 15, 2010

The Undertraining of Lawyers and Its Effects On The Advancement of Women and Minorities in the Legal Profession « Life’s Mockery

The state’s largest lawyers group is committed to assisting lawyers navigate these troubled times. We will continue to help lawyers get their practices up and running, and be a resource for those who have already hung out their own shingle. As someone who made the leap into solo practice 10 years ago, I know how the state bar can help lawyers make a transition. First, you begin by saying that the economy is bad, and that members of the legal industry have a an obligation to the law graduates and professionals. Then you encourage those minorities who aren’t afforded the opportunity to enter into decent job prospects to start their own firms with no substantial experience. They will need, escrow account, a separate interest bearing account (depends on jurisdiction) supplies, office for leasing, liability insurance, malpractice insurance, office supplies. The funds for the start up costs will likely emanate from small business loans (more debt and interest). Most businesses lose money their first year in operation. Most law students aren’t taught economics, finance or how to operate a business. Most law students aren’t graduating with practical skills to practice law and there are just too many attorneys. Since the economy remains grim, how do you expect these inexperienced lawyers to attract clientele for their small firm in which most will not be able to pay retainer or contingency fees. So, you encourage new lawyers to incur more debt, increase their professional risk in this bad economy. Most small to mid-size firms not only lose money but are often wiped out by BigLaw firms because they are unable to compete. It’s like these lawyers who do not know better or being set up for another fall with additional financial consequences.

While most lawyers have been hurt by the recession, there are signs that the diverse population in the bar has been especially hard hit. The economic crisis has reduced opportunities for minority lawyers and hampered the profession’s efforts to increase diversity. Yet, you encourage the just above mentioned approach. I know that these blogs have been sounding negative but with estimates that the job market will only worsen for the next couple of years and that the legal industry may see a slight improvement in a few years, it’s simply not a reasonable investment. They will make things worse for themselves.

This is not acceptable. Our great state – the most diverse in the nation – demands an equally diverse legal profession. In the coming months, the state bar association will convene a summit on diversity to examine the progress we have made and to chart a path forward toward the goal of a more inclusive profession. It’s about time, why don’t a national bar association do this?

An inclusive profession is powerful and meaningful in today’s increasingly global marketplace.  That’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is that it depends on who you ask.

It is true that the global marketplace has brought changes to nearly every business and profession, and the law is no different. So true, legal outsourcing to India via LPOs has changed the American legal industry. There is cause for concern about how these trends may diminish the importance of practicing lawyers – and the public’s access to quality legal services.

In order to better understand and respond, we will establish a task force on the future of the delivery of legal services, with an eye toward protecting the public and preserving our professional values.

When it comes to protecting the public, we are reminded how blessed we are in New Jersey to have one of the most respected state court systems in the nation. That is because it is an independent and impartial branch of government. We will continue to fight to preserve the sanctity of our justice system – because every judge in our courts and every resident of New Jersey deserve it. This is confusing. The letter begins by stating the need to protect the interests of attorneys who are affected by the downturn in the economy. I will have to assume that getting attorneys to open firms to represent clients somehow enhances the justice system. So the interest is moreso getting criminals legal representation while lawyers sink in a mire of debt with no one caring about their interests.

After all, this is what the bar association is about:  Examining the tough issues so you know what is at stake and offering insight about the path to take.

Another Field Looking to Exploit Desperate, New Law Graduates

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An interesting article, amidst the shrinking legal market, financial firms believe their business will increase by offering similar services to law firms: Look to law grads for recruits, June 24, 2010 

IFAs should look to law graduates as a source of new recruits, according to Sifa. Speaking on board PIMS last week, Sifa development director David Seager said there are few jobs at present for law graduates and financial services firms should look at recruiting them into the IFA profession. Wait, you want to get businesses to hire law graduates who took upon themselves $100,000+ in non-dischargeable debt to fill positions of financial advisors

He said: “There are a lot of people studying law but there are very few jobs. We always have this debate in financial services about where the new blood will come from. Firms should start looking at law graduates.” [emphasis mine] O.k., let’s clarify, yes many students study law, common law, theories, unrealistic hypotheticals which garner no practical legal skills. Unless that law graduate has an MBA or you’re willing to train them on finance, you may be making an investment in these law graduates with the same risk the law graduates made with attending law school. That one business law class will not help them “hit the ground running” at your company. 

Seager said it is estimated that 3,000 out of 8,900 law firms in England and Wales will go out of business by 2012 due to the rise of transactional legal services offerings from big companies such as Tesco. Wow, I can only imagine the number of solo practicioners and mid-size firms that the economy will devour in the United States, especially with top firms laying off staff and associates. 

He said the introduction of Tesco legal services will appeal to a number of consumers because they already have a client relationship with Tesco. He said that clients will be able to get the same transaction from Tesco for half the price offered by some law firms, so solicitors need to focus on building their client relationships to survive. I see, Tesco and other similar business firms would like to absorb the unemployed attorneys, increase their business production, increase their competition with law firms with the hopes of obliterating the legal industry. Makes sense. 

Seager said that IFAs can help solicitor firms to do this by moving away from a purely transactional business model. He said: “There is going to be huge consolidation in the legal sector and IFAs should be looking to make the most of that. I wouldn’t say consolidation, moreso an industry takeover. 

“IFAs are in a good position to partner up with solicitors and offer consultancy on how to change their business model so they retain more clients.”   Seager said that solicitors have 20 per cent client retention on average. 

People are either waiting for or trying to take advantage of the collapsing legal industry, but that’s the point—it is collapsing. Save yourself.

Wondering Why Your Salary is Low?: Legal Recruiters Consider Reduced Commissions

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Hot off the presses:  Connecticut Law Tribune: Legal Recruiters Consider Reduced Commissions June 21, 2010.

The first line of the article reads: “Too many lawyers and not enough jobs.” If this isn’t a clear indication that you should not attend law school, then there are no more words.

“Some law firms are asking their recruiters to take a lower commission after the firm has hired an attorney recommended by the recruiter. Generally speaking, recruiters earn 25 percent of an attorney’s annual starting salary.” So many associates who are directly hired by firms already have taken a pay decrease compared to those associates of yesteryear. Now those who are hired through placement agencies will see a bigger decrease. The agencies who make their money from getting the attorney the job must succumb to market pressures that if their pay is decreased, imagine what the actual attorney’s decrease will be. We’re not even referring to contractual attorneys, just associates hired through agencies, so imagine even further what contractual attorneys will continue to deal with lest they find a new field of work.

“During economic shifts over the past 20 years, Seder said recruiters “have all been asked to go with the flow, and when the economy recovers, firms have gone back to paying competitive rates so they don’t miss out on the talent.” I guess you have already, some of the ‘top talent’ are contractual attorneys as well.

She added, “I think this is temporary.” Of course you do, you have the same mentality as the 0Ls who are trying to convince themselves of the same thing, and why should you not, you benefit from more law graduates which equate to more commissions in your pocket.

Typically, the request is to drop commissions from 25 to 20 percent, Seder said. But she added that companies seeking in-house counsel have not discussed such reductions.

During economic shifts over the past 20 years, Seder said recruiters “have all been asked to go with the flow, and when the economy recovers, firms have gone back to paying competitive rates so they don’t miss out on the talent.”

“The activity in Connecticut is a reflection of decisions nationwide, though recruiters say this is not a widespread phenomenon.” This has widespread implications for attorneys throughout the country.

“Part of the current challenge for recruiters is that firms simply aren’t in aggressive hiring modes. With no shortage of talented attorneys on the market, some firms see an opportunity to cut their costs with recruiters.” In other words, too many attorneys drives down the market pay and firms exploit this to their fiscal ability where attorneys are asked to do substantive work for fast-food prices.

“Also on the rise, Lord said, are instances where firms reach out to a recruiter while at the same time conducting their own in-house searches. That leads to recruiters spending time on a project only to discover that their efforts were wasted when the firm goes out and hires someone to fill a vacancy in a particular practice area.”  Hmmm and we just thought agencies were greedy. Attorneys are a commodity, the placement agency is the broker and the firm is the owner. Here’s my flow chart: Attorneys may not be needed: attorneys need money but have no job → attorney seeks assistance in finding a job through an agency → Agency is actually a broker → broker is still in business because they’re plenty of attorneys to present for sale = Attorneys have it rough.

An article and the idea of Law Practice Reform

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I first would like to say, too little, too late for those attorneys who aren’t considered seasoned nor are newbies to the legal field. Many blogs have outlined the mass-marketing, mass-commercialization of modern, U.S. legal education. Some suggest the apprenticeship manner of practice to get the legal industry back to its roots. As noble as it sounds, it’s too late. The legal industry has thousands upon thousands of intelligent attorneys who have most likely missed a great window of opportunity to take advantage of these suggestions. Whether due to economy– thus a poor job market, lack of connections, graduation from a non-top-tier, discrimination and simply put a field that casts its law graduates aside like roadkill. Others have noted that the purpose of these blogs is to prevent wide-eyed, ignorant potential law students from taking the plunge, both economically and mentally to attend law school. I stumbled across this article:

Law.com – Three Law Firms Claim Success With New Apprenticeship Model

By no means is this some new idea, in England, which is what most state common law is modeled after, this was the norm for trades and guilds. At some point somewhere, proponents of free market and capitalism decided to mix these ideas with higher education and voile a disasterous recipe: adults with excessive debt and postponed lives with a rice-paper facade of having attained success. With any sweeping change, casualties abound. Those lawyers who weren’t IVY leagued or graduated at the wrong time will be included among the counted losses.

Apparently, the majority is not embracing this legal industry reform: “Not that there’s any rush to jump on the bandwagon — no other firms have announced similar programs since last summer. Critics worry that lower apprenticeship salaries will hurt a firm’s ability to recruit top prospects and that the programs aren’t worth the necessary partner time and resources. The few firms that have made the transition are either litigation-focused or regional in scope. No large general practice or white-shoe firms have started apprenticeship programs…”

Clients have certain demands that ingrains the lineage of prestige and the have vs. have nots. Major firms whose focus is the financial input, overhead costs and maintaining a certain level of clientele which funds their business/firms aren’t willing to sacrifice these efficacies to help produce quality attorneys. Economically it makes sense for the firms not to invest so much, since we read or have first-hand knowledge of associate burn-out, it is likely those would produce high-turnover, so why would a firm enhance skills of a non-partner, non-promotional/lateral attorney who would likely leave the firm anyway? “Partners at all three firms with apprenticeships conceded that they entail significant costs — and each said they had yet to tally up their actual costs thus far.”  Because of the nobility of the profession…[caught you laughing]

Whether the firm is a top level business or mid-sized, these are the ones that can actually afford to implement such a program, resulting in younger attorneys gaining more practial experience that they may use to advance their individual careers. Then there are the rest, who at the end of the day, regardless of whether these firms decide to follow the apprentice model, you will not hear them tell you “You’re Hired.” For the majority it doesn’t matter.

Los Angeles Times: California unemployment rate holds steady at 12.5% (and attorneys are feeling it)

California unemployment rate holds steady at 12.5%

The economy may be leveling off, although job prospects in professional fields still appear bleak.

LABOR

March 27, 2010|By Marc Lifsher

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/27/business/la-fi-cal-jobs27-2010mar27

Quote from a newspaper article: ” Though small, the professional sector — which includes lawyers, accountants, architects and economists — has been pummeled by the recession, more than in any other recent downturn.”

Did we really need a newspaper article to tell us this? Either you or a family member is living through this, though this article is specific to California. I will say this, as California’s current 12+% unemployment is one of the highest, and black unemployment across the sectors (including professionals) is at 15%, means California is not a good place for a minority to seek new opportunities or advance their careers.

Anyway, I find it interesting that most of the media outlets tend to focus on new graduates, new graduates gripe about competing against those with a decade of experience but no one seems to pay attention to those in between. You know the ones who aren’t elderly, have less than 15 years of experience but aren’t new to the meat market. These are the ones who have a harder time playing catch up because they are ALREADY expected to have gain some experience regardless of the market, tier of law school they attended or just facing the harsh reality of the legal industry.

“The latest recession differs from downturns in the early 1980s and 1990s because it “hits across sectors and across occupations,” said employment lawyer Michael Bernick at Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold in San Francisco. Then the article gets embolden by stating that the job market is improving as the economy does, how is this so when this is considered a “jobless recovery.” Logic please.

Here it is: “I don’t know of any law firm that is hiring people who don’t bring new business with them,” said Bernick, a former state employment agency director.” So the person likely to have a “book” of business that will advance a current firm’s portfolio are those with 20 years experience. Not those still building or attempting to gain any experience, this we already know, yet people STILL are attending law school in droves.

Prospects are even tougher for newly minted lawyers, said Darry Sragow, managing partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Los Angeles. “We don’t hire people straight out of school,” he said.” Ahh the focus on new attorneys, what about the rest of us? It’s either poor newbie or poor IVY Leaguer. ‘All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us.’