‘Tis the season — not just for getting your holiday shopping started, but for many law firms to announce their new partners. Earlier this month, we commented on the announcement by Wachtell Lipton of six new partners. Given the firm’s relatively small size, six is a robust number, suggesting that all is well at WLRK despite the downturn.
Partnership announcements can shed light upon the financial health and practice-group priorities of law firms. Many firms like to say that they pick partners based solely on the talents of the lawyers in question, independent of such factors as the economy. Then again, many firms also like to say that dismissals of lawyers are strictly “performance-based.”
Some tipsters were even more helpful, offering analysis of what the partnership news says about the firm. For example:
Not sure if you’re are keeping track of how many partners firms are making, or if it’s even a good metric, but Ropes & Gray made 12 new partners, several in corporate and private equity — the press release is on their website. Also, their start date [as partners] has been confirmed and is not pushed back. Thanks for all the good work.
So it sounds like Ropes Gray is faring relatively well. But then again, we already knew that.
A dissection of the Wilson Sonsini partnership announcement, after the jump.
While the world waits for S&C’s bonus memo, here’s some interesting news from a person with a ground-level view at Sullivan & Cromwell: a contract attorney.
The blog Temporary Attorney has a post up about how the other half is living at S&C. An excerpt:
The economy is bad, so that means that down here at S&C, the clients are starting to dwindle, and the ones the firm has are having trouble paying their legal bills. New cases aren’t starting, which means that associates and litigation analysts don’t have anything to do. That means they’re starting to get the work that contract attorneys usually get.
This means that even “lifer” temps who have been working at S&C are being summarily dismissed, usually with little to no notice that we could lose the steady source of income that we’d come to expect. No notice, no severance. Your last day of earning is today. If you discuss this with lawyers not trapped in the temp system, or with basically anybody not on the inside, the situation smacks of outrageous and patent injustice.
Even during good times, the work of a junior associate doesn’t differ much from the work of a contract attorney. When things are slow, it makes sense to funnel even more grunt work to your highly paid juniors — who have nothing else to do.
And we expect that work is slow all over.
But work is not so slow that it’s going to make S&C think about pulling a Half-Skadden?
P.S. Speaking of S&C contract attorneys, as we mentioned previously (see the “P.S.”), we’re also working on an item about a former contract attorney supervisor at the firm. We already have multiple sources but would like a few more. If you can help, please email us (subject line: “Sullivan and Cromwell”). Thanks.
Our last round-up of Supreme Court clerk hiring was published back in August, before the start of October Term 2008. Now that the justices are back in the country and back on the bench, they’re back to interviewing clerkship applicants.
Over at the Clerkship Notification Blog, there was buzz about Justice Stephen Breyer interviewing and hiring clerks for October Term 2009. That intelligence was correct. Here are his hires:
1. Christopher Fonzone (Harvard 2007 / Wilkinson)
2. Jennifer Nou (Yale 2008 / Posner)
Fonzone appears to be the “2007 Harvard grad” referenced in the comments. With Chris Fonzone and Jen Nou on board, Justice Breyer is all done for OT 2009. (We also hear that he’s started to hire for October Term 2010, but we have no details.)
Update (3:40 PM): We now know one of SGB’s hires for OT 2010:
Erika Myers (Stanford 2008 / Kozinski)
Interesting — although Chief Judge Kozinski is a big-time feeder, he tends to feed more to the right side of the Court. So he may be expanding his range as a feeder judge.
The updated list of Supreme Court clerks, with Fonzone and Nou and Myers added, appears after the jump.
Last night, Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed while addressing the Federalist Society. Some feared the AG had suffered a stroke.
Today brings good news about his condition. This morning we reported (see the 10 AM update): “The AG is fine and will be released from the hospital later today. No word yet on what the diagnosis was. He will be taking a few days off.”
A few days off? Scratch that. He’s heading back into work, perhaps as you read this. Here’s the message he just sent to all Justice Department employees (via the BLT):
As you may have heard, I collapsed briefly last night at the conclusion of a speech. All tests at the hospital have come back with good results, and I feel fine. Accordingly, I plan to report to the Department this afternoon and to continue doing the work I swore to do last November and which it has been an honor to do with you ever since.
Thank you for your good wishes and your good work. It has been and remains an honor to serve with you.
We’re glad to hear that Attorney General Mukasey — widely respected among DOJ lawyers, especially compared to Alberto Gonzales, whose job performance even conservative lawyers won’t defend — is doing well and back on the job.
Are you still trying to catch your breath from the bonus announcements at Skadden and Half-Skadden (f/k/a Cravath)? Or are you waiting patiently for S&C to “settle” this bonus debate among top firms? Either way, most people are still just trying to understand why Cravath low-balled the market yesterday.
A couple of days ago we mentioned a theory that has become very popular over the last 18 hours: firms are going to give low bonuses to look responsible to their clients. On Tuesday, we explained the theory like this:
So, reason one: If they give you a bonus, you might tell someone, um, like Above The Law. And reason two: pressure from clients to control costs. Anonymous firm leaders say they fear the effect a big bonus announcement would have on their fee negotiations with belt-tightening clients, especially those in the financial sector.
Some people really believe this is happening, and are using Cravath’s bonus announcement as Exhibit A. One tipster even asked ATL to “stop reporting bonus information.”
But while we can’t know what kind of paranoia is gripping law firm leaders at the moment, we’re pretty sure that clients don’t actually care about associate bonuses.
We’ve gotten credible information that Fried Frank has laid off at least 15 associates from their corporate department, including 6 in the real estate practice group. A tipster collects the information in a clear way:
They are veiled as performance-based reviews, but virtually everyone is getting a negative review (mostly, it seems, to justify in a paper-trail [a decision] to not give bonuses)….
There has been no formal review process announced, and no one knows what directive came from management last weekend at the partner retreat, but it seems that each group was told to make cuts. People were completely taken off guard when they started getting calls earlier in the week calling them in for their reviews, some of which dredged up years-old information to use as justification for lay-offs, and many of which lasted only 5 minutes or so. Most of the layoffs have been mid-level associates and up, but most junior associates have not yet been reviewed.
The axe is expected to fall on the litigation side of the firm today.
The firm has not responded to voice messages or emails left earlier today. The number of layoffs could be higher than what we are reporting, but right now the best number is 15.
We understand that a three-month severance package has been offered.
Every single tipster (and there are a lot of them) said that the laid-off attorneys were told that they were being let go for performance reasons.
But that’s not all they were told. Read the rest, after the jump.
ATL has been providing in-depth coverage of firm layoffs, but we haven’t written much about public defenders suffering the same fate. With state budgets experiencing big squeezes, public defenders’ offices across the country are getting downsized, while their caseloads are getting upsized.
We wrote about layoffs in Kentucky, Minnesota, Florida, and Georgia back in July. In at least seven states, “public defenders’ offices are refusing to take on cases or have sued to limit them,” says the New York Times in an editorial today. It suggests that the constitutional right to counsel in state criminal proceedings is “hanging by a tattered thread:”
In a disturbing example of legal triage, a Florida judge ruled in September that the public defenders’ office in Miami-Dade County could refuse to represent many poor defendants arrested on lesser felony charges so that its lawyers could provide a better defense for other clients. Behind the ruling were some chastening statistics: Over the past three years, the average number of felony cases handled by each lawyer rose from 367 annually to nearly 500. Misdemeanor case loads rose from 1,380 to 2,225.
Public defenders’ offices all over the country are reporting similar problems. The immediate result is that innocent defendants may feel pressure to plead guilty. There also is an increased risk of wrongful conviction, which means that the real offenders would go free.
The NYT recommends meeting the budget shortfall by increasing the state registration fees for lawyers and expanding pro bono representation by the private bar.
Another out-of-the-box solution would be to get rid of all those pesky drug laws.
* Mukasey is going to be okay. He’s telling jokes and talking to the President. A GW doctor said “”The attorney general is conscious, conversant and alert.” [CNN]
* Do you feel sorry for sex offenders? The California 4th district court does. They ruled that Jessica’s law, a law that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feel of a school or park constitutes “banishment under another name.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
* “A U.S.-triggered spate of global carmaker-bailout proposals may spark trade disputes over whether the Americans are unfairly trying to subsidize their industry or just making up for state aid foreign rivals already enjoy.”[Bloomberg]
* Meanwhile, the EU’s antittrust chief says the EU should resist an auto-industry bailout. [Bloomberg]
* On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the release of five Algerian prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Los Angeles Times]
ATL correspondent Laurie Lin, on the scene at the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, reports that Attorney General Michael Mukasey “literally collapsed mid-sentence at the podium,” while delivering a speech at the Society’s National Lawyers Convention. It is not clear what AG Mukasey suffered, but a stroke is possible.
“Medical people are working on him now as he lies on the dais,” according to Lin. “Secret Service FBI says no one can get up. Entire hall is shocked and silent.”
Update (10:38 PM): “They appear to have an IV in. They have taken him out. Now people are praying…. Everyone is saying it looked like a stroke. People are very somber. Some people from the DOJ are visibly shaken.”
Update (10:47 PM): According to radio reports, Mukasey did not immediately regain consciousness after collapsing, and was taken to an area hospital. More from Politico over here.
Update (11:03 PM): According to a different source, Mukasey had regained consciousness by the time he was taken out of the room.
Update (11:06 PM): People are now being allowed to leave the room. From Laurie Lin: “The party ended abruptly, needless to say. The tone of the man [perhaps David McIntosh] who prayed after they took out the AG seemed pretty grim. He asked for prayers for Mukasey’s wife, who was there according to the program, and the Mukasey family.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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