Sara Randazzo’s Wall Street Journal article about pay and structure differences at big law firms has been getting a lot of attention. The article is a masterpiece and is a must read for people interested in how big firms operate.

This is the first of multiple posts about the issues the article raises.

It opens:

Four hundred of Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s top lawyers gathered in May at an oceanfront resort in Southern California to toast another banner year.

Kirkland was the highest-grossing law firm in the world for the second year running, earning $3.76 billion in revenue. When a slide flashed on the screen, showing the value of the firm’s shares, the partners in the room quickly did the math. They would be taking home $1.75 million to $15 million.

Not invited were another 560 partners, who were back at the firm’s 15 offices around the world, working. Though outwardly carrying the same title as those lounging poolside in California, they hold no equity in the firm and generally can expect to make $800,000 at most. While a comfortable living, the salary and its implied second-class status is not the reward many expected after striving to join the venerated partnership.

This is life at the modern law firm, where not all partners are created equal, and data and money rule.

My Take:

Boo freaking hoo. No one feels sorry for those non-equity partners except themselves.

Anyone making $800,000 a year to practice law should be thrilled. There are thousands of great lawyers who don’t make a quarter that.

Why would a lawyer making $800,000 feel like a second-class citizen? Because someone down the hall makes even more. For the envious, it’s more about wanting others to make less than them making more.

Most would never admit this, of course. But a few would.

A problem for big law firms is that most of the attorneys don’t know how good they have it.

I’ve had this discussion with a lot of former big law firm attorneys like myself. We hate listening to big firm lawyers bitch about their firm. We don’t think they would be so unhappy if they had experience operating a solo or small firm practice where not only are there no salaries for the owner(s), but you can lose money.

Most non-equity partners have it great. Yes, they have to work a lot of hours and endure the firm bureaucracy. It’s a fair trade.

Rainmakers provide the fuel that keeps the machine running. At most firms, rainmakers will be the highest paid because they are the hardest to replace. It might even be impossible. That’s just reality.

Congratulations to the lock-step firms. It’s a great model. But it would never work for everyone. I’ll have more to say on this topic in a future post.

There has been some national news lately pertinent to the ongoing crisis with Mississippi’s public employees’ retirement system (PERS).

This Tax Foundation article contains a map showing funding levels for all states. It lists Mississippi’s funding level as 62%, which ranks 40th nationally. Kentucky is last with a funding level of 34%. You can read how Kentucky is addressing the problem here.

This Pension Plus post explains that PERS investment returns fell short of projections this year, further straining underfunded systems.

Meanwhile, the PERS crisis does not seem to be a campaign issue for candidates running for statewide office.

Mississippi will apparently wait until the next financial crisis blows up the system before making a serious run at addressing the crisis. Not good for people who like things like decent roads and bridges.

Regular readers of this blog will notice that the layout has changed. The reason for the new layout is so the blog is mobile friendly and can be easily read on smart phones.

Truthfully, updating to a mobile friendly blog layout was not a priority for me. Lexblog, which hosts my blog, updated the site so it would no longer look like it was out of the dark ages when viewed on mobile devices.

The new design looks great on my I-phone. So I should have done the update years ago.

On July 18, 2019 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an $83,447 plaintiff verdict in Griggs v. Chickasaw County. Here is my 2017 post on the verdict.

From my original post:

The plaintiff Lamon Griggs was a Chickasaw County bailiff and solid waste enforcement officer who ran for Sheriff against long-time chief deputy and current Sheriff James Meyers. Griggs lost. Meyers took office and fired Griggs to settle the score.

The jury determined that the firing was wrongful and awarded Griggs $83,447.

Here is the Fifth Circuit’s opinion.

The Court rejected Defendant’s legal arguments and found there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict.

Jim Waide and Rachel Pierce Waide of Waide & Associates in Tupelo represented the plaintiff.

Here is a preview of the July 2019 issue of the Miss. Jury Verdict Reporter:

  • $1.5 million verdict- Lamar County breach of contract case covered here (6/5/19);
  • $150,000 bench verdict- Clay County legal malpractice case (6/24/19);
  • $30,000 verdict- Hinds County car wreck case covered here (6/20/19);
  • $18,990 verdict- Hinds County breach of contract case (5/21/19);
  • defense verdict- Benton County funeral home negligence case (5/31/19); and
  • defense verdict- Oxford federal court employment retaliation case (6/12/19).

My Take:

Lamar County is the jackpot justice venue and Hinds County is the venue for low plaintiff PI verdicts? Wow, things changed while I was out of town this summer.

On June 18, 2019 a Hinds County County Court jury rendered a $30,000 Plaintiff’s verdict in Aaron Adams v. Shawn Collins.

The trial involved a car wreck at the intersection of Frontage Road and Adkins Blvd. in Jackson. Plaintiff contended Defendant made an improper left turn. Defendant countered that Plaintiff was speeding and tried to improperly pass on Defendant’s left.

The Plaintiff injured his elbow and incurred $6,000 in medical bills.

The trial lasted two days. The jury deliberated for an hour and returned a 6-0 verdict.

Rocky Wilkins and Paul Ott with Morgan & Morgan represented the Plaintiff.

Patrick Tatum with Upshaw Williams represented Defendant.

Judge Larita Cooper Stokes presided.

My Take:

People drive like idiots at the Jackson intersections on and around the Frontage Road. The fact that there are multiple turn lanes is just too much for many Jackson drivers, who can’t stay in their lane.

Every time you turn, you have to size up the driver in the next lane and make a judgment call about how stupid they look. People driving cars with dents in every quarter panel are not going to stay in their lane. Same for people driving with one hand and holding their cell phone in the other hand. Be ready with the horn because they are coming your way.

Maybe next week I’ll discuss idiot drivers in roundabouts.