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Diversity Council at Holland & Knight

Holland & Knight LLP has formed a Diversity Council that will oversee diversity initiatives and programs in its 18 offices nationwide.

Holland & Knight partner Paul Thomas, an experienced counselor on corporate diversity issues, has been named Chief Diversity Officer and will also serve as the Firm Diversity Partner, chairing the new council. The Diversity Council consists of 13 members, including Mr. Thomas. Its mission is to ensure that all firm activities continue to foster diversity in all offices. The inaugural council includes top partners from across the country.

Under the direction of the new Diversity Council, Holland & Knight has also created "Affinity Initiatives" to better focus on the needs and interests of the African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Native American communities. The new initiatives will add new depth to previously established efforts centering on women, GLBT and other groups.

Lawyers Care
Josh Kaplan, a 27-year-old graduate of Yale Law School and a second-year associate at Arnold & Porter, is asking fellow associates to give back a portion of their 2006 raises which range between $5,000 and $10,000.

Recently, top law firms have increased associate pay, with first-year salaries often starting at $135,000. Kaplan is of the view that the salary increase was not merit-based but resulted from a domino effect. Law firms have grown, but the pool of law students from top-tier law schools has remained fairly constant. So if one firm increases associate salaries, others must all follow suit to compete for the best talent.

Not wanting to define himself by the size of his paycheck, Josh wants to change the general perception of lawyers. He wants to convey to the world that the typical lawyer is not a greedy fat cat but a normal human being.

To prove his point, he has started a campaign which will prove that law firm associates are charitable. The website givealittle2006 asks associates to give back a portion of their salary with the goal of raising $250,000. The featured organizations include Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross, Care and the Clinton Foundation.

Supreme Court favors Business Arbitration
A major ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court has gone in favor of businesses wanting to settle disputes through arbitration, giving them power to do so. The ruling states that arbitration agreements are to be adhered to even when a contract's overall validity is in dispute.

Arbitration, often faster and less expensive, is generally preferred by business houses, and the decision is a message to the judiciary not to tamper with the arbitration system.

The ruling was handed down in a case involving Buckeye Check Cashing, an advance payday loan company. The company made a financial agreement with Cardegna, who agreed to the terms and conditions of the company and also signed a contract stipulating that "any claim, dispute, or controversy" would be settled "by binding arbitration pursuant to this Arbitration Provision." Later, however, Cardegna filed a class-action suit in a Florida state court, alleging that the rates of interest Buckeye charged on each loan were criminally usurious. As per the terms of the agreement, Buckeye looked for arbitration to settle the issue of the contract's legality. Cardegna did not agree, claiming that the arbitration clause did not apply, as the contract itself was void.

The State Court and the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Buckeye, but the U.S. Supreme Court stated that issues concerning the validity of the contract must also go to an arbitrator. It is a victory for businesses, especially financial service companies who are often charged that their contracts are not valid.


Firms to Avoid

alighieri: I am nearing the end of a judicial clerkship, and I am about to start a search for an entry-level attorney position with a firm. Are there firms that I should completely avoid? On the flip side, are there certain firms that I should consider over others (assuming I'm lucky enough to be in such a position)? I think that I would rather work for a small to mid-size firm. Any opinions would be helpful, thanks.

dubs00: In what market (where do you want to live)?

alighieri: Chicago.

bakerstreet: Mayer Brown has a great rep. People don't seem to leave once they get there (No, it's not like the John Grisham novel). And it's a Chicago-based firm, which I think is vastly superior to working in the Chicago office of a NY firm.

JD_Jr: i worked for ross dixon & bell in chicago and they have no concept of "personal life" and treat associates like crap.

alighieri: What is a reasonable number of hours a firm should expect of its associates?

hamburgerman: depends on how much you get paid. biglaw is going to pay you a lot and demand a lot of hours.

Mr. Mysterio: "Reasonable" is 1800, but mega firms usually expect 2000, at a minimum, up to 2400. To put it in perspective, 2000 is the amount of time a normal person puts in by working 40 hours a week, i.e. 8 hours a day, for 50 weeks with 2 weeks off of vacation a year.

Ah, but the catch is that lawyers are not normal people, are they? In order to legitimately bill an average of 8 hours a day, you have to put in at least 10 and often more like 12 hour days, because it is very difficult to honestly bill for every minute of your time at the office. Billable hours means living your life in 6-minute increments of time.

As long as you have clients who pay, it's a great way to make a living, although one does become resentful of becoming a slave to one's watch and, when one is just starting out, feeling as if all one is good for is cranking out the hours so that the partners can all make their Mercedes payments.
The firms that pay those huge starting salaries tend to be the ones who don't give a flying f**k about the person who they are paying all that money to - it is worth it to them to bring in the best and the brightest, grind them up and spit them up out after five years of paying top dollar, because there are plenty more where that came from who will take the money every time. In those firms, research shows that the likelihood of ever reaching true partner status is slim and none.

Pretty much, at this stage, do some research and decide what you're willing to put up with. Ask yourself what kind of quality of life issues you are going to have for the first five years in practice. Probably the most important thing though is to try to steer yourself into an area that interests you, rather than taking something just because it's a job or because it pays well. It is really difficult to switch horses very radically once you've started down a particular path. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it can be tough, so just try to choose wisely. Or at least choose a firm or other institution where there might be opportunities in more than one department.

Finally, take advantage of the job you have now. As a clerk, you are in the cat bird seat because you get to see which firms turn in quality work, which don't. Check out the ones that have intrigues because of the kind of work, quality of work, or a particular attorney that caught your attention.

Way more info that you asked for, but, hey, it's worth every penny you paid for it.

A1Princess60: I have to agree with Baker - Mayer has a great rep and they do excellent work. They are a very dignified firm overall.

Holland & Knight LLP

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