October 2014

Bingham McCutchen new logo Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, this is not the most exciting layoff news ever. It pales in comparison to the massive bloodshed over at Cadwalader this morning, which forced us to break out the Drudge siren. It reminds us of those Kaye Scholer secretarial layoffs from May, just not as big.
But when it comes to law-firm layoff coverage, we try to be as thorough and as granular in detail as possible. If people click on the Layoffs tag here at ATL, they should be able to access, in one place, news of all acknowledged — and some unacknowledged — layoffs at Am Law 200 firms, covering both lawyers and staff.
So, with that said, check out the WSJ Law Blog, for news of staff cuts at Bingham McCutchen.
Bingham McCutchen Lays Off 10 Staff Members [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Kaye Scholer Lays Off Five Secretaries

Rick Laminack.jpg
[UPDATE on 04.03.09: Case dismissed.]
Paralegal-ing is a rough gig. Paralegals tend to get the legal drudgery similar to that done by first year associates, without the six-figure paycheck. And if you’re a paralegal for Richard Laminack, a titan of the Texas plaintiffs’ bar, you may also be asked to receive unwanted advances, fellate expert witnesses, and help defraud clients.
The American Lawyer reports on paralegal Angela Robinson’s complaint (PDF), filed against Laminack and the two firms at which she worked for him. (We have to wonder why she followed him to the second firm despite the workplace horrors. Cf. Anita Hill.)
Here’s a choice excerpt, available in full after the jump:
Robinson Complaint Short Excerpt.jpg
That is certainly above and beyond the paralegal call of duty.
The website of Laminack, Pirtle & Martines says that it’s their “honor and priveledge [sic]” to represent clients. And defraud them? According to Robinson’s complaint, Laminack “ordered checks on non-existent medical records for Fen-Phen clients and then docked the cost of the records checks from the clients’ settlement shares.”
(What is it with Fen-Phen lawyers and cheating clients? The WSJ Law Blog had extensive coverage of the Kentucky attorneys accused of bilking their Fen-Phen clients out of millions.)
Robinson put up with the sexual harassment for years; she alleges she was terminated when she confronted Laminack about the Fen-Phen scheme. She wants $55,000 for wrongful termination and back pay. A longer version of the salacious bits of her complaint, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Paralegal: Will Collate, Will Not Fellate”

Alston Bird LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgJust to close the loop on this prior report, the talks between Alston & Bird and Los Angeles-based Weston Benshoof have borne fruit. Alston’s acquisition of Weston is official. From a firm-wide email just issued by A&B managing partner Richard Hays:

This morning, the partners voted overwhelmingly to expand the firm into California with the opening of two new offices. The Los Angeles-based Weston Benshoof firm and their 83 attorneys will become a part of Alston & Bird and, additionally, we will be opening an office in Silicon Valley with a group of eleven (11) intellectual property lawyers formerly with Akin Gump.

The complete memo appears after the jump. The official press release from Alston & Bird appears here (PDF).
Elsewhere on the A&B front, we’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors about goings-on over there — some of them in comments, and some by email. There may be nothing to them; but if there’s anything to report, you know where to reach us. Thanks.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Merger Mania: Alston & Bird Swoops In on Weston Benshoof”

avatar Arnie Becker goodbye ATL Idol.jpgLater today, and according to plan, we’ll bring you the head-to-head match-ups in ATL Idol. This will give you, and our judges, the opportunity to see how different bloggers tackle the same story.
But when we do, you’ll see just five write-ups. There is a long tradition in reality contests of competitors voluntarily departing, rather than being voted off — e.g., Jack Mackenroth of Project Runway (Season 4). In that tradition, ATL Idol ARNIE BECKER has decided to call it quits.
We offered Arnie the chance to issue a farewell message, like many reality shows, but he demurred. So the precise reasons for his departure — fear of the formidable competition? an inability to handle ATL’s exceedingly candid commenters? — will remain a mystery.
We wish Arnie the best of luck in his future endeavors. And now, back to the contest — head-to-head posts will appear shortly.

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFHistory repeats itself. We quote from our post of January 10:

Just half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.

Earlier this morning, we once again posed the question: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” And once again, the firm has confirmed — this time to the WSJ Law Blog — that it will be laying off 96 lawyers, from counsel on down to first-year associates. The intelligence in our post from earlier this morning, which estimated the carnage at “as many as 100 attorneys, ranging from special counsel down to the current first-year associate class,” was essentially correct.

90 of the 96 cuts will come out of the real estate finance and securitization practices, said the firm’s chairman, Chris White. Most of the affected lawyers, said White, are in the New York, Charlotte and London offices, with “one or two” in Washington. The 96 layoffs are in addition to the 35 lawyers the firm laid off in January.

Wow — that’s a ton of attorneys. Ninety-six lawyers would appear to be the biggest round of lawyer layoffs in the current economic cycle (see Bruce MacEwen’s layoffs table). Congratulations, Cadwalader!
Cadwalader chairman Chris White gives the WSJ Law Blog a spiel about how the firm got caught up in the mania surrounding commercial mortgage-backed securities:

“There was a frothiness that occurred as a result of the Blackstones and the Apollos using mortgage-backed securities to fund their buyouts. It was a lot like junk bonds becoming the instrument of choice in the late 80’s and early 90’s.”

White explained that, in 2004, there were only $98 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities issued. In 2008, he said, that number ballooned to $314 billion. “So we grew right along with client demand. And now that market has contracted severely. That $314 billion from last year will go to roughly $60 billion in 2008 — an 80% contraction.”

With his use of the passive — “[t]here was a frothiness” — and his “we grew right along with client demand” remark, White seems to be offering a “not our fault, everyone was doing it, nobody predicted this” sort of defense. But isn’t it the job of firm management to make sure that a firm is well-diversified among practice areas and adequately protected against downside risk?
(Perhaps the WSJ Law Blog should have pressed White a bit harder on this. Maybe they could have gotten White to throw former chairman Bob Link under the bus, since the firm’s disastrous overexpansion happened under Link’s watch. Link is the leader featured in the firm’s embarrassing-in-hindsight video advertisement.)
To be sure, other Biglaw shops have been hurt by the credit crunch and the economic downturn. But after this latest round of layoffs, involving close to 100 lawyers, it lies beyond dispute that no major firm has been hit as hard as Cadwalader. This obviously raises questions — or should, in the mind of anyone looking to work for or retain CWT — about whether the firm is well-managed.

As for offering the “affected” associates an opportunity to transfer into other groups, White said, “We can do that a little bit at the junior levels — the first and second years — but, at the third, fourth and fifth years, lawyers aren’t fungible.”…

Markel said that the 96 associates who are laid off will receive severance pay through the end of the year.

Five months’ severance — is this accurate? If so, it’s definitely on the generous side. So look on the bright side, CWT associates: you’re getting almost half a year of paid vacation.
We’ll have more on the Cadwalader situation as it unfolds. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: More about the Cadwalader layoffs appears here.
Cadwalader to Cut 96 Lawyers [WSJ Law Blog]you're fired lolcat.jpg

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgIf the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it should. We used it back in January, a few hours before major layoffs — amounting to about 35 attorneys — at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
In the months since then, we’ve heard all sorts of other rumors about Cadwalader. There have been whispers that the number of attorneys laid off last time may have been closer to 50 rather than 35. We’ve heard about possible staff layoffs. There has also been talk of quieter, smaller-scale reductions in attorney ranks at CWT — “strategic firings,” as one tipster put it. This source guessed that the firm has already shed around 100 attorneys since its peak.
But losing 100 lawyers, if true, may not have been enough. Word on the street is that Cadwalader is now bracing for another round of large-scale layoffs, which could be announced as early as today or tomorrow. In the words of one source, “Surprised you haven’t posted anything on Cadwalader. Major s**t going down…”
Here’s the most detailed account of several that we’ve received (after the jump):

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Is Today ‘Layoff Day’ at Cadwalader? (Redux)”

* Martindale-Hubbell goes 21st century with LinkedIn partnership. [Am Law Daily]
* 82-year old Jerry Lewis cited for concealed firearm in an airport.
* Karadzic extradited to the Hague. [Washington Post]
* At U. Chicago, law professor Obama tested ideas in the classroom. [New York Times]
* Stevens indictment a set-back for GOP. [Washington Post; New York Times]
* Orrick reaches $2.8 million settlement with San Diego over pension fund shortfall. [Am Law Daily]

avatar Exley ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by EXLEY, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Exley's avatar (at right).]
We apologize for the delay in bringing it to you; we received it later than the other submissions. Alas, the demands of Biglaw are not very conducive to covert participation in a legal blogging deathmatch.]
I saw this rather striking ad at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank this morning (pre-quake):
Lady Justice ad in airport.JPG
The text on the right says: “Justice may be blind but she still sees it our way 92.3% of the time.”
Call me a sick nut but at first I thought it was an ad for the United States of America, to make me feel good about all the rigmarole a person has to go through at airport security these days.
But it turns out that Lady Justice was posing for another almost-all-knowing entity.
Find out who it is after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Mascot of the Day: Lady J.”

BarBri bar bri bar exam review course prep course Above the Law Above the Law ATL.jpgOur apologies to those of you who sat for the bar exam today. We forgot to wish you good luck, unlike the QuizLaw kids:

It’s a special day for the country’s future lawyers — over the next two to three days, thousands of recent law graduates will take the bar exam. Most will pass, some will not. Somewhere, in some state, at least one person will freak the fuck out during the exam. That person will then become part of bar exam lore, an anecdote passed down from bar taker to bar taker to make them feel better about their chances.

Could ATL’s failure to wish you good luck be responsible for the earthquake that hit California in the middle of today’s test? We hope not. Talk about “bar exam lore” — an earthquake certainly qualifies.
Anyway, we won’t make the same mistake twice. To everyone taking the bar exam this week, GOOD LUCK!!!
If you’re one of the poor souls going through the ordeal of the bar exam, and checking ATL between day 1 and day 2 — or maybe on the eve of day 1, for those of you in Wednesday – Thursday jurisdictions — feel free to tell us how you’re feeling, in the comments.
Earlier: Breaking: Earthquake Hits California on Day 1 of the Bar Exam!

avatar Arnie Becker ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by ARNIE BECKER, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Arnie Becker's avatar (at right).]
Fremont County judge Timothy O’Grady has been called on to determine the legal difference, in Iowa, between a strip club and a performing arts center. In Iowa strip clubs are illegal, however, there is a loophole which exempts performing art centers, theaters and concert halls from some state obscenity laws — including nude dancing.
As reported by the Associated Press:

The case pending before a Fremont County judge effects only one business in Hamburg, but if he agrees with the prosecutor, it could eventually threaten the legal standing of nude dancing clubs across the state.

Clarence Judy, owner of the establishment Shotgun Geniez Plaza “Hamburg Theater for the Performing Arts” (WARNING, art aside, the site is NFWS), is facing three charges of public indecent exposure involving a minor.
The facts of the case, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald, are as follows:

The charges were brought in connection with a July 21, 2007, incident. A 17-year-old Hamburg girl, the niece of Fremont County Sheriff Steve MacDonald, danced nude onstage at the club.

It was a typical summer night, the Hamburg High School graduate testified Thursday. She and four girlfriends were drinking at a friend’s house when they decided to meet up with three boys at Shotgun Geniez. She had already had six drinks when she got there. As the group of eight walked in, two of them proffered their driver’s licenses, but Judy, who was working the door, did not ask for the identification of the underage girl, several people testified Thursday.

Once inside, the girl said she drank another beer – given to her by a “stripper” – and then lay down on the stage with a dollar in her bra. The dancer pulled the girl’s shirt and her bra up, exposing her breasts, before taking the dollar.

Later, a dancer pulled the girl onstage, where she helped her disrobe. She danced to one song while fully nude.

She put her clothes back on and drank another beer given to her by a dancer, she said. Later, she took the stage and danced nude again.

Judy has argued that his establishment is not a strip club because it has posters and prints on the wall, offers its patrons sketch pads, and only charges for parking or entry onto the property.
Judge O’Grady is expected to make his ruling on the “sketch pad defense” sometime this week.
Now would probably be a good time for Mr. Judy to take his establishment’s listing off of the Iowa Strip Clubs website (WARNING again, NFWS). Probably just an oversite – like letting a 17 year old inebriated girl walk into his “art center” on a typical summer night.

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