BigTex


Closest thing to heaven

My fair city of Austin is notorious for being a stagnant and stale legal market for those young lawyers with the audacity to attempt to practice here. Practice groups at various firms tend to merely jump from one address along Congress to another, instead of firms actually adding to their headcounts.

The stories are legion of uber-qualified attorneys from Biglaw NYC firms and Ivy Law being turned away by the BigLaw and BigTex Austin branches because of the incredible geographical demand Austin perpetually generates. It was rare for BigTex/Law satellites to open entirely new offices in Austin–that is, until now.

It all began in early 2006 when Dechert opened its Austin office with the first group of Dewey (then Ballantine, now LeBoeuf) emigres.

In early 2007 after the shuttering of Jenkens & Gilchrist (which coincidentally, was the subject of our very first post here at the SMSB), Virginia-based Hunton & Williams reopened its Austin office with the remaining Jenkens lawyers who didn’t spin off their own boutiques or join Winstead’s ranks.

Also in 1997, the Arkansas firm of Mitchell Williams opened its doors in Austin, but only began to expand its Austin footprint in May with the acquisition of longtime Austin firm Long Burner Parks & DeLargy.

After the announced closing of the Dewey office earlier this year, the majority of the remaining Dewey alumni headed over to McKool Smith, but three found their way to King & Spalding’s new Austin branch just a few months ago.

Now, word out tonight is that several Akin & Gump lawyers, including the managing partner of the Austin office, are leaving to open Greenberg Traurig‘s Austin satellite on August 1.

While all of these office openings certainly prove the maxim that Austin firms merely trade lawyers instead of adding them, because five new firms now have an entrenched presence here in Austin, it is entirely likely that more capacity for lawyers yearning to live interesting and meaningful lives in the ATL will be created.

As long as they keep Austin Weird, they’re welcome within the City Limits.

Wouldn\'t have it any other way

* * * UPDATE * * *

Due to my own oversight, I neglected to mention the 2007 founding of Yetter & Warden’s (now Yetter, Warden & Coleman) Austin office by several former Weil appellate lawyers, including the national head of their appellate practice group, former Justice Thomas clerk and Solicitor General of Texas, Greg Coleman.

Thx to the Austin Business Journal and Tex Parte Blog

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Say it aint so

Success ruins everything.

David Lat, a former AUSA and federal circuit clerk who I first began to follow in mid-2004 when he anonymously ran the Article III gossip blog, Underneath Their Robes (one of the seminal progenitors of the modern legal blog) until he was outed as the proprietor by Jeff Toobin. He went on to serve a stint editing Wonkette, and then became the founder and editor in chief of Above the Law, which has grown into the lowly law firm associate’s blogospherical check on BigLaw shenanigans.

Well, due to his success at ATL, Lat has been promoted to oversee all of ATL‘s parent company’s sites; thus reducing his ATL blogging load substantially and forcing him to:

brush my teeth, put on clothes, and schlep into an office each morning.

We here at the SMSB wish him well and curse thank him for seeding our own little degenerative blogging afflication. It’s not often that a person can create and ride a sea change in a profession, but Mr. Lat certainly has and we thank him for his diligent, entertaining, and status-quo-shattering work over these last few years.

Thx to the
BLT

In our continuing series chronicling child actors gone good, we are pleased to introduce you to Isaac Lidsky, formerly known as Barton ‘Weasel’ Wyzell (aka, the new Screech) on “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.”

At the bottom leftWow

Since then, Lidsky has gone on to graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School after completing a stint on the Harvard Law Review, clerk for Third Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro, and practice in the Justice Department’s Civil Division and later at Jones Day.

Henceforth, he will also be known as a SCOTUS clerk, where he will be clerking for retired Justice O’Connor during the upcoming term.

Oh, and he’s accomplished all this despite being legally blind for the past fifteen years. To donate to the vision-impairment foundation he created, go to Hope for Vision’s website.

Thx to Above the Law and the Legal Times

Too soon

I read with great sadness this weekend of former Texas Supreme Court and Dallas Court of Appeals Justice James Baker‘s passing. I got to know him only briefly, but I can vouch that his stellar reputation among those who appeared before him was well-earned. He was giant both in his jurisprudence and in the admiration he rightly enjoyed from his colleagues and peers. He will be greatly missed.

Thx to SCOTX Blog and the Houston Chronicle

The U.S. News & World Report law school rankings have long been criticized for numerous and valid reasons by people who know of what they speak (unlike myself), but I think Res Ipsa has crystalized what criteria should really be considerd when ranking law schools—if the purpose in ranking these schools is to help inform where an aspiring applicant will spend the next the three years of indentured legal servitude.

Namely, return on one’s dollar.

Most law school students could care less about most of the indices USNWR uses to rank law schools, namely the size of a school’s library, median entering GPAs or LSAT scores, per capita expenditures, or even the employment rate for graduates (because what does it matter that you have a job if that job pays far less than the amount of money you just shelled out for the privilege of securing said job). Of much more importance to most law school students is the relative assurance they have that a given law school will provide them with an education that will likely allow them to attain a positive net worth at some point in their lives.

depressing

There are only three law schools in Texas where a graduate will, on average, make more in their first year of practice than they paid in tuition for three glorious years of legal tutelage: UT, Houston, and Texas Tech.

However, I would add two columns to Res Ipsa‘s excellent comparison chart above (and if I weren’t much lazier than Res Ipsa, I’d add in Thurgood Marshall‘s numbers as well): the return ratio of these schools when you factor in room and board (which all of us know who survived law school grossly underestimates the essential “beer” portion of the “board” figure, not to mention all kinds of other significant costs like books, etc.).

hmmmmm

Taking into account room and board, nobody makes enough their first year to make up for what they expended during law school, but some schools fall so woefully low on the this list that I think the fallacy of the USNWR ranking of these schools is revealed.

what a bargain

So, according to USNWR, SMU is the second best school in Texas, but according to the modified return rate ranking, it’s one of the very worst. Same with Baylor (third best according to USNWR, sixth out of eight schools measured according to the modified return rate ranking).

However, USNWR did accurately rank UT as the best law school in Texas, and came awfully close on both Houston (third versus second) and Texas Tech (fourth versus third).

So, all hype and boosterism aside, I think one would have a pretty hard time arguing UT, Houston, and Texas Tech are not the top three law schools in the state. Conversely, it’s hard to rank either Baylor or SMU in the top three when you consider how much longer it will—on average—take a graduate to make back their law school investment.

I freely and anectdotally admit however that—hands down—the most impressive and intellectually-imposing lawyers I’ve ever worked with, against, or for were largely SMU and Baylor grads.

All this aside, it goes without saying that if you graduate in the top ten percentile, have served on a journal (or better yet, been pubished in or been selected to the executive board of said journal), you will likely be able to secure a clerkship somewhere and then go on to make oodles of money in the private sector, if so desired.

* * * MEA CULPA UPDATE * * *

Having had some time this afternoon to reflect on this morning’s rant, I think I have to temper my enthusiasm for the modified return rate metric somewhat. Namely, I don’t think that it is as indicative of the best law schools in the state as it is merely a investment-value measurement.

While I believe that average starting salaries among Texas law schools are misleading because I would posit that SMU, Houston, and South Texas‘s numbers are biased upward because most of schools’ graduates remain in either Dallas or Houston to practice, and St. Mary‘s is largely as low as it is because a large percentage of its graduates remain in San Antonio to practice, average starting salary is still probably a greater reflection of school prestige than is a return rate index.

Under my reasoning put forward earlier today, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford would all likely have much lower return rate rankings than their state school brethren, but no one could argue that these schools are not the best in their respective states, if not the country.

Thx to Res Ipsa

Wow

Res Ipsa has another great post today detailing the average starting salaries of Texas law school grads. Unsurprisingly, UT topped the list at $101,111 and Texas Wesleyan–the newest accredited law school in the state–provided the foundation for the list at $57,497.

Res Ipsa also includes a fascinating snapshot of a relative salary comparison tool from CNN Money that will help the curious decide if the grass is truly greener on the other side.

As an aside, for any of my readers that are looking to add a talented lawyer to their ranks, you should get in touch with young Mr. Benson Varghese, who runs Res Ipsa Blog and is currently a 3L at Texas Tech. Since debuting his blog in March of this year, it has consistently proven to be a fine legal read with invaluable content for the Texas Bar (of which Mr. Varghese will no doubt soon be a member).

Thx to Res Ipsa

Following up on our earlier discussions of what metric best delineates BigTex vs. MidTex, (Gross Revenue or Profits Per Partner or Revenue Per Lawyer), Tex Parte Blog injected a new contender into the fray: Profitability Index (PPP / RPL). PI measures “whether equity partners are taking home more or less than the average revenue brought into the firm.”

Below, I’ve compiled the numbers for all the BigTex and MidTex shops (in descending GR order) that are more than just single-city or single-practice outfits, or Texas satellites of BigLaw. The outliers (both high and low) for each metric are highlighted.

Laid bare

Despite the thoughtful comments of a poster over at Greedy Texas, I still adhere to the belief that BigTex is more a measure of overall size, and therefore, relative market dominance. While I can’t argue that Fulbright’s PPP, RPL, and PI indices put it much more solidly in line with most MidTex firms, I remain convinced that a firm that brings in some $300 million more than most MidTex shops can’t be labled as anything less than BigTex. I don’t think a credible argument can be made that a firm bringing in some $650 milion per year cannot provide an order of magnitude difference in capability than a firm with a third the business. Inefficient and relatively unprofitable perhaps, but Big nonetheless.

I think the best example of how, perhaps at least PI is not as instructive a measure of a firm’s relative market standing as is GR, is evidenced by comparing the PIs of Akin Gump and Kelly Hart, which on their face, are not terribly disparate (1.41 v. 1.25). However, if you look at their respective GRs, Akin Gump brought in $700 million more than did Kelly Hart during FY 2007.

Thx to Tex Parte Blog

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