Friday, April 30, 2010

Are "BigLaw" Law Firms at an End? HARDLY. The American Lawyer Releases the Am Law 100 of 2010 Ranking of Top Law Firms : Earnings and Compensation

The American Lawyer has released the new 2010 Am Law 100 ranking of the top law firms in the United States by revenues, profits, compensation etc.

There was a lot of talk in the media in the past two years about how the financial credit crisis would substantially change the legal scene, especially at "BigLaw" law firms. That talk can now be put  to rest for the time being. As Aric Press and Greg Mulligan write in Lessons of The Am Law 100 (see our comments further below) about the Am Law 100:
"[T]he bad results weren't nearly as dire as many firms had feared just a year ago. Overall, gross revenue was off by 3.4 percent, and head count dropped by about 1 percent.

The 23 firms headquartered in New York, on average, outperformed the rest of the pack.... This was a sharp contrast to 2008, when the New York firms underperformed the rest of The Am Law 100.

From 2001 on, The Am Law 100 grew steadily. In 2007 and 2008, that growth turned into irrational exuberance with big jumps in revenue and profits accompanied by a surge in hiring, just as the bottom fell out on the demand side. As a thought experiment, erase those two years from the charts and consider the growth of The Am Law 100. The average result: A steady upward progression from 2006 to 2009. On every measure, the firms advanced from where they were three years ago. They were 11 percent bigger, ahead 3 percent on RPL, and up 5 percent on PPP."
Some notable facts that we summarize from the Am Law 100:
  • Baker & McKenzie (3949 lawyers, 720 equity partners) replaced Skadden (1860 lawyers, 435 equity partners) in 2010 as the new #1 for gross revenues, although both remain the only two "big law" firms to gross over $2 billion in the past year.
     
  • Gross revenue, however, is a function of the number of lawyers in a firm, which varies. One also has to take revenues per lawyer into account in looking at the stats.

    For example, my old alma mater law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP ("Paul Weiss" in the trade) ranked 11th in RPL (Revenues per Lawyer) coming in at $1,020,000 as compared to $2,530,000 at top-ranked Wachtell. For this stat, it is advantageous if the ratio of equity partners to the number of lawyers in the firm is high since equity partners generally bill their time out at a higher rate than associates. Wachtell has 231 lawyers and 86 of these are equity partners (ca. 37%). Paul Weiss has 653 lawyers of which 116 are equity partners (ca. 18%). A ratio of around 20% (plus or minus 5%) seems to be the prevailing ratio at many "big law" law firms, so Wachtell is an exception in its high ratio of equity partners.

  • A related statistic is PPP (Profits per Partner), where Wachtell also ranked 1st, and Paul Weiss, for example, ranked 6th. This statistic shows in some cases that bigger is not necessarily better for profits. Although Baker & McKenzie rose to the top in terms of gross revenues, their decline in profits per partner also ranked #1 (down 17.8%) .

  • The figures for actual average compensation of partners (both equity and non-equity) show Wachtell at the top ($4,300,000 per partner), with e.g. Paul Weiss at 4th position ($2,690,000 per partner).
Get the full Am Law 100.

Who Will Obama Nominate for the Supreme Court Seat to be Vacated by Justice Stevens? Ann Claire Williams Looks Like a Good Possibility

What candidate is likely to be Obama's Supreme Court nomination for the seat to be vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens? Stevens is going into retirement at age 90 at the end of this term, having served on SCOTUS since December 19, 1975.

Could Obama nominate a black woman to this position successfully at this point in time, or should he wait until a more opportune time - e.g. when Justice Ginsburg steps down?

A posting by Christi Parsons at The Swamp (April 21, 2010) -- from the Washington Bureau of the Chicago Tribune -- titled Chicagoan joins Supreme Court search informs us that:
"Judge Ann Claire Williams, who became the first African-American appellate judge in the federal Seventh Circuit, has joined a working list of about 10 other candidates, the White House confirmed today. "
At Judges, politicians on latest list of high-court contenders, Bill Mears at CNN writes in short:
"Judge Ann Claire Williams, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago
... Lives in the same Chicago neighborhood as Obama did before the president moved to Washington, and he knows her personally...."
A comprehensive biography for the Hon. Judge Williams is found at the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School.

We were impressed from the Cornell bio by the fact that Judge Williams served as President of the Federal Judges Association, which indicates a high standing among her peers, an essential factor when considering the nomination of the first black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Politically, since Judge Williams was initially appointed as a federal judge by Ronald Reagan, that fact would make it very difficult for conservatives to mount any kind of sustained attack on her nomination, even if she has also had the strong support of liberals.

As noted in her Cornell bio, there is also connection to the current Chief Justice at SCOTUS:
"In 2008, Chief Justice John G. Roberts appointed Judge Williams to a second three-year term on the Supreme Court Fellows Program Commission."
Other recent articles or postings related to this topic:

Ann Claire Williams, Chicago Judge, On Supreme Court Short List, Says White House - Huffington Post

Scotus Pick News: No Abortion ‘Test’; Welcome Judge Williams! - WSJ Law Blog at the Wall Street Journal Online - Amir Efrati writes:
"One area that Obama on Wednesday said was important to him: women’s rights. “I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights,”..."
President Obama Urged To Appoint First African American Woman to U.S. Supreme Court:
NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF ANN CLAIRE WILLIAMS AS FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE - On the Beat with Mary Benton

Ann Claire Williams, Chicago Judge, On Supreme Court Short List, Says White House

Ann Claire Williams, Chicago Judge, On Supreme Court Short List, Says White House

The Law and the Sun, Moon and Stars : The Religious Symbols of Mankind and Salazar v. Buono

 We refer here to our previous post on Salazar v. Buono -- i.e. the Mohave Cross case.

To understand law, it helps to understand the history of law.
To understand the history of law, it helps to understand the history of civilization.
To understand the history of civilization, it helps to understand the history of religion.
To understand the history of religion, it helps to understand the history of astronomy, especially in the formative phases of human belief systems, when mankind turned its eyes to the heavens in search of Supreme forces.

It is no coincidence that modern symbols of the world's religions can - rightly or wrongly - be affiliated with astronomical forbears:

In Christianity, the Cross arguably derived from ancient symbols for the Sun and "life", such as the Pharaonic Ankh.

Western Civilization to this day thus calculates its chronology by solar time.

In Judaism, the Star of David viz. the Seal of Solomon arguably derived from ancient symbols for the stars of heavens, known as Mazza-roth (the Zodiac, i.e. the stars on the ecliptic) from which perhaps the Magen (the Shield) in the Star of David derived. Job 38 in the King James Version reads:
"Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? "
Ancient Hebrew stellar-based  chronology was so accurate that they even developed the concepts of the helek and the halakim:
"The helek (Hebrew חלק, meaning "portion", plural halakim חלקים) is a unit of time used in the calculation of the Hebrew calendar. The hour is divided into 1080 halakim. A helek is 31/3 seconds or 1/18 minute. The helek derives from a small Babylonian time period called a she, meaning '"barleycorn", itself equal to 1/72 of a Babylonian time degree (1° of celestial rotation)."
The ancient astronomer priests thus understood that stellar time was more accurate than solar time.

In Islam, the symbol of a crescent Moon and a star clearly trace back to ancient astronomical belief. As written at About.com:
"The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years.... [M]ost sources agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of sun, moon, and sky gods....
The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon as its symbol...
It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol."
Even today, the Muslim calendar is purely lunar.

Accordingly, the Sun, Moon and Stars as ancient astronomical symbols and modern religious symbols are very closely related. Where does one draw the line between organized religion and ancient human cultural markings?

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