For those inclined to plan ahead, the 5th annual CELS, hosted by Yale Law School, is set for November 5-6, 2010, in New Haven, CT. Also, well-earned kudos are due to the folks at USC Law for hosting last weekend's spectacularly successful 4th annual CELS.
UPDATE: Dave Hoffman's (Temple) summary of CELS 2009 (via Concurring Opinions) is here.
For those of you not attending CELS this weekend, you might want to check out the webcast! Here's the email I recently received from the good folks at USC Law:
Dear Empirical Legal Scholar,
We are happy to announce that
roughly half of the 2009 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies will be
webcast. This will enable those who cannot attend the conference in
person to hear and view the papers. In addition, it will allow those
who attend the conference to hear presentations that conflict with
panels that they attend in person.
The webcast will be accessible, starting this Friday (11/20) at 9:45 AM, at:
The webcast will include all panels held in Rooms 1, 7, 101, and 107. This includes the following panels:
Attitudes & Decisionmaking Bankruptcy CEO Pay Civil Rights Corporate Governance I Corporate Governance II Corporate Governance III Criminal Evidence Financial Crisis Financial Regulation & Investor Protection Innovation & Growth International Corporate Governance Jurors Law & Politics I Law & Politics II Law & Politics III Law & Politics IV Methodology I Methodology II Methodology III Methodology IV Organizational Form Prisons Rule of Law Securities Litigation Supreme Courts Venture Capital Victims & Witnesses
For the program, which includes the times at which each of these panels will take place, see:
A careful analysis of the recently released National Law Journal 250 reveals some surprising trends. The NLJ reports that the nation's largest 250 firms (by lawyer headcount) shrank by 4%. Yet, when broken down by geography (see figure below, click on to enlarge), nearly half of the losses (2,096) were concentrated in the 45 firms headquarters in New York City. And another 20% (883) fell on the 17 NLJ 250 firms headquartered in Chicago.
To put those figures in perspective, for 2008 (the baseline year), NYC- and Chicago-based firms only accounted for 24.7% and 14.7% respectively of the NLJ 250 total lawyer headcount. In contrast, DC-based firms accounted for 9.7% of the NLJ 250 universe in 2008 but only 3.8% (161) of the total contraction. The disparate geographic impact suggests that the reductions-in-force are probably due disproportionately (or overwhelmingly) to the decline in the volume of corporate transactions and woes in the banking and insurance sectors. Among major markets, San Francisco-based firms shrank the least, though this glass-half-full news is probably the result of the dissolutions of Thelen Reid and Heller Ehrman in late 2007, which were both headquartered in the Bay Area.
On comparative basis, the middle-market firms appear to be thriving. Collectively, there was a 0.6% increase in the number of lawyers in the 91 NLJ 250 firms based outside the Top 10 markets. In contrast, firms headquartered in Top 10 markets did uniformly worst. Below is a ranking based on percentage contraction:
New York City (45 firms) -7.0%
Dallas (7 firms)-5.9%
Houston (4 firms)-5.4%
Philadelphia (15 firms)-5.4%
Atlanta (9 firms)-5.3%
Chicago (17 firms)-4.7%
Los Angeles (11 firms)-2.7%
Boston (10 firms)-2.1%
Washington DC (18 firms) -1.6%
San Francisco (9 firms) -0.1%
Firm size appears to be a major explanatory variable, particularly for associates. Here is the breakdown of changes in lawyer headcounts by size of firm:
So what is the bottomline analysis? I think the slowdown in the economy has made the largest firms the most vulnerable to price pressure from large corporate clients. The largest firms have the highest cost structure (rents and associate pay), and there is some doubt whether there is a corresponding value-add for their higher fees. At the high end, the market is pretty crowded. An international footprint is not necessarily a competitive advantage when 20+ of firms have the same high fixed costs and similar lawyer credentials. Not surprisingly, a lot of desirable legal work that does not require a multi-office international platform is migrating to firms further down the AmLaw/NLJ 250 food chain. (These observations, by the way, track Larry Ribstein's The Death of BigLaw analysis.) Indeed, anecdotal evidence from my informal network suggests that boutiques are booming holding their own [NOTE: after the original post, three additional
members of my informal network suggested that boutiques were not
booming but, instead, hurt less badly].
Folks, we are in uncharted waters. The structure of the corporate bar is changing rapidly. The giants are vulnerable.
The Wall Street Journal has an article on some research being done by Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, wherein they use Markov chain models to attempt to predict how current day justices would vote on past landmark decisions. To wit, they predict that if Roe v. Wade were decided today, it would come down 5-4 in favor of state abortion bans.
The good folks over at the Computational Legal Studies blog have an interesting take on the recently-passed H.R. 3962 (health care). Befitting the blog's overall "computational or complex systems" approach, the post contains more than a few interesting factoids. As Dan Martin Katz notes, "The bill is 1990 pages as 'typeset' by the House. However, the 'substantive' words contained in bill are no longer than the length of a Harry Potter Novel."
Good news -- the new NSF-funded Supreme Court Database Website is now up and running, and I can't imagine this won't make the database available to thousands more users via its easy-to-use interface. Not only can you download the most current version of the database and its companions, but you can also perform analyses right on the website. This is good stuff; check it out!
CRN 14, Culture, Society, and Intellectual Property, Call for Papers for Upcoming Law and Society Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, May 27-30, 2010
CRN 14 seeks to encourage interaction between scholars from diverse disciplinary perspectives who focus on the legal, social, and cultural dimensions of intellectual properties--including patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and rights of publicity. One goal of this CRN is to encourage creatively eclectic approaches to the study of intellectual property among law and society scholars who draw on traditional doctrinal and policy analyses, historical analyses, cultural studies analyses, and empirical analyses of intellectual property law in action. Intellectual properties, and the processes of globalization of which they are a part, are an especially promising and important area for collaborative research of the kind that law and society scholars have long pioneered.
We are currently organizing panel proposals for the upcoming Law and Society Association annual meeting in Chicago in May of 2010. Please contact one of the CRN co-chairs listed below if you have a paper that you would like to present under the sponsorship of this CRN. We plan to collect individual proposals and organize them into thematic sessions, which we will submit to the Law and Society Association.
For further information or to submit a paper proposal, please contact: