Why I’m not at a firm.

People ask me this frequently. To be honest, every so often, I get a little pang: maybe my whole indie-law schtick is going to be DOA. Maybe I should consider a firm job.

The one firm I’ve occasionally been curious about is Quinn Emanuel. They only do litigation, they do a lot of trials, they don’t wear suits to work, they’re a relatively new firm (i.e. the named partners are still alive & working there). They sound kind of cool. But then I read something like this:

As Quinn Emanuel grows—it now has 200 associates—it’s become harder to find the smaller cases that the firm takes at reduced rates to give to young lawyers. Even a highly regarded young partner like [38-year-old Shon] Morgan hasn’t taken a case to trial ... B. Dylan Proctor, a sixth-year associate, says he’s argued roughly 15 motions in court and was the third chair at a two-month federal trial.

“The trial issue [for associates] is one we’re keenly aware of, and it’s a problem,” [founding partner] Quinn says. “We want to do the complex matters, but, by definition, the associates won’t have much of a speaking role.”

Let’s be clear here. The firm specializes in trials. There is a 38-yr-old ‘partner’ (= probably non-equity) who has never been to trial. What are his chances of moving up at the firm? Um, pretty small.

How about the other guy? He’s been working six years and he’s argued an average of 1 motion every 5 months. And third chair at a trial = nothing. Where is QE going to get its next generation of trial attorneys? Not from its associate pool, clearly.

QE’s problem illustrates the fatal flaw of the hourly firm. When you’re billing by the hour, the incentive is to move every task in the firm to the highest-billing attorney who can plausibly be assigned to it. There’s no reason to put a $250/hr associate on a trial when you can put a $550/hr partner on it. Trouble is, there’s never a situation when it will make sense, and the associate will never do a trial.

Compare this to a contingency firm, who only gets paid when they win. Every case is a risk, so the incentive is to take as many cases as possible (to diversify the case portfolio) and in the interests of conserving capital, push every task down to the lowest-paid attorney who can plausibly be assigned to it. The associates at that firm may be paid less initially, but they’re going to get better experience.

06 Aug 06

Comments

When law profs go bad.

George Mason law professor William Lash died in July.

Here’s what the GMU law website had to say about it:




Here’s what the campus paper, The Mason Gazette, said:

The faculty, staff and students of George Mason University mourn the death of law professor William Lash III, and extend deepest sympathies to his family, which has suffered a tragic and heartbreaking loss.

And finally, the Washington Post cleared away the haze:

William Henry Lash III, 45, a law professor at George Mason University and former assistant secretary of Commerce, died July 14 at his home in McLean. Mr. Lash committed suicide by gunshot after killing his 12-year-old son.

06 Aug 06

Comments

The rest of that Washington Post article is bizarre—how do you casually drop the fact that there was a murder-suicide and then just return to discussing the resume of the deceased?

Posted by: at August 8, 2006 05:00 PM


A puzzle.

What common legal term has two opposite meanings?

(Answer under the link)

sanction

11 Aug 06

Comments

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You’ve been warned.

I had a job interview today with a partner at a litigation firm.

One of the first things she said to me was: “It’s so unusual that I see a resume without any typos.”

I said “Are you serious?”

She said “Yes, probably 90% of the resumes I get have typos. And that includes the ones we get from USC and UCLA.”

“Have you notified the Office of Career Services?”

“What are they supposed to do?”

Good point. So as a public service, I’ll say it: DUDES! Sloppy typographic errors in your resume LOOK REALLY BAD!

Thank you that is all.

11 Aug 06


You’ve been warned.

I had a job interview today with a partner at a litigation firm.

One of the first things she said to me was: “It’s so unusual that I see a resume without any typos.”

I said “Are you serious?”

She said “Yes, probably 90% of the resumes I get have typos. And that includes the ones we get from USC and UCLA.”

“Have you notified the Office of Career Services?”

“What are they supposed to do?”

Good point. So as a public service, I’ll say it: DUDES! Sloppy typographic errors in your resume LOOK REALLY BAD! I may be taking YOUR JOB merely because I am a better speller!

Thank you that is all.

11 Aug 06

Comments

...and here I thought it was just my glaring lack of any meaningful experience that was keeping me unemployde.

Posted by: MD at August 11, 2006 09:26 PM

And I thought it was my bad grads.

Posted by: at August 16, 2006 10:16 PM


MPRE and its discontents.

I took the MPRE a couple weeks ago. Despite passing several practice exams by a wide margin, the actual exam felt like less than a total cakewalk. In any case, I can feel good that about 90% of people pass on the first try. The statistics are on my side.

In California, you only need to get about half the questions right to get a passing score. So there are 50 graded questions on the exam, with four choices each. If you just randomly filled in circles, your expected score would be 12.5.

Some criticize California for having one of the lower pass thresholds (79). But, considering that California bar rules differ from the Model Rules in many important ways, maybe that’s only appropriate.

Today, while on the phone with the Maryland bar examiner’s office, I discovered that it’s one of three states that doesn’t use the MPRE. Instead, law graduates attend a one-day “ethics seminar” run by the state bar association that apparently teaches them everything they need to know. I like their style.

14 Aug 06

Comments

Hi,

Thank you for your insight...what did you study from...it’s been awhile since I have taken it....

Are there any exams posted on the web??? and have they changed the exam since I last took the exam in 2002?

Thanks,

Sheila

Posted by: Sheila at October 10, 2006 11:21 AM


Days of our lives.

The best three days of your law school career:

1. The day of your last final exam 1L year. This is super sweet for obvious reasons.

2. The first day of your 2L year. This is unexpectedly sweet, as you arrive on campus, look around and realize “I am not a 1L.” Damn it feels good.

3. The first day of your 1L year. Because after all the pain & suffering of the admissions process, it’s fun to actually show up and enjoy your new status. A short-lived pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

The worst day of your law school career:

1. The first day of 3L. Which was today. 3L is reputed to be a drag. Is that a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is it really, actually, substantively, intrinsically a drag?

I expect it’ll get better. But it gave me the same feeling I have when I go to a sequel of a movie and realize in the first few minutes it’s just going to be a rehash of the first one. Which, depending on the movie, may or may not be a good thing.

21 Aug 06

Comments

Maybe I learned something in con law.

This summer, Dean Michael Schill sent an email reminding students of UCLA’s commitment to a non-discrimination policy, despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Rumsfeld v. FAIR that the Solomon Amendment can legitimately require schools to allow military recruiters on campus as a condition of receiving federal funding. Schill noted that:

UCLA School of Law is committed to a policy against discrimination in employment based on color, race, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.

Got that? Meanwhile The Docket, our schoolwide events blog, is promoting something called the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which:

... provide[] opportunities for continuing generations of able and accomplished New Americans to achieve leadership in their chosen fields. The Program is established in recognition of the contributions New Americans have made to American life and in gratitude for the opportunities the United States has afforded the donors and their family.

When I saw the name ‘Soros’ I thought of that liberal billionaire who gives away a lot of money, but that’s George Soros. This is his older brother, and brother’s wife.

So what is a ‘New American’? Glad you asked:

A New American is an individual who (1) is a resident alien; i.e., holds a Green Card, or, (2) has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen, or (3) is the child of two parents who are both naturalized citizens.

In other words, a current or former foreigner, or a child of foreigners. Hey, I love foreigners as much as you do. But this fellowship excludes a category of applicants based on “national origin”. Which, if the government did it, would be invidious discrimination.

The Soros Foundation is not a state actor. It can give its money to whomever it wants, for whatever reason. And the UCLA non-discrimination policy notionally applies to discrimination “in employment”, not fellowships, though it’s hard to imagine the school would oppose discrimination in that context but endorse it elsewhere.

But if the Soros Foundation were offering fellowships that excluded women, or blacks, or gays from the applicant pool they would catch holy hell, and would surely not appear in The Docket. How is this any better?

21 Aug 06

Comments

At UCLA Anderson, they have a similar policy regarding sexual harrassment and discrimination, but not limited to employment. Yet strangely, student-run clubs can engage in both with no consequences, even when students complain. Wonderful.

Posted by: a at August 22, 2006 04:17 PM

Maybe that’s why the scholarship process is so secretive at UCLA Law. Financial aid will not divulge what scholarships are available or the criteria, instead you have to apply with a “departmental application” and then you are apparently told later which scholarships you are qualified for.

Posted by: tr at August 22, 2006 10:12 PM

I have it on good authority that scholarship money at UCLA is distributed more liberally to minority students, which would be a violation of Prop 209.

Note to new readers: I am opposed to Prop 209. I think the school should be able to give money to whomever it wants, for whatever reason. But, for now that is the law. And the secrecy helps conceal the violation.

Posted by: MB at August 23, 2006 08:22 AM


LLM = Looks Like Money.

Wow, there are a lot of new students at UCLA this year. New lockers in the library, new student mailboxes, crowded classrooms ... it’s like being at the DMV!

But, as a professor explained to me, the big story is not the uptick in JDs. We admitted about 20-30 more 1Ls than normal this year, despite the large drop in applications last year. Did we increase our admission rate? Unclear, I’ll have to wait for next year’s US News rankings.

The problem with JDs is that 1) many of them are on financial aid 2) many of them get discounted state resident tuition 3) much of the tuition collected has to be kicked back to the UC system for general costs.

No, the big story is LLMs. We apparently tripled our LLM enrollment from about 15 last year to about 50 this year. LLMs have none of the above-mentioned problems of JDs: they pay full fare, and the law school keeps all the money. So that’s a hefty profit margin, baby.

Why are LLMs willing to pay for the privilege? My understanding is that if someone with a foreign law degree wants to sit for the California bar, one way to do it is get a local LLM first. Some LLMs seem to get what’s going on; others, I’m less sure about. But either way, law schools are in a position to exact a tax from them as a prerequisite to practicing law here.

(Little known LLM benefit: all LLMs get an extra 15 minutes per hour of exam time. This is designed to make it easier for those whose grasp of English is not so hot, but even LLMs who speak English beautifully get the bonus time.)

I’m not complaining, mind you &mdash after that Kashmiri unpleasantness, the law school has a bit of a budget deficit to close up. If taxing foreigners is the answer, rather than raising my fees, so be it. Whoops, is that more discrimination by national origin? Well, I guess I can let it slide.

24 Aug 06

Comments

Another puzzle.

What is the only state bar that uses neither the MPRE nor the MBE?

Washington

26 Aug 06

Comments

Whither The Docket.

I noticed that my RSS feed to The Docket, our interal school-events blog, has gone dark. When I went to the submissions page I learned:

The Docket is currently unavailable. Sorry for the inconvenience and please remember to check back again.

Thank you

UCLA School of Law

What’s this all about? Come back, Docket, we love you. Occasional promotion of invidious discrimination notwithstanding.

30 Aug 06

Comments

“The Perfect Crime”.

Hey you kids who are headed to the big firms to make the big bucks! This was too good not to share. The Journal reported today on the eruption of a bill-padding imbroglio at Holland & Knight in Chicago:

Matthew Farmer, a junior partner ... had just won a monthlong trial for Pinnacle Corp. ... But weeks later, after reviewing billing records in the Pinnacle matter, he decided to leave the 1,200-lawyer firm. Mr. Farmer, 42 years old, believed his own hours on the case had been inflated by the partner in charge of billing, 62-year-old Edward Ryan.

The firm ... took no action and denies Mr. Ryan or the firm did anything wrong. “The amount billed by Holland & Knight in the litigation was reasonable and appropriate,” says L. Kinder Cannon III, the firm’s general counsel. Mr. Ryan declines to comment.

... It’s difficult to know how widespread billing fraud is, but Stephen Gillers, an ethics professor at New York University School of Law, says “there is a general consensus that billing fraud has increased” as law firms seek to increase profits and attract top lawyers.

“Bill-padding is the perfect crime,” adds William Ross, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala. It is seldom detected because it is almost impossible for clients to know whether “an attorney really spent three hours doing research instead of five hours,” he says. He says that in a billing survey he conducted in 1996, two-thirds of the attorneys (and three-fourths of the clients) reported knowledge of bill padding.

31 Aug 06

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