Blawg Review #255

by lawshucks on March 14, 2010

A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: “Well, the Ides of March are come,” and the seer said to him softly: “Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.”

- Plutarch, The Parallel Lives – Life of Julius Caesar, Loeb Classical Library Edition

March has been an unkind month to lawyers.

On the first anniversary of the worst month for law-firm layoffs in history, Law Shucks, the blog about “Life in, and after, BigLaw” takes up Blawg Review #255.

Last week, Niki Black hosted Blawg Review #254, celebrating International Women’s Day.

In at least one respect, we’ve come a long way, baby.





(click to embiggen)

Last March, 3,682 people were laid off by major law firms: 1,337 attorneys, 2,345 staff. March ’09 included six of the ten all-time worst single days for layoffs. On March 9, 2009, 737 people were laid off – there haven’t been that many people laid off in a single month since May ’09.

Or compare on a weekly basis. In the week ending March 13, 2009, 1,477 people were laid off: 603 lawyers and 874 staff. In the week ending March 12, 2010, a “mere” 75 were laid off: 45 lawyers and 30 staff. Last March, seventeen separate firms laid off more than 75 people, ranging from White & Case’s 400 down to Blank Rome’s 79.

And last week was a bad week for layoffs, compared to recent trends. There had been none at all reported for the two previous weeks.

Niki’s exasperation with the snails’ pace of progress on gender equality resonates across genders must be particularly exacerbated by the disproportionate effect layoffs have had on women and minorities.

The American Lawyer recently reported that for the first time in ten years, the percentage of minority attorneys at the largest US law firms dropped. While the headline numbers look shocking (6% overall headcount reduction, but 9% reduction in minorities), Adam Smith, Esq. sees a “more nuanced – and optimistic – story.”

However you look at it, last year was unprecedented in the depth and breadth of law firm layoffs.

One school that seems ideally suited to the seemingly illogical decisionmaking of large law firms is behavioral law and economics. Rick Pildes writes at Balkinization that that discipline, which seems well positioned to affect current events, is underperforming. Ironically, behavioral economics attempts to understand why people don’t behave rationally, so should we really be surprised that it’s not gaining traction?

One side effect of all those layoffs has been the rise of the solo. Greatest American Lawyer interviewed Peter Olson of Solo in Chicago who provided some solid insight on what it takes to take that leap.

But there’s also good news coming out of the big firms. Kathleen Sullivan became a name partner at Quinn Emanuel this week, an honor that is being touted as the surprisingly long overdue first woman to grace the letterhead at an AmLaw 100 firm.

Above the Law‘s Elie Mystal did his part for gender equality, decrying a New York City Bar Association event purportedly designed to teach female lawyers how to “dress for success.” His efforts caused the NYCBA to realize the program had drifted toward an inappropriate focus, and cancel it – much to the chagrin of Kashmir Hill, Elie’s distaff partner in crime, who wasn’t offended.

Camuccini, Mort de César

Shame is a powerful thing, as Caesar (sort of) recognized

The gods do this in shame of cowardice:
Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
If he should stay at home to-day for fear.
No, Caesar shall not: danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
We are two lions litter’d in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible:
And Caesar shall go forth.

- William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2

Unfortunately for him, even greater was his fear of the shame of being mocked for listening to his wife’s dreams.

Shaming the NYCBA worked for Elie, and it might be part of a growing punishment movement, according to the WSJ Law Blog.

It might not work at all on sports agents, who are widely perceived to be shameless. Still, Bitter Lawyer rounded up the top lawyers working as sports agents. Sports Agent Blog has an insider’s perspective, including the ninth installment of an intern’s column on breaking into the business.

At Law Shucks, we reminded them all that it was big-firm lawyers who laid the groundwork for the free agency that has made Drew Rosenhaus and his fellows so rich.

Speaking of, umm, “difficult” personalities, Bob Sutton at Work Matters says it’s not necessarily a good idea to give your asshole boss a copy of the book, “The No Asshole Rule.”

Just as there is a hierarchy of geeks, there is a hierarchy of lawyers – and lawyers all slot their own niche at the top. We might make fun of sports agents’ reputations for shamelessness, but all lawyers are probably equally shameless to the layfolk. Niki Black gave us a sobering reminder of one seemingly unfortunate case brought by one of our colleagues that reinforces that stereotype.

Can lawyers agree that politicians would be at or near the bottom of the legal hierarchy? A political fight over back waxing down in Florida certainly supports the idea. Kevin Underhill has the story at Lowering the Bar. With lawyers making the laws, bringing suits, and defending, it basically turns into a game of rock-paper-scissors. For example, how does this “upskirting” story at at On.Point make you feel about lawyers?

The Scarlet Letter. Painting by T. H. Matteson.

Scarlet may be the color of shame, but Keene Trial Consulting thinks red is the right color for court. Unless you’re a mediator, then you should be Beige, according to Brains on Purpose.

Shame is at the heart of hazing, which is part of the current model of medical education, according to David Harlow at his Health Care Law Blog. He writes about a re-focused, reinvigorated medical school curriculum that promotes patient health by laying an educational foundation of teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, mindfulness, and asking for help when help is needed.

Lawyers love to communicate!

There has been no shortage of blog posts recently exhorting counsel to get involved. Ernie the Attorney forwards the call to take up pens (or fingers) and write for The In-House Blawg. That notion is supported in spirit by Kevin O’Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs, who says that social-media engagement starts at the top.

Don’t get too carried away, though. South Florida Lawyers cautions that the Broward County Bar Association has run out of things to do and is now investigating a law blog to determine whether it meets the BCBA’s professional standards.

Michaelangelo. David.

If you were planning to take the plunge and thought the proposed federal Anti-SLAPP laws might be a nice deterrent against frivolous suits seeking to squelch you, Max Kennerly at Litigation & Trial says you better think twice. There’s nothing in the law that would stop Goliath from using it against David.

Twitter (follow @lawshucks!), Facebook, blogging, and the rest of the modern social media are great ways to communicate, but nothing will ever rival being able to conduct a face-to-face conversation. Being locked in a cab with a hedgie should be an ideal situation for a big-firm associate who does fund work, right? We know at least one who blew the chance.

If all the doom and gloom of the Ides of March have gotten you down, cheer up, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. Just don’t call it St. Patty’s Day, for reasons John McIntyre helpfully provides.

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions on how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

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    Just blowing some free time on Stumbleupon and I found your post . Not typically what I like to read about, but it was certainly worth my time. Thanks.

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