Lawyer Suspended for False Advertising, ‘Gross Incompetence’

Bloomberg Law is reporting that a lawyer who put the logo of a law school more prestigious than the one he actually attended on his website was indefinitely suspended July 11.

“Daren Allen Webber’s incompetent representation of bankruptcy clients and violations of the rules on attorney advertising merit indefinite suspension, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department found,” writes reporter Mandy L. Rattan. “The suspension was based on an identical sanction by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.”

Weber, who attended New York Law School, displayed the seal of the more prestigious New York University on his website. The court also listed conduct including filing incorrect or incomplete documents, missing or being late to meetings with creditors, failing to communicate with his clients, and missing deadlines.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Netflix v. Winston & Strawn Spotlights Advance Conflict Waiver

An order resolving a bitter disqualification fight between Netflix Inc. and its lawyers at Winston & Strawn LLP is the latest example of the acrimony that “advance conflict waivers” can engender between corporations and the law firms they hire, reports Bloomberg Law.

Reporter Samson Habte explains: “The order disqualifying Winston—issued by a federal bankruptcy judge presiding over a high-stakes licensing dispute between Netflix and a financially troubled film studio—could emerge as a blueprint for a particularly contentious category of disqualification motions: those alleging law firms betrayed existing clients by bringing cases against them on behalf of newer clients.”

Because ethics rules prohibit law firms from taking a case against a current client unless both clients waive the conflicts created by the law firm’s concurrent representation.

The waivers—often broadly worded and vague—have become a regular feature of retainer agreements that large law firms execute with corporate clients.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Using Multi-Tiered Marketing to Amplify Your Legal Practice

Winning recognition in such listings as The Best Lawyers in America presents a prime marketing opportunity that can go far beyond what many lawyers realize, writes Bruce Vincent for Muse Communications.

In his article, Vincent goes into detail about the six steps lawyers can use to amplify and prolong the good news.

Those steps are: First-level marketing, notify your clients, alert industry publications, issue a press release, get social, and everything else.

Read the article.




Elite Firm Blows Right Through Going Market Rate for Associates

California litigation boutique Dovel & Luner waited more than a month after big law firms started raising salaries for associates before topping everyone else with a first-year pay rate of $215,000.

Above the Law reports that the firm is “a California litigation boutique that specializes in plaintiff-side litigation on a contingency fee basis. The firm has eight lawyers (two of whom are associates), but if you look at their bios, you’ll see a glittering array of top law schools, elite clerkships, and leading Biglaw firms in their backgrounds.”

Their rate for sixth-year associates is $330,000, according to editor Staci Zaretsky.

And Dovel & Luner associates can count on bonuses based on the firm’s success, sometimes rising to as much as $700,000.

Read the Above the Law article.




Contractual Considerations for Lawyers Using the Cloud

The cloudBecause law firms are such desirable targets for hackers, firms have had to find solutions for keeping the intruders at bay. They can use internal systems managed by employees of the firm, or they can go to a cloud-based solution, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Writing for Above the Law, Scheef & Stone partner Tom Kulik points out that SaaS platforms can help offset the cost by offloading technical and security expertise to the SaaS provider. But the standard contract terms offered by these providers do not weigh in favor of the law firm.

In the article, Kulik discusses some points to consider when a firm is considering entering into a contract for SaaS.

Read the article.



Digital Content Marketing Survey – How to Reach In-House Counsel

Law firms have made massive investments in content, mostly aimed at deepening their engagement with in-house counsel. But, for the most part, their efforts are falling short, according to a recent survey by strategic communications firm Greentarget and consulting firm Zeughauser Group.

Only about half of in-house attorneys consider law-firm content “good to excellent,” the same as in 2017, and up only slightly since 2015, according to the 2018 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, released by Greentarget and Zeughauser Group.

But the survey also provides clear guidance on how firms can make inroads with their most important readers. For our seventh annual survey we asked in-house counsel not only about their content consumption habits, but also what content they value most, where they get it, and how often they go there. The survey found that:

• In-house counsel want content that helps them do their jobs. More than three-quarters of our respondents say they most value utility in the content they consume – ahead of timeliness (58 percent), reliable sources (56 percent) and compelling headlines (51 percent).
• And they want it in the form of articles, alerts and newsletters, respectively. Those are respondents’ most preferred content vehicles.
• Email works – when it’s good. Forty percent of in-house counsel say they get information from email notifications every day – but only 25 percent say they find them valuable. That’s a huge opportunity to reach clients and prospects, and to stand out from the noise, by creating email alerts that deliver on the qualities in-house lawyers are looking for.
• Traditional media most trusted. Fifty-four percent of respondents go to traditional media (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) on a daily basis for legal, business and industry news and information, and 45 percent find such sources very valuable – far above any other source.
• Brevity matters. Nearly a third of in-house counsel value shorter content, while only 5 percent value longer pieces. They also want email alerts to be brief. And they only rank in-depth as a key attribute for a single content category – research reports.
• Podcasts show promise. More than a quarter of respondents put podcasts among their preferred content vehicles – ahead of video and perhaps surprising for a relatively new medium. Audio content gives consumers hands- and eyes-free information for their commutes or during workouts. And podcasts are the only medium where respondents say they consider entertainment value – an opportunity to rise above the noise for firms that are willing to break from the industry’s staid conventions.
• On social media, more noise than signal. About a third of in-house counsel look at social media every day, but only 11 percent find anything of value there. By contrast, less than a quarter view industry association publications and websites every day, but 43 percent find those valuable.

“This is the age of information overload,” said John Corey, founding partner of Greentarget. “In-house counsel want content that’s useful, timely, well-sourced and provides lively engagement starting from the subject line. If they want to elevate the conversation, firms have to quickly and efficiently tell in-house counsel what they have to say, why it matters and what law departments should do about it.”

The 2018 report went further than in past years, identifying which content types were most preferred by in-house counsel – and what attributes are most valued regarding those content types. Respondents’ top three content types are articles, alerts and newsletters – and in each case, they want that content to be relevant and timely. For articles and newsletters, respondents want content to be educational – and they prefer that alerts be brief.

“Drilling down to this level of detail about what is and isn’t working when it comes to law firm-generated content is important – and consequential,” said Mary K. Young, a partner with Zeughauser Group. “Firms can take this information and the related guidance and find ways to stand out and build their brands with in-house counsel, who are, of course, key decision makers within their organizations.”



Grow Your Small Law Firm’s Business with Content Marketing

In a blog post, Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications explains some of the main concepts of content marketing and how it can be a potent tool for solos and small law firms with limited marketing budgets.

“The essence of content marketing is that you’re promoting your subject matter expertise (whether it’s labor law, family law, or any other practice area) by providing consistent, relevant content of interest to your clients and prospective clients,” she explains.

For law firms, content marketing is primarily about two things:

  • Building a reputation as a source of genuine value in your practice area; and
  • Staying top-of-mind among your clients, prospective clients and referral sources.

Read the article.



O’Melveny Tops in Survey for Firm Culture, Job Satisfaction

Bloomberg Law reports that O’Melveny & Myers has won the “best law firm to work for” in Vault’s 2019 annual quality of life rankings.

Vault polled about 20,000 associates to rate peer firms and their own experiences, writes Bloomberg reporter Elizabeth Olson. They were asked about satisfaction and firm culture, as well as compensation, hours and informal training and mentoring.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson held onto its No. 2 ranking in the poll.

Associates described O’Melveny as having a “laid back culture” and “super interesting work,” according to comments.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Female Attorneys Harassed at Big and Small Firms, Survey Shows

Bloomberg Law reports on a survey of mostly female lawyers that sexual harassment, including unwelcome texts, physical contact and bullying, exists at big and small law firms.

The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts and the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership conducted the study.

“Nearly 38 percent of respondents said they’d been the recipient of an unwanted sexual email, text or instant message at work. Approximately 21 percent said they’d experienced or witnessed unwelcome physical contact at work,” reported Stephanie Russell-Kraft. “More than two-thirds of those who said they had experienced or witnessed unwelcome physical contact said they didn’t report it.”

Read the Bloomberg article.



Salary Wars Scorecard: Which Firms Have Announced Raises And Bonuses

pay-salary-income-statisticsAbove the Law has updated its extensive list of law firms that have matched Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy’s $190,000 salary scale for new associates, with almost four dozen large firms represented.

The most-recent additions to the list, added on Thursday, include Dechert, Orrick, Akin Gump and Sherman & Sterling, each with pay scales of $190,000 for first year associates and $340,000 for senior year associates.

Those four also offer $5,000 bonuses to first years, and $25,000 to their more-senior associates.

Read the Above the Law article.




Former Partner Hits Jones Day With Gender Bias Suit

Bloomberg Law is reporting that a former partner in Jones Day’s Silicon Valley office alleged in a suit June 19 that she was kicked out of the firm after raising concerns about its treatment of female lawyers.

The former partner, Wendy Moore, alleged that the firm’s leaders retaliated against her after she voiced misgivings about the firm’s alleged sexist culture, lack of pay transparency, and marginalization of female attorneys, according to reporter Stephanie Russell-Kraft.

“The firm’s male leaders often make sexist comments and rate the attractiveness of female attorneys, paralegals, staff, and officers of the firm’s clients,” Moore’s complaint complaint says. “Business development events, too, often center on degrading stereotypes of femininity and cater to a preference for sports and alcohol.”

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Successfully Navigating Media in Law Firm Mergers

Recent breaking news about the potential union of Dallas’ Winstead and Atlanta-based Troutman Sanders is another example of how the media can quickly become a factor in private law firm mergers, writes Bruce Vincent in a blog post for Muse Communications.

“While it remains to be seen whether the media interest will impact any eventual union between Winstead and Troutman, the way the news became public provides key insights for other law firms that may be considering a merger,” he writes.

Vincent outlines some of the most important steps to take in such a situation. He discusses informing important audiences, such as clients; handling media requests; and the right way to follow up.

Read the article.




King & Spalding Case Spotlights Response to Ethics Report

Bloomberg Law reports that a ruling that an ex-King & Spalding associate can go to trial on a claim he was fired for raising ethics concerns highlights a critical question for law firms—how to respond to an internal ethics complaint without appearing to retaliate?

A New York federal court rejected King & Spalding’s argument that associate David Joffe clearly was terminated for bad performance and “administrative shortcomings,” and not in retaliation for reporting ethical concerns stemming from two partners’ representation of Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp., writes Mindy L. Rattan.

“While most associates are at-will employees, New York associates are protected from retaliation after the associate reports or threatens to report ethical concerns about others in the firm,” according to Rattan.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Cravath Tops Milbank’s Raises for Senior Associates

The race to top or match big law firms’ salaries for associates took on another twist as Cravath Swaine & Moore announced it will be giving senior associates a hike that brings their compensation to $340,000.

Bloomberg Law reports that figure will beat Milbank,Tweed, Hadley & McCloy’s pay for its top associates by $10,000.

Above the Law has a memo — provided by tipsters — that outlines Cravath’s compensation schedule for associate classes 2017 ($190,000) through 2010 ($340,000).

“Cravath might be late to the game, but now that it’s here, we can expect nearly every other major Biglaw firm to follow. (Sullivan & Cromwell) will be here soon. Skadden, Davis Polk, Debevoise, they’re all coming now. This is the new Biglaw associate salary,” writes Above the Law’s Elie Mystal.

Read Bloomberg Law’s article.

Read the Above the Law article.




Clients’ Rate Concerns Slow the Spread of Associate Pay Bump

Money-payment-cashAround half a dozen law firms have stepped up to say they will match the new $190,000 salary level for freshly minted lawyers set by Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy this week, reports Bloomberg Law, but others have been slower, or may not come forward at all, as firms try to navigate the shifting business conditions.

“Such large salary boosts can be costly, and it’s one that often is borne by the law firm. Corporations are reluctant to underwrite the six-figure salaries for lawyers straight out of law school,” explains reporter Elizabeth Olson.

She talked to James Jones, a senior fellow at Georgetown law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, who agreed that clients would not be happy. Firm billing rates for the largest 100 law firms rose last year, and an across-the-board raise could indicate another hike in billing, he noted.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Milbank Takes Associate Starting Salaries to New Level

Money - pay - salary - dollarBloomberg Law reports that salaries of law firm associates got a healthy boost Monday when Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP announced that it will increase pay by $10,000 for lawyers in their first three years, and $15,000 after that.

That raise will bring starting salaries for associates to $190,000, up from the current $180,000, write Elizabeth Olson and Casey Sullivan.

Competition for legal talent has grown particularly fierce when it comes to the kind of complex, high-end transactions that Milbank specializes in, Scott A. Edelman, Milbank’s chair, told Bloomberg Law.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Biglaw Firm Gets Benchslapped Over ‘Astonishing’ Fee Request

Above the Law reports that a judge has characterized a $60,000 fee request from Latham & Watkins to be “astonishing” and “aggressive beyond any convention.”

The firm, representing the defendant in two cases brought by a Harvard professor who sued an employee of his investment fund for allegedly recording conversations, won the case on the merits. So now Latham is attempting to recover legal fees, reports editor Kathryn Rubino.

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Mitchell H. Kaplan criticized Latham for charging such a high fee “to file a brief that a first-year law student could write.”

Read the Above the Law article.



Sheppard Mullin Conflict Waiver Case Puts Big Fee at Stake

Nearly $4 million in fees are at stake in a California Supreme Court fight between a big law firm and a big client over broad advance conflict waivers the firm used in its client engagement letters, according to Bloomberg Law.

Reporter Joyce Cutler explains that Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP was “disqualified from representing J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc. in a $1 billion qui tam action because the firm concurrently represented one of the hundreds of defendants in an unrelated matter. The state appeals court held the advance conflict waiver J-M gave Sheppard Mullin didn’t absolve the firm of its duty to tell J-M about the specific conflict once it came to light.”

The question for this case of first impression is whether a law firm needs to tell a sophisticated client about a specific conflict when it arises, or whether the firm can instead rely a boilerplate advance conflict waiver in the client’s engagement agreement.

Read the Bloomberg article.



15 Tips to Maximize Your Speaking Presentation

Pat Rafferty of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing offers some  tips to maximize your experience and develop business before, during and after a presentation at a conference or other event.

The article is divided into three sections, with the “Before” section discussing such topics as CLE approval, credibility and expertise, checking the guest list and getting the word out.

Other topics under the “During” and “After” headings include expanding your network, interactivity, making a lasting impression, using a personal touch, repurposing the content, and more.

Read the article.



Jobs-Based Law School Rankings Show Changes at the Top

The top three schools in the Law School Rankings compiled by Above the Law are different this year, with the University of Chicago Law School moving into the top slot.

Above the Law ranks schools on the basis of the latest ABA employment data concerning the class of 2017.

Executive Editor Elie Mystal mentions that the top three schools had upticks in their federal clerkship rates and speculates that the changes may be attributed to the current political picture:

“As Trump and McConnell take over the federal judiciary, it’s interesting to me that more people from Chicago and UVA and Duke are getting clerkships, while fewer people from Harvard and Yale are. It could be a one-year blip… it could be a 25-year blip if the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation continue to have their way.”

Read the Above the Law article.