August 2014

Dechert LLP logo Dechert Price Rhoads Above the Law blog.jpgDon’t believe everything you read in these pages. If a gossip site isn’t flat-out wrong a sizable percentage of the time, it’s not sufficiently gossipy.
But we were right about something being afoot at Dechert LLP. This morning we wrote:

We’ve been hearing vague rumblings of something about to go down over at Dechert LLP. Said rumblings are reminiscent of what we heard in the days and hours leading up to Cadwalader’s Thursday Morning Massacre….

We hear that certain groups at Dechert are super-slow, and morale in some quarters is super-low. These are, of course, often harbingers of lawyer layoffs.

Now we learn this, from Gina Passarella in the Legal Intelligencer:

The slowing economy has hit home at Dechert which has just let go 13 associates strictly in its finance and real estate practice, according to a source inside the firm….

Dechert has given the 13 associates, who have worked in Dechert offices throughout the United States, until the close of business Tuesday to leave. No one was asked to leave Friday, the source said….

There were no additional layoffs prior to today, but some attorneys were shifted into other practice areas, the firm source said. The layoffs comprise less than 10 percent of the 167 attorneys listed in Dechert’s finance and real estate practice, which includes mortgage finance, structured finance and securitization, investment, and mergers and acquisitions.

The attorneys who are leaving were offered three months severance, six months of paid medical benefits and transition placement support, the source said.

Three months seems to be “market” in terms of severance. There was some fear that laid-off Dechert associates were going to get less.
ATL gets a shout-out in the piece:

Legal blog Above The Law has reported extensively on associate and staff layoffs across the country. The reports included associate layoffs at Thacher Proffitt, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and Clifford Chance, mainly in the structured finance, real estate and capital markets practices of those firms.

Today, Above The Law posted a blog on rumors of low morale at Dechert, questioning whether layoffs were imminent.

The article closes with a helpful overview of the layoff landscape:

Dechert’s news puts the U.S. legal scene over the 100-attorney mark in terms of attorney layoffs and offered buyouts this economic cycle. According to data collected by The American Lawyer, 35 attorneys were laid off at Cadwalader Wickersham; 24 Thacher Proffitt mid-levels were offered buyouts plus an additional five first-years took optional buyouts; six Clifford Chance associates were laid off and 23 associates at McKee Nelson took buyouts.

Check out the full article, which also discusses Dechert’s record-setting year in 2007 — $836 million in gross revenue, and more than $2.3 million in profits per equity partner — by clicking here.
Update (5:15 PM): Okay, we’re confused. We just received this email, sent out by firm chairman Barton Winokur, and forwarded to us by a Dechert source. Our source had heard that the 13 were being laid off. But this email implies otherwise:
From: Winokur, Barton
Sent: Friday, February 29, 2008 4:37 PM
To: ALL Dechert Users
Subject:
Due to the major shift in market conditions affecting client demands in our Finance and Real Estate practice area, we currently do not have sufficient work for all the associates in FRE. As a consequence, we have told 13 associates in the U.S. FRE group that we see no demand for them in that group in the foreseeable future. However, due to increased and substantial demand in other practice areas, we will be offering those lawyers the opportunity to work in those other groups.
Barton J. Winokur
Dechert LLP
Update (5:40 PM): We have reached out to Barton Winokur for clarification. We will let you know if and when he gets back to us.
Update (6:20 PM): The Legal Intelligencer has revised its piece somewhat, in light of the Winokur email:

The slowing economy has hit home at Dechert which just issued layoff notices to 13 associates strictly in its finance and real estate practice, according to a source inside the firm.

Shortly after the firm confirmed the planned layoffs, the source said Chairman Barton J. Winokur issued a statement that the firm would then offer the 13 associates positions in other practice groups. [Reprints the email.]

There was no word as to whether those associates, who had been given severance packages, accepted the revised offer to switch practices.

Update (6:35 PM): We’re hearing conflicting things about whether these 13 lawyers really are being given the opportunity to switch practice groups, or whether they’re being laid off outright, with additional lawyers getting moved internally.
We will continue to monitor and report about what’s going down at Dechert. If you can clarify this somewhat murky situation for us, please email us. Thanks.
Layoffs Hit Dechert Following Record Financial Year [Legal Intelligencer]

Arnold.JPG* Arnold Schwarzenegger gets his tank back, offers rides to children. [Houston Chronicle]
* The Morality of Trade: “Commerce is not a cuss word.” [Commerce Law]
* Did anybody remember that it’s a leap year? [PrawfsBlawg]
* Perhaps the shortest jury deliberation ever. [CNN]
* Virginia Supreme Court strikes down taxation without representation. So close, DC! [OpenMarket.org]

Yoshino.jpgNYU School of Law announced today that it has hired Professor Kenji Yoshino as a tenured faculty member. He was a visiting professor at the school last year and again this spring.

Professor Yoshino graduated from Yale Law in 1996 and is influential in the fields of constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature. It’s quite a score for NYU. Read the original email announcement, from Dean Ricky Revesz, after the jump.

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Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHere’s some happy news from Heller Ehrman. It appears they have heard the complaints, and they’ve done something about them. From one source:

Attached is the long awaited Heller Ehrman compensation memo, and at first glance, I’m pretty impressed. They seemed to have listened to associates’ concerns and made some pretty significant changes. They reinstated the 2000 hour bonus and have decided to retroactively pay the 2000 hour bonus to all eligible associates for 2007. I’m happy about the compensation bump which brings us more in line with the market, but what I’m really excited about is that the firm has decreased the first year billable expectation to 1600 without decreasing salaries. With the launch of a new mentoring program and this announcement about 300 career development hours for first years, the firm is actually acting on its long-stated goal of promoting associate development.

Another tipster concurs, also zeroing in on the new program for first-year associates:

Attached is the Heller Ehrman 2008 Associates Compensation memo, which associates received this morning. I think the compensation memo demonstrates that the firm has responded to associates’ concerns in a very positive way. The firm is reinstating the 2000-hour bonus for 2008, and making retroactive 2000-hour bonus payments for 2007.

Perhaps most positively, the firm is providing 300 hours of career development for first-year associates, so that first-years will now have only a 1600-hour billable requirement. I think law students and first-year associates will see this as a very positive development, which recognizes associates’ desire for career development, but also gives the firm a way to recognize clients’ staffing concerns.

After the bad press the firm has been getting in recent months, I think this memo is some good news, and I hope ATL will recognize it as such.

We do. Check out the memo, after the jump.
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: A Heller Ehrman Update

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Love.jpgMarc J. Randazza fills us in on the Texas sex toy ban, just struck down by the Fifth Circuit. According to Marc, the arguments for outlawing the sale of toys for your pleasure-parts are thus:

(1) If the Texas dildo law is invalidated as an improper encroachment upon personal liberty, this will open the floodgates, and laws on bigamy and incest will be struck down too.

(2) Striking down the law “impermissibly overrides state lawmakers’ settled ‘authority to regulate commercial activity they deem harmful to the public’” (naturally citing a dissenting opinion from the 11th Circuit).

Marc slams the arguments for his own well-articulated reasons at the link. To us, the first argument is a slippery (heh) slope argument, which is usually a weak logical tactic. The second argument is stronger, although we’d like to see a list of reasons why sex toys are so harmful.
It is still illegal to sell sex toys in Alabama. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an Alabama case in 2007 on the subject, so the lower court’s ruling (upholding the ban) remains intact. This quote, from Alabama store owner Sherri Williams (the store’s name is “Pleasures”) sums up the passion of people across the Southland who find the ban ridiculous:

“My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up,” she said.

You go, girl. By contrast, guns are perfectly legal in both states.
Texas — Still Obsessed With Dildos [Legal Satyricon]

Samantha Power 2 Cass Sunstein Kennedy School of Government Above the Law blog.JPGWe greatly enjoyed our recent visit to the University of Chicago Law School. The U. Chicago students were very welcoming and made us feel right at home, even inviting us to their law school musical — which, by the way, was delightful.
(We added many of them as friends on Facebook before we were mysteriously banned from the site, without notice or explanation. So if you no longer see us on FB, it’s not because we “de-friended” you, but because our account was disabled.)
A few Chicago students, however, had a bone to pick with us. They objected to this ATL post, which cast the recently announced departure of Professor Cass Sunstein — prominent scholar, beloved teacher, and possible Supreme Court nominee under President Obama — as a hiring coup by Harvard Law School, a triumph by HLS over Chicago. They emphasized that Professor Sunstein’s leaving the Windy City for Cambridge was prompted by personal rather than professional reasons.
Professor Sunstein said as much his farewell email (emphasis added; in fact, all emphases added throughout this post, unless otherwise indicated):

I’m writing to say that I’ve just accepted an appointment at Harvard Law School. It is an understatement to say that I don’t take this step easily or lightly. As most of you know, I’ve been reflecting on this question for several years. I finally decided, for personal reasons, that I need a change.

Since he’s a prominent Obama supporter — as well an adviser to the campaign, but more on that later, since it ties into our tale — it’s not surprising that Professor Sunstein is All About Change.
The law school’s popular leader, Dean Saul Levmore, also stressed the personal component to Professor Sunstein’s move. As he told the University of Chicago’s student newspaper, the Maroon:

“I’m sort of embarrassed that [the story] said that the University of Chicago couldn’t be reached for comment,” Levmore said. “It looks like we didn’t want to talk, but the truth is that this decision [to leave Chicago for Harvard] was based on personal reasons and I respect that privacy. The media will find out about them soon enough.

With a comment like this, Dean Levmore was basically begging us to go digging. So dig we did.
Martha Nussbaum Cass Sunstein Above the Law blog.jpgLet’s see, Cass Sunstein’s “personal reasons” for leaving U. Chicago… hold on a sec. Isn’t Professor Sunstein part of legal academia’s most fabulous power couple, together with that renowned philosopher queen, Professor Martha Nussbaum? And didn’t Professor Nussbaum just turn down a Harvard offer?
That was then; this is now. What we learned in our investigation is consistent with this ATL comment, as well as this (subsequently removed) Wikipedia edit.
It appears that Professor Sunstein may be part of a new “power couple” — in the most literal sense. Rumor has it that he’s romantically involved with Professor Samantha Power — a beautiful, brainy professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who is roughly 15 years his junior. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner who has also been profiled in Men’s Vogue (see glamorous photo, at the top of this post). What’s not to like?
Update: More about Samantha Power here (from a college classmate who tried to hit on her, without success, and just ended arguing politics with her).
Now, please don’t give us full credit (or blame) for bringing to light the Sunstein-Power relationship. When we attended the Chicago Law School musical last weekend, Samantha Power got a shout-out near the end of the show, when the Cass Sunstein character announced his departure for Harvard. So the rumor of her romance with Professor Sunstein is already widely known throughout the U. Chicago community (and beyond); it’s no state secret. It is already known to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
We reached out to all three members of this Mensalicious love triangle, which seems to come straight out of a Saul Bellow novel. Find out what we learned — two of them had no comment, but one of them did — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Real Reason Cass Sunstein’s Going to Harvard? He’s Got the Power”

Listserv.gifFrom one of our tipsters:
Richard Rosenbaum, president of Greenburg Traurig, made the following group email faux pas. He used the company listserv to send two emails soliciting contributions for the McCain campaign, proving that law students aren’t the only bumbling souls who screw up listserv etiquette. From Rosenbaum’s first email:

“As we have said on a number of other occasions, our firm does not support any particular presidential candidates as a firm. We are a business catering to a wide range of clients and employing lawyers and staff with a wide variety of interests and preferences in the political arena…”

Blah blah blah, a bunch of politically correct qualifiers, then BANG! The money-grab:

“I have recently been named a National Co-Chair of Senator McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. As has previously been the case, over the next several months I will be working alongside several other leaders from the American business and legal communities to personally solicit contributions and other political support for Senator McCain’s presidential campaign.”

Now, of course, Rosenbaum goes on to say that participation is voluntary, etc. But is it really appropriate for a firm President to use group email to solicit campaign funds?
More, after the jump.

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Dechert LLP logo Dechert Price Rhoads Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve been hearing vague rumblings of something about to go down over at Dechert LLP. Said rumblings are reminiscent of what we heard in the days and hours leading up to Cadwalader’s Thursday Morning Massacre. Also note this comment on today’s Morning Docket:

Not all Dechert associates have three days to enter their time. Some will need to enter it before they leave the building today.

We hear that certain groups at Dechert are super-slow, and morale in some quarters is super-low. These are, of course, often harbingers of lawyer layoffs.
We’ve put in an inquiry to the firm, but they haven’t gotten back to us yet. We’ll let you know if and when they do. In the meantime, feel free to dish in the comments, or email us. Thanks.
Update (4:40 PM): As reported by the Legal Intelligencer, Dechert just laid off 13 associates. We have a new post up on the subject over here.

IRS.jpgThe IRS is investigating the denomination Trinity United Church of Christ for hosting Barack Obama as a speaker in front of 10,000 people in June of 2007. Non-profit organizations are generally not allowed to endorse candidates, although politicos can speak at such organizations.
You can find the AP article here. More press and blog coverage is after the jump.
IRS Investigates Obama’s Denomination [AP]

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Robert Somma Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma Above the Law blog.jpgAs we previously mentioned, Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma announced his plan to resign from the bench, after he was arrested for DUI (while wearing women’s clothing). We questioned Judge Somma’s decision to step down:

Is this really that big a deal? When you strip away the women’s clothing, colorful but irrelevant details, you’re left with a DWI arrest — which, while not exactly commendable conduct, is something other judges have survived.

And we’re not alone. This message is making the rounds of the bankruptcy bar:

As I am sure most will agree, the news of Judge Somma’s resignation was disheartening. We are hopeful that Judge Somma will reconsider his decision with the support and encouragement of a significant portion of the bankruptcy bar.

Attached is a letter which several of us intend to submit to Chief Judge Boudin of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, with a copy to Judge Somma. If you would like to join us, please advise us at your very earliest convenience, and we will add your name as a “signatory”.

We intend to submit the letter to Chief Judge Boudin by the close of business tomorrow, Thursday, February 28, 2008. In the event that you cannot respond by then, but nonetheless are supportive, please so advise either of us by return email at your earliest convenience, and we will endeavor to supplement the list of supporters as may be appropriate. Otherwise, as no amount of support can be too great, if you wish to send your own personal letter of support, we also encourage you to do so as well.

Please feel free to circulate this email to those who may not be included in our list of email addresses and thank you for your assistance.

You’re welcome!
Alas, it appears the submission deadline has passed (close of business yesterday). But if you’d like to submit your own letter of support, you can use the previously sent letter as a model. Check it out, after the jump.

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