Anna Schneider-Mayerson, Bad Ideas, Bonuses, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg Weiss, New York Observer, Parties, Plaintiffs Firms, Yachts

Milberg Weiss Death Watch: Partying on a Sinking Ship

melvyn weiss mel weiss.jpgOne of our favorite legal reporters, Anna Schneider-Mayerson of the New York Observer — a paper that is, by the way, now under new ownership — chimes in on the slow death of securities class-action behemoth Milberg Weiss (headed by Melvyn Weiss, pictured).
Most of her piece summarizes recent developments that have been reported previously elsewhere. But the article does contain some nice color, including details about the indicted firm’s summer party on board an enormous yacht.
Some of our favorite anecdotes, after the jump.

Here are the juiciest bits from the article:

On Friday, July 28, a 160-foot-long yacht called Duchess docked along the Hudson River at 41st Street, decked out like a hula dancer for a corporate party with a Pacific-island theme. It’s not rare for a big law firm like Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, the event’s sponsor, to hold such a lavish do for no particular reason. On one floor, two Bambi-eyed perfectly Bain de Soleil’d women entertained with Tahitian dancing. Elsewhere, there was mock gambling.

Indeed. Most firms don’t throw a big party after getting indicted. But then again, Milberg Weiss isn’t like most firms.
Turnover is running very high. But Milberg is addressing the problem, in the manner that law firms address most of their problems: by throwing money at it.

Published reports have documented the departure of about two dozen attorneys since the indictments were handed down. That’s a lot in a firm of 125 lawyers…. The firm is taking expensive measures to retain staff, according to Mr. Weiss. Associates and “other professionals,” he said, just received a raise. That was on top of “retention bonuses.”

Mr. Weiss would not detail the terms of those offers, but according to the attorney at a competing firm who has interviewed Milberg lawyers for jobs, employees who are still working at the firm on Sept. 15 are promised a bonus equaling 10 percent of their salary on Oct. 1.

And they’re also shelling out what are probably large sums to high-priced lawyers and consultants:

[T]he firm has retained the services of several prominent lawyers, including D.C. defense lawyer William Taylor III, a veteran of the Whitewater investigations. There is also a battery of public-relations experts and crisis handlers, including three prominent law professors—Mr. Neuborne and his colleague at New York University, Samuel Issacharoff, and Arthur Miller of Harvard… Providing public-relations advice is none other than Howard Wolfson, of the Glover Park Group, who is a key advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton.

If the firm falls apart, which is looking increasingly likely, at least founding partner Mel Weiss has something to fall back on: kosher baking.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz may serve kosher lunches, but at Passover, Mr. Weiss—an active contributor to Democratic and Jewish causes—prepares matzo brei for the entire firm.

Save This Firm! Milberg Weiss Is Nearing Iceberg [New York Observer]

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