: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Go Away Young Man, Proximity to Local Law School Associated with Lower Incomes for Small Firm Lawyers

The Empirical Legal Studies Blog has a fascinating post on Regional Law Schools and Lawyer Income. Bill Henderson takes a look at average attorney earnings in legal markets in and around Indiana and comes to a somewhat surprising conclusion – “After controlling for all of the above factors, proximity to a local law school is associated with lower incomes for small firm lawyers.”

For example, in my sample of approximately 1,200 Indiana lawyers in private practices, lawyers working full-time in 1 to 5 lawyer firms in large metropolitan areas [see map below, click to enlarge] made an average of $112,712 (n=318), versus $117,284 in mid-sized markets (75,000 to 200,000 residents) (n=104) and $117,741 in small and rural locales (n = 84).

First he makes a standard distinction between lawyers who serve organizational clients such as corporations and lawyers that provide personal services to individuals and small businesses, reflecting two distinct groups with the smaller firms in the segment more likely to be ‘personal services’ firms.

So why are personal service lawyers making less money in larger markets? My working hypothesis is that graduates of urban law schools tend to stay in the area (indeed, many lived in the metro area before law school), thus oversupplying the region with personal service lawyers, heightening competition, and decreasing income. If this is true, it has important implications for so-called “local” law schools.

It is important to note, as Henderson does, that his study only applies to Indiana and doesn’t account for regional differences in economy, etc, but once the point is made it seems to make sense. I suspect that most prospective students don’t analyze the return on investment they make when they embark on their law school careers. Henderson conclusion focuses on primarily on how his findings might affect law school choice, he is a law professor after all –

Greater Chicago has eight law schools, including Valparaiso in the northwest corner of Indiana. In my opinion, before going $100K into debt, it is important for a prospective student to understand (ideally, quantify) the expected return on investment for each school if he or she hopes to practice law in the Chicago metropolitan area. The results of a larger study may persuade some students to pursue opportunities in other markets (or perhaps rural counties) or forgo law school altogether. As tuition continues to climb ahead of inflation, law schools–and the ABA–need to start thinking along these lines.

– I wonder, however, if these results aren’t more pertinent to recent law school graduates attempting to plot the early part of their careers? Debra Bruce, a lawyer coach here in Houston who also writes the Law Practice Management Newsletter of the State Bar of Texas and has experience at both the Big Law and small firm ends of the spectrum, encouraged me to think long and hard about practice area when I graduate. One of her suggestions was to think geographically and look for under-served populations. Sage advice that’s looking increasingly relevant at a time when urban legal markets are oversaturated while others are desperate to attract. It’s not a particularly easy thing to do in some respects. As our associate dean is fond of saying when he encounters students worrying about what effect not being able to take Sports Law might have on their legal careers, ‘chances are we’ll take the first job we get offered anyway.’

Car Crash Lawyers – Mary Flood swims with the sharks

Mary Flood swims with the sharks on the Legal Trade Blog and at the Houston Chronicle, ahead of some upcoming CLE courses entitled “THE CAR CRASH SEMINAR”. The subject of advertising came up, as it must in all conversations about Jim Adler.

Donald Kidd, a former Fulbright & Jaworski lawyer who works with Adler, said the firm advertises looking for folks who don’t know lawyers. He said the ads mentioning dollar amounts don’t run anymore. Kidd, who has a sterling reputation as a trial lawyer, will teach a UT seminar section on evaluating which cases a car crash lawyer should take. “There are people out there who respond to the advertising and those who don’t,” Kidd said.

From Fulbright & Jaworski to Jim Adler. His mother must be proud.

Tough Smart Jim Adler is hammerin’ away on myspace as well. The copy from his website is, and I quote, “Do you have a myspace account? Let me be your friend. You never know when you might need a lawyer.” Let me be your friend?

Houston Chronicle: Ads pivotal for car crash lawyers, Legal Trade Blog: Car Crash Lawyers Scramble

No Asshole Rule Redux – When to Fire a Client

I blogged recently on No Asshole Rule, a question of whether firms should take proactive steps to eradicate unreasonable behavior in the work environment by forcing offending employees to change their ways or getting rid of them, even when they’re otherwise profitable performers.

On a related note, the WSJ Law Blog asks the question from a different angle – Does a “No A–holes Policy” Work in the Law? – profiling a corporate strategist who decided to ‘fire clients whose expectations were out-of-line.’ You don’t have to look far to find expectations out of line in legal practice. My favorite story illustrating this point is from Judge Criss in Galveston who had a defendant complain to her that his lawyer ‘wasn’t lying for me.’ Classic.

It makes me wonder if this kind of situation presents issues for law schools, especially with tenured professors whose tenure has outlasted their love of teaching and whose tenured status makes them somewhat untouchable. I’ve been lucky enough not to have run into this problem at Houston yet, but it has to be inevitable.

Helping Universities self-police NCAA regulations emerges as lucrative practice area for law firms

Joe Drape of the NY Times has a fascinating article on an emerging practice area – Facing N.C.A.A., the Best Defense Is a Legal Team. Major NCAA programs have a lot of money riding on avoiding the death penalty that KO’d SMU’s football program, but also the public relations fallout of infractions revealed in the press.

The law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King has emerged as a market leader in the area. I would imagine a quick look at some of the recent changes to NCAA regulations they posted on their website would be daunting enough to convince many administrators to seek help from outside counsel.

Bond, Schoeneck & King leads this niche primarily because the founder of its Collegiate Sports Practice Group, Michael Glazier, is credited with creating this market in the mid-1980s with Mike Slive, the current commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. The firm represents more than 60 colleges and universities on matters like eligibility, compliance and major infractions investigations.

Interestingly enough, Rick Evrard, the Bond, Shoeneck & King attorney profiled in the article, has Houston connections, doing his undergrad at Rice with a J.D. from South Texas.

Economics of Law Firm Associates

Marginal Revolution tipped me off to a really interesting paper – When Knowledge is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms (.pdf, save as). Here’s the abstract -

We study the economics of employment relationships through theoretical and empirical analysis of an unusual set of firms, large law firms. Our point of departure is the “property rights” approach that emphasizes the centrality of ownership’s legal rights to control important, non-human assets of the enterprise. From this perspective, large law firms are an interesting and potentially important object of study because the most valuable assets of these firms take the form of knowledge – particularly knowledge of the needs and interests of clients. We argue that the two most distinctive organizational features of large law firms, the use of “up or out” promotion contests and the practice of having winners become residual claimants in the firm, emerge naturally in this setting. In addition to explaining otherwise anomalous features of the up-or-out partnership system, this paper suggests a general framework for analyzing organizations where assets reside in the brains of employees.

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