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New rankings for corporate law firms in NYC

According to a new survey by Corporate Board Member magazine, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is the number one New York corporate law firm. Cravath Swaine & Moore, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Sullivan & Cromwell, and Davis Polk & Wardwell also scored highly.

The rankings are based on the opinions of directors serving on boards of publicly traded companies listed with the NASDAQ Stock Market, New York Stock Exchange, or American Stock Exchange. The survey was conducted among 1,390 directors nationally and in 25 metropolitan areas.

The survey was carried out by Corporate Board Member which is a bimonthly publication based out of Tennessee in association with the Baltimore consulting firm FTI.

Harvard Law School to ban laptops in classrooms
Harvard Law School has taken steps to ban the use of laptop computers in classrooms. The measure has not yet been officially adopted, though some professors have already forbidden them in their classes.

The move comes in the wake of the realization that students are not paying enough attention to lectures but instead check e-mail and surf the net during class time. Proponents of laptops in the classroom claim it makes note taking easier. Detractors claim wireless Internet in the classroom is little more than a distraction.

Some have suggested a middle ground, proposing that the school find a way to block wireless Internet in the classroom without banning laptops altogether.

New strategies for law firms' survival
In response to last year's dissolution of two well-known Boston law firms, Hutchins, Wheeler & Dittmar and the hundred-year-old Hill & Barlow, Richard E. Nicolazzo, President and CEO of Boston-based Nicolazzo & Associates, has released a detailed list of suggestions for how to avoid the pitfalls of law firm restructurings, mergers, layoffs, downsizing, and closings.

Based on his experience in providing Strategic Communications Management programs to a diverse, national client base, Nicolazzo advocates a strategically formulated communications process that reaches beyond simple public relations, a process linked to the core strategy of a client's business. He encourages law firms to embrace effective marketing as the key to survival.

The steps Nicolazzo outlines include having a marketing team that comprises a senior partner, taking time to outline marketing goals, setting aside adequate funds for marketing, focusing on key strengths, and being patient while the new strategies are implemented.

Nicolazzo also advises law firms to create marketing partner positions, and he predicts that in the next few years, most firms will have done so.

Second California office for Mintz Levin
Boston-based law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo has opened an office in San Diego with a team of 12 lawyers defecting from rival firm Fish & Richardson. The prize catch was Fish & Richardson's Marketing Director, David Salisbury.

A number of East Coast firms are opening offices in California to cash in on entrepreneurial activity in areas such as life sciences, intellectual property, and technology. Currently, San Diego is witnessing an economic upswing based on high technology startups.

Prior to this, Mintz Levin took over the Reed Intellectual Property Law Group and opened a Palo Alto office. This marked the firm's first major expansion to the West Coast.

Helpful tips from the peanut gallery about making a career transition.
Chances for change

BullRunner: What are your opinions regarding what I have been contemplating for the last few months. I do 100% litigation and want to make a change to transactional type work. I have some experience in the specialty I want to move into but based on the (screwed up) way firms around Philadelphia hire, I don't think I'd have a real chance at a job. Just wanted some outside feedback (and wanted to keep it anonymous). Thanks to all who respond, if anyone's out there at all.

Dancer: Are you looking to move to 100% transactional immediately? Or would a gradual shift be okay? If the latter is true, I'd see if there are any partners you could ask for some trans work. You would think, if you litigate X-related matters, you'd have some good insight into what would make a good X transactions lawyer.

hamburgerman: i'd recommend making a slower shift. if you rack up a little trans experience, you'll be more likely to be taken seriously to a new employer. making a shift like that can be tough without experience. take on some trans matters at your current firm before making the leap.

Philagator: Does the firm you work at now do transactional work? If so, I'd look there first and see if you can slide over. Some firms will allow that. Then if you want to do other trans work later, you can at least have some significant experience under your belt.

BullRunner: Unfortunately for me, I am at a firm where there is no trans work. I'd be making a move without having done any of that. I think my chances are slim, but I am really set on moving. Thanks for your responses.

AmbulanceChaser: Bull - I think your assessment of your own situation is right. Your chances are slim, but that doesn't and shouldn't stop you from trying.

hamburgerman: i'd recommend finding a firm where you can use your other experience as a qualification, then shift into trans work. like, find a firm that does what you do now and trans work. tell them that you want to shift into trans work in the interview. a lot of firms have the attitude of you cant teach an old dog new tricks.

dubs00: Not to sound trite, but just because your current firm doesn't do it, is there any reason why you couldn't reach out to existing clients for that type of work? Even Insurance Defense firms have clients that might need that type of work in the future.

johndoe1: I agree with making the gradual change either at your current law firm or at another law firm that has a transactional group. Most firms do not want to invest their time or money in teaching an attorney the transactional side of law, unless they are a first year.

I actually made the switch from litigation to transactional work via a merger; there was a need for a transactional attorney because many had left, so I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. I also suggest doing some real estate, corporate, or estate litigation because you will be exposed to some the basics of transactional work. For example, in real estate litigation, you may have to review title work, which will help you in doing a residential or commercial closing.

If you do decide to go to another firm, I would definitely be upfront about making a gradual switch, as I have seen attorneys fired for soliciting work outside their practice group. The firm is hiring you to fill a need; if you are not going to do the work you were hired to do, then they can always find someone who will.

BullRunner: There is no possibility of doing trans type work at my current firm. We don't do any. 100% litigation. I like the advice of using the lit exp I have now to get me in the door somewhere else and then after a year or so move form within. Thanks.

TalentScout: Changing practice areas is always tough— especially when it's dramatic. I managed to change from litigation into corporate after having practiced the former for only one year— this was in New York where it's no easier— even 20 years ago— based upon market conditions (a dearth of junior corporate associates) and the fact that grads from my law school were in high demand. One possibility (which you won't like to hear) is to get an LLM in something like tax. This may enable you to have employers look at you with more of a fresh eye— though that is going to, almost by necessity, get you started as a VERY junior corporate associate. There are some disciplines, like real estate, where it is easier to move from the lit to the transactional side— if real estate lit is an option for you, I would give it a shot. If you want to build a little bit of current transactional experience, there may be non-profit public interest places in Philly where you could get experience drafting agreements (ex, places that provide counseling to small businesses, arts professionals, etc.)

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