We’ve made it through another year. Well, almost. We probably shouldn’t start counting our bats and pangolins before they’ve hatched. Joe and Kathryn look back at the wild ride of 2021 and make some predictions about what 2022 holds. Also… it’s that time of year to send in your Lawyer of the Year nominations.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lexicon and Nota.
Joe Patrice: Hello.
Kathryn Rubino: Hello. How are you, Joe?
Joe Patrice: I’m good. I’m Joe Patrice from Above the Law.
Kathryn Rubino: I’m Kathryn Rubino. I’m also from Above the Law.
Joe Patrice: You are?
Kathryn Rubino: I am. How weird that we meet here like this?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, it’s –
Kathryn Rubino: Or a planned thing on our calendars every week, either way.
Joe Patrice: That’s fair. So, this is, golly, is this the last show of the year?
Kathryn Rubino: It is.
Joe Patrice: Wow, I think I speak on behalf of everyone in saying that, 2021 was the most awesome of all years ,and it’s going to be really sad to see it go.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s your position. Bold position.
Joe Patrice: I think everybody thinks that this just turned out great.
Kathryn Rubino: So, did you record that at the end of 2020, and you’re hoping that it’s accurate? And it’s like, I’m so confused.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, I mean, it’s the end of a year.
Kathryn Rubino: It is, it is the end of an entire year.
Kathryn Rubino: Wow, why? What did I do?
Joe Patrice: You know what you did? You initiated small talk.
Kathryn Rubino: Did I?
Joe Patrice: And That’s how we introduce the section of this show, for small talk.
Kathryn Rubino: Fair enough, how was your holidays, Joe?
Joe Patrice: Good.
Kathryn Rubino: Do you have fun? What was the Christmas gift that you got or a holiday gift that you got that you really wanted?
Joe Patrice: Booze? Obviously, booze, and being able to see some people was very good. I got to show off some cooking, which is always nice.
Kathryn Rubino: That is good.
Joe Patrice: My quarantine-honed breadmaking skills, and things like that.
Kathryn Rubino: You put to the test, huh?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, that’s good.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I’m so glad that you had a time.
Joe Patrice: Yes, I think that’s fair. How about you?
Kathryn Rubino: I had a really good holiday.
Kathryn Rubino:I got to see my family. My family primarily. Well, my sister lives in Texas with her family, and so they came up, and knock-on wood, kept COVID at bay.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean, everyone’s vaccinated, I assume. So, —
Kathryn Rubino: They are even the children. They are older than five, so they are vaccinated, but I don’t even care if you got a booster.
Joe Patrice: That’s true.
Kathryn Rubino: It’ll hopefully be a fairly mild case if you did get it et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Joe Patrice: And it was preferred for that person, but yeah. No, it was a little spooky for those of us who were like, worried about this coming out when our friend who had a booster got it. That was when we really got the moment we were like, “Oh, oh”.
Kathryn Rubino: It seems like, boosting helps.
Joe Patrice: It certainly helped keep the case down.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure, sure. Yeah, but other than that, I had a pretty happy holiday, and I’m not even at the point where I’m wishing good wishes about 2022. I just more feel braced for whatever it can bring, because it’s not going to be great.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I know. That’s probably fair.
Kathryn Rubino: Like I had at the end of 2020. At the end of 2020, I really felt like, “We made it, you guys, it’s over”.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Now I don’t feel that way. Now I feel like, okay.
Joe Patrice: So, what is the plan for this when you say, like, what you’re hopeful for? So, we’re going to talk about predictions, about things that happen this year?
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. I think that that is certainly —
Joe Patrice:What are we doing? I actually, that’s –
Joe Patrice: That’s actual business. So, now we are out of small talk time.
Kathryn Rubino: You’re such a jerk.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Anyway, yeah, that’s number one on our agenda is, predictions for 2022, not in like, life, because just assume the worst. If you always assume you’re going to be disappointed, you’ll never be really disappointed. But in the legal industry, that’s the thing that we cover that thing we talk about week in and week out. 2021 was a very eventful year and I’m curious, what do you think 2022 has on the agenda for the legal world?
Joe Patrice: I don’t know. I feel like you know, that’s not entirely true. I feel as though the big issue for the next year is going to be settling. If not, this isn’t really much of a surprise. The big issue is going to be firms dealing with the hybrid work from home conundrum.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Obviously, I think that will continue as we have to figure out what normal even means.
But I think the other thing, which will go hand in hand with things like, working from home and remote work, but also is the very busy nature of big law firms, particularly in a lot of the corporate departments, and the lateral market that has been virtually on fire for the entirety of 2021. I do not see that ending in 2022 at all. I think that the amount of deals, amount of legal work that is out there has only gone up. I think that there are not enough bodies to get their work done at a lot of firms. And I think that they are willing to pay a premium to make sure that they get more folks to their firms, so they can continue to churn out the deals, the cases, whatever it is that they’re working on at the pace that they can. And I don’t see that ending anytime soon.
All the indications are – we’ve talked ad nauseam about the 2021, raises, and multiple rounds of special bonuses, and year-end bonuses, which will always happen, because they’re year-end bonuses. But we’ve talked a lot about the sheer amounts of money that have been thrown at associates in big law in 2021. And I don’t think we’ll see these sort of across the board raises or across the board money plays. But for folks who are thinking about leaving, and maybe talking about whether or not they’re going to turn in their notice, I think that there will be a lot of money on the table for highly qualified candidates to stay where they are. I think that people who want them will offer them lots of money to leave. I think that we’re going to continue to see that.
Joe Patrice: Well, and I think so these morphed together, and that I think that we’re going to enter a stage as firms figure out what they’re doing, and get some real solid plans, because right now, I think there’s a lot of – “We’re going to work from home four days a week for a while kind of talk.” Once we start getting clarity of what firm’s actual situation is, and what the workday actually looks like for people in those situations. I think we’re going to start seeing an interesting push-pull when it comes to that compensation that you’re talking about, because I think we’re going to start seeing folks make decisions based not entirely on money. People who will say, “I can make more here, but they make me go into the office five days a week, and I don’t want to do that. I can’t do that. I’ve changed my life around the idea that I pick up my kid two days a week, that sort of thing.” When that starts taking over, we’re going to have a more complex bidding war for talent.
Kathryn Rubino: I think that’s true, but I also think that from the associate position, there’s a lot more question marks on the table. I think you’re right. I think firms are a lot more able/willing to accommodate someone who needs to be home for bath time every day or drop their kids off at x every day —
Joe Patrice: Yup.
Kathryn Rubino: –or whatever, versus somebody who has purchased a house three hours outside of New York City and ten or three-hour plane ride outside of New York City, but has been working via the New York office the entire pandemic. I think that accommodating folks who are not living within easily commutable distance to their primary location is also something that folks are looking for, but it’s a lot harder for every firm to respond to.
Joe Patrice: Well, and that is a thing. And this isn’t a prediction, because this is something we’re already seeing now. I see now people who contact me saying, “I’m looking for a new job, but my position is, ‘I want to be able to live in a certain city several hours away from the market.’” Does anybody want my specialty sufficiently to pay me when I live in Nashville, what if I’m working for a New York firm? And you know, that’s going to be a question, too, because at a certain point — and it depends on practice, too. There are definitely practices I think of tax mostly this way. Sorry, tax lawyers, but there are definitely practices where it’s like, “locking up the kid in the attic, and you just throw fish heads at them” And then out comes tax opinions. They don’t need –
Kathryn Rubino: That is a very specific image you have in your head about tax return.
Joe Patrice: It’s a tree house of horror reference from an old Simpson’s.
Kathryn Rubino:Oh, you’re old. Got it.
Joe Patrice:The episode is old, yes. The point though, is —
Kathryn Rubino:You’re still making the reference to it.
Joe Patrice:Yeah, the point — Because it’s classic. I talk about Beethoven too. You know, I wasn’t alive to see him.
Kathryn Rubino:You were also old. That’s not NOT in addition that you’re old.
Joe Patrice:Yeah, but everything else about me is addition that I’m not old. Anyway, the point is, tax attorneys know, because of the nature of their work which is to take problems and just going to sit down, noodle on them, research and develop opinions. They are not like, say, litigators who have to be at the deposition, yada yada. So, they’re a practice area where the brain and talent can transcend geographic location. And that’s the kind of practice area where I think could become popular with these sorts of long-term remote things. I just think most firms are not yet at that level of comfortability, even though they’ve spent a couple years functionally working with somebody who was across town, but may as well have been in another time zone. A lot of firms, I don’t think are quite ready for it, but there are going to be some that will be this year.
Kathryn Rubino:Well I mean, part of it is — Yeah, I think that there will be some firms that start to change their mindset about that, but I can understand the hesitancy, right? I think that, first of all, we say it a million times but lawyers by training, when they start to think like a lawyer, become sort of that little-c conservative, right? We’re trying to predict what could go wrong, it is something that you spend an awful lot of time doing as an attorney, and trying to insulate yourself from the risks of things going wrong. It’s another part of what you do, right? And so, I think that the notion that “Well, what-if a client has an immediate need and they want to see the entire team in person tomorrow?” Right? If you live 3000 miles away from the client, that becomes more of a challenge. And maybe, the client knows that if they’re hiring a California-based law firm, and they’re a New York-based firm. But if they’re a New York-based client, and they’re hiring a New York-based firm being like, “Hey, the associate that actually knows where all the documents are buried,” is a day away. It might not go —
Joe Patrice:I mean, where the documents are buried is in the cloud too.
Kathryn Rubino:But knows which ones are which, right?
Kathryn Rubino:And I’m just saying that that’s, I think, part of the hesitancy. It’s like, “Well what happens when we need you tomorrow, and you can’t get on a plane?”
Joe Patrice:I mean, how many of these legal departments, the big law New York firms work for are in New York? Obviously, the finance ones are, but —
Kathryn Rubino:Which are also probably the ones most likely to make irrational demands on there.
Joe Patrice:Man, like, yeah. Always possible. But I’m like, when Apple hires a New York-based law firm, like, they’re out in California, you know?
Kathryn Rubino:But they also hire a lot of California-based firms for that reason, right?
Kathryn Rubino:I’m just saying, I think that trying to guard against that is part of, I think, the hesitancy of big law firms, and I think it’ll take more than one year for them to get up to speed.
Joe Patrice:Yeah, I don’t know. I think we’ll start seeing some people break through it, just, because I think the money will eventually hit a point where people just aren’t able to keep up, and are going to have to find innovative ways to make a difference. I think those could be one of them. And again, I think it will depend on practice area, obviously, but —
Kathryn Rubino:So, I definitely think that’s what — that’s the big story to look out for in terms of big law, but I think the legal issue is bigger than just big law. I think that in terms of law school, we’re going to continue to see tons of applications. There were some chatter at the end of 20 —
Joe Patrice:Is this really a prediction or is this now your recap on the year?
Kathryn Rubino:No. This is a prediction.
Joe Patrice:Because it seems like a recap on this year.
Kathryn Rubino:It’s not, because people were saying at the end — November of 2021, people were saying, “Oh, law school applications are actually going to wind up down for the next year,” and I don’t think they are.
Joe Patrice:Wait, but it’s relevant to know if you’re talking about a prediction or a previous story, so that I can figure out when to do the various ad reads that need to be done in this. So, you’re deciding to talk about law school which is a place where you go to —
Kathryn Rubino:Well, why did you go to law school?
Joe Patrice:— which is a place you go to go to be a lawyer, right? Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino:That is why you go to a — yeah. Yeah, that’s right, okay.
Joe Patrice:Yeah, right, and not an accountancy. And again, this is —
Kathryn Rubino:You know, I hear what you’re saying, but I thought —
Joe Patrice:This is why we have these meetings. These —
Kathryn Rubino:No, but — First of all, you didn’t. You’re the one who did not attend said meeting. One, to be clear. Let the record reflect!
Joe Patrice:I mean, I was in the meaning. I don’t know where you went.
Kathryn Rubino:Let the record reflect.
Joe Patrice:This is why you can’t work remote. But hey —
Kathryn Rubino:One of us can’t.
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Kathryn Rubino:So, I think law school applications are going to go up.
Joe Patrice:So earlier this year — In a recap story earlier this year, some folks were predicting that law school applications would be down.
Kathryn Rubino:Right, because —
Joe Patrice:That was not true.
Kathryn Rubino:Well, I don’t believe it – best try. It was because as of a particular date and thing, it was November 29. As of that date, applications were down compared to the 2020 application numbers at that date, still up over the 2019 numbers, but down compared to 2020. The question is whether or not that predicts further down or 2020 was just a blip or will 2021 still continue to, you know, still continue to rise is I think the answer? I think there’s a bunch of reasons why that particular datapoint was lower than it was the year before including the fact that, the LSAT scores got released a week later than they did the year before. I think that pushes back people’s timeframes, and not everybody knew their scores at that point where, you know — the year before at that date they would have known their scores. And your score very much predicts where you’re able to apply, right? So, I think that that was true. I think the other thing that also bodes well for increase in applications over the 2020 numbers is the acceptance of the GRE.
Kathryn Rubino:which is something that happened in 2021 but since 2018, I believe it was, law schools have started to accept the GRE. But the kind of lingering question whenever in probably 50 of these stories over the last four years where it’s just “Oh yeah, such interest school is now saying they’re going to accept the GRE” and in each of those stories up until this year, I always included a paragraph that was like, “Even though they’re accepting it, and a bunch of other law schools have too, we don’t actually know if that’s allowed,” because the ABA is the organization that — they’re the ones that accredit law schools and they have a regulation that says that, you need to have a standardized test that is valid. And the only one that they had ever come out and said was valid was the LSAT. And so, other schools were doing testing to say, “We believe the GRE, the validity testing for the GRE, the ETS, which makes the GRE.” It’s like, who even gets valid?
Kathryn Rubino:Shocking exactly nobody. But finally, this year, the ABA came out and said, “Yep, no, the GRE is fine.”
Joe Patrice:Yeah, there had been pilot programs in place at this part of this testing.
Joe Patrice:But yeah, no. So finally, we’re breaking the LSAT monopoly, which is good because it was kind of nonsensical. GREs are a much better test, and that they are more — it’s easier to take and it’s more modern.
Kathryn Rubino:It’s offered more frequently.
Joe Patrice:Offered more frequently, its interface is better. What it isn’t is, nearly as good at the specific logic issues that the LSAT is known for being good at testing. That said, this is really more of an open door for the GRE to just develop a section that is a logical reasoning section and then —
Kathryn Rubino:Well more, yeah.
Joe Patrice:— give it in the way that they give their others.
Kathryn Rubino:But I think that the other way that lots of schools we do know are using the GRE is to increase their applicant pool to have folks that are —
Kathryn Rubino:And it’s not really folks that just want to take the GRE, it’s a lot of folks who are doing joint degrees, or to entice people to take a joint degree program. Don’t you want your Masters in some STEM field as well as your JD? And that really has opened up the pool, I think, in very interesting ways, for the legal profession.
Joe Patrice:Yeah, well and it opens it up for the people who want joint degrees, as really — which an intellectual property and so on are very important. But also, yeah, you’ve got these people who — Specially schools where you’re not really aiming for a big law job, per se, but you — or want a job in the academic side of law. Like, you might be sitting there saying “Am I better off getting my criminology degree, or my sociology degree, or a law degree?” You know? Why pay for two tests? Take one test that shows how smart you are, and then, you can apply to all the programs.
Joe Patrice:It just makes sense.
Kathryn Rubino:And I think that for the sort of increasing it where the people are just not getting joint degrees, and just taking the GREs, I think that’s more than one year in the future. While, you know, the ABA’s accreditation issues are answered. I don’t think that means that all of a sudden, all the law schools “jump off the cliff” at once, particularly when there are a ton of people who are currently willing to take the LSAT. But I think long term more than just 2022. I think that is another trend to look for.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I know. I feel as though they’re, but we’re also seeing Harvard’s giving any test at all for their undergrads, right? So, it seems like, the standardized test is in trouble as a convention, right?
Kathryn Rubino: Perhaps, I think law school is one of the last places where it’ll die, because first of all, the ABA accreditation requirement does say that, there needs to be a standardized test. And I think the fact that they have increased it to include the GRE, I think is only reason to that’s going to answer a lot of critics of the LSAT, as opposed to a standardized testing generally, at least for a while.
Joe Patrice: You’re assuming the ABA is still going to be here in a year. That’s fascinating.
Kathryn Rubino: That is a prediction. I have.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, that is actually a fairly bold one, because if we’ve seen anything over the last few years for good or ill, it’s the erosion of the power of the organization.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it has definitely the power of it has eroded, and I’m not making any claims about its power, but I think it will certainly exist as an organization for a good long while.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No. So let’s check in with Lexicon.
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Kathryn Rubino: So, the other thing that we like to do at the end of every year Above The Law has a contest for Lawyer of the Year. And we generally, it could be a good thing. It can be lawyers that have done wonderful things in the past year, but it can also be lawyers that have not been great over the course of a year, and those tend to be a lot more fun. And I think in 2021, we had a lot of folks who might win for the bad version of lawyer fee.
Joe Patrice: So, I don’t think of it as a good and bad version. I’ve always looked at our Lawyer of the Year competition as the same way that time theoretically looks at their person of the year, which I think, at this point, their interpretation of it is, “What will drive traffic?” But – –
Kathryn Rubino: Sure.
Joe Patrice: Historically, the way they thought – –
Kathryn Rubino:As for our version of lawyer.
Joe Patrice: No, historically, their interpretation of it was the person who was the most newsworthy person of the year. And that’s why it’s not that it’s good, bad or indifferent. It’s who kind of dominated the year in news.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure.
Joe Patrice: And in some years, that can be a good thing, when you win the marriage equality cases a few years ago, that’s a sign that you’re the Lawyer of the Year. Likewise, if you find yourself in a tabloid battle with the President, that can also be a Lawyer of the Year. So, we’ve run the gamut based on what was newsworthy. Personally, my guess is that, this year is going to be more on the negative side just because the number – –
Kathryn Rubino: Well, 2021 was also –
Joe Patrice: That’s kind of what I was thinking.
Kathryn Rubino: Okay, we always turn nominations for Lawyer of the Year over to our audience, and you should definitely go to abovelaw.com. and you can cast your vote for nominations. But before we get there, Joe, do you have any nominations for who you think should get the nod for a Lawyer of the Year?
Joe Patrice: Not really.
Kathryn Rubino: Okay, then. Well, great talking to you.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t actually think. I know what you’re setting me up for. I don’t necessarily think this person deserves a nod for Lawyer of the Year, but I do think this person was just because they didn’t dominate any of the news of the year, but they definitely had themselves a year, which was, South Dakota’s Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who killed a guy, and managed to get what? Like, a $1,000 fine for killing a guy. Not great. He was driving home from a bar/restaurant where he claims he wasn’t drinking. He hit this person and then drove home. The person was found the next day. Then he claimed he had no idea he had hit a person. That said the person’s glasses were found inside his car.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s hard to do.
Joe Patrice: It’s a little hard to miss that, but yeah. Ultimately, even though this guy has multiple moving violations, and data was able to be grab from his phone to reveal that he was scrolling through various conservative websites, while he was driving. When he had this accident, he still was charged with nothing, but misdemeanors, and ended up paying, like, a thousand bucks, or something like. that for it. There was a civil action, and that one, I think, has been settled for some undisclosed amount.
Kathryn Rubino: Fair enough. Yeah. Well, there are a lot of folks, I think who will get some years. It’s kind of a struggle to figure out who the Lawyer of the Year is. I think in 2021, we’re almost spoiled for too many options. I think, Sidney Powell will get some votes. I think RudyGiuliani will get some votes. I think Lynn Wood will get some votes.
Joe Patrice: I mean, John Eastman, all of these people.
Kathryn Rubino: John Eastman. Yeah. I think that the whole fact that we had a coup in 2021, opens up the door.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Really?
Joe Patrice: I want to remind folks, Alex Murdoch, like, claims somebody tried to kill him, and then, it was revealed that he had hired a hitman to try and kill him after he’d been stealing from the firm or something. There’s a bunch of talk about how – –
Kathryn Rubino: I forgot that happened.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And his wife and son had been murdered a few months earlier. Questions about whether these were connected at all, or if this was some sort of a connection to the sun having been implicated and yet another death? All of that happened this year.
Kathryn Rubino: That did happen. But I was going kind of on the coup realm.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. That makes sense.
Kathryn Rubino: For a minute, but there was obviously a lot of folks who got sort of nationwide above the fold headlines like, the folks I mentioned, like the Giuliani’s of the world. But I think in the niche of Above The Law, it would be remiss if I didn’t mention Paul Davis.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that was a fun guy.
Kathryn Rubino: That was a fun one. I thought it was just going to be a one-off story in January 7, but it turns out it was actually the story that kept on storying. For those who don’t remember, he was an associate general counsel at an insurance company who was filmed himself at the coup on January 6, was promptly fired from his job as an associate general counsel. And you would think that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. He filed suit over the 2020 election, and in various of his papers in that case, he made reference to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, saying, “Gondor has no King, and we therefore, the U.S. should overturn the election, I guess?” But his love of the Shire featured prominently in a lot of his legal writings. Then the folks that he was theoretically representing in this case fired him, and then there was another case, and that it was a whole mess of a thing, but suffice it to say, Joe Biden is still the President.
Joe Patrice: For now.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, time will always move forward.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I know.
Kathryn Rubino: He’ll not be President for more than eight years in any scenario.
Joe Patrice: Right but, yeah, that was certainly crazy. We’ve had some bizarre abuses of the legal system.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s been a year.
Joe Patrice: Trump is currently being represented by a parking garage lawyer who has sued the attorney general of New York. So that’s the thing that’s happening. Jenna Ellis was prominently involved in the early days of this coup, and that’s when we found out that her prior legal experience before becoming counsel to the President was that, she had been fired from her job as a traffic lawyer. It’s been a year, and it’s hard to believe that these people went to law school to be lawyers. I’ve already done that one.
Kathryn Rubino: You already done it. Yeah, no. There are a lot of great folks that should be nominated. You should all take a look at that at Above The Law. And, yeah, here’s hoping that 2022 has less of everything.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I think that’s right.
Kathryn Rubino: Just a quieter a year. That’s what I would enjoy. That’s my hope. That’s my hope for 2022.
Kathryn Rubino: I feel a little defeated by 2021, and I’m not embarrassed by that fact. I’m more shocked if someone isn’t.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s right. Well, hey, it’s been a good year, everybody. I hope you’re all subscribed to the show, so you can get access and when they drop, you should be giving us reviews, stars, writing something helps out. You should be listening to the JABO, Her Show, Legal Tech Week, Journalist Roundtable, my show. The Legal Talk Network has a variety of shows that we’re not even on that you should check out. You should be reading Above The Law to read these and other stories. You should be, oh, well, what else? Follow us on social media. I’m at Joseph Patrice. She’s at Catherine I.
Kathryn Rubino:Numeral one.
Joe Patrice: Numeral one. Yeah. Thanks to Nota powered by MT bank and Lexicon. And with that, I think we will finally be done with 2021.
Joe Patrice:Thanks everybody.
Kathryn Rubino:To the worst.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com