It’s not unusual for Biglaw partners to find themselves on opposite sides of the ring when they face off on behalf of clients in litigation. But Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s Evan Chesler and K&L Gates’s Peter Kalis are staring each other down for a different reason: their opinions on law firm billing structures. Not as sexy as fighting over Lady Justice, but we’ll take what we can get.
UK-based legal publication The Lawyer is hyping the fierce match between the two Biglaw heavyweights to promote an upcoming issue of the magazine that will explore “whether the current economic downturn represent[s] a paradigm shift for the world’s leading firms.”
In one corner, we have Cravath presiding partner Evan Chesler, an NYU Law grad (’75) and a “Leading Litigator” per the Lawdragon. In the other corner, we have K&L chairman Peter J. Kalis, a Yale Law grad (’78) who has also been recognized by the Lawdragon but is, more importantly, a member of the Elect (clerked for Justice Byron White).
See the fight unfurl, after the jump.
“The paradigm shift has a number of key implications for our industry,” Kalis argued. “Enlightened law firms for years have been offering alternative fee arrangements to clients. To hear a leader of a Wall Street firm recently issue a clarion call for alternative fees was amusing.
“One wonders whether his call to action might have something to do with preserving margins in an era in which they are severely threatened.”
Yes, Cravath had a rough 2008, with PPP tumbling by 24 percent. K&L Gates partners still take home less than those at Cravath, but K&L’s gross revenue surged last year, putting the firm a few pegs higher than Cravath on AmLaw’s list of top 100 highest-grossing firms of 2008. Is this why Kalis feels ready to talk smack now?
“The Dragon” says the comments from Kalis are “unfair” and that he has been suggesting “alternatives to the billable hour since before the economy declined.” According to The Lawyer, Chesler says of Kalis:
“This is a facile comment by somebody who is not well informed.”
Translation: “You call my commentary amusing, good sir? I call you poorly-informed and your remarks facile!”
Sadly, K&L Gates is not in the Vault 32, so there’s no chance Cravath and K&L Gates will meet in an ATL March Madness match-up. But the two partners are welcome to vote furiously for and against Cravath in the competition as a proxy for a real showdown.
US firm bosses in spat over billing [The Lawyer]