‘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.”
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
Social Media is a communications tool that can deeply educate you about the needs and wants of your clients and prospects when used in conjunction social media monitoring and sharing tools.
Take this quick quiz and see if you know how to use Social to help you engage more with your clients or to better service the ones you have.