October 2014

h rodgin cohen sullivan cromwell above the law copy.jpg* The American Lawyer gives you its list of the top 25 dealmakers of 2008. H. Rodgin Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell came out on top thanks to his work on bank bailouts. [The American Lawyer]

* Judge James Munley ruled that teens taking naked cell phone photos of themselves does not constitute “child pornography.” Teens in Wyoming Pennsylvania, sext all you want! [Reuters]

* A California lawyer says she’s launching a Craigslist-like site for recent law grads and out-of-work lawyers to advertise their services. It sounds more like Match.com to us though. You’ve got to pay to create a profile pitching yourself. [AmLaw Daily]

* New York AG Andrew Cuomo sticks it to the banking Man, forcing JPMorgan Chase to drop a flat monthly fee from its credit card accounts. [CNN Money]

* Peter Madoff is appealing the ruling freezing his assets in the $2 million lawsuit filed against him by Brooklyn Law student Andrew Samuels. [Bloomberg]

* A highly unusual plea bargain in Maryland. Charges against a 22-year-old woman will be dropped if she testifies against other cult members… and her son rises from the dead. [Washington Post]

Skadden logo.JPGIs Skadden hurting more than people think? First, we learned that the firm was extending its Sidebar program in an effort to get associates to take a year off. On Friday, we reported that Skadden laid off over 50 staffers and greatly reduced its staff attorney program.

Above the Law just received a memo indicating that Skadden’s current first-year associates are being shipped over to litigation, for as long as six months. Here’s an excerpt from the memo that was sent to first-year corporate associates at Skadden tday:

Our first year program will now include a six month litigation component in which you will work under the direct supervision of lawyers from the general litigation, white collar, intellectual property/patent, antitrust and/or mass torts groups, both from the New York office and other firm offices. In order to implement this program fairly, all corporate associates will participate in the litigation component. One group will rotate into litigation in early April while the others will proceed to their previously scheduled “second” corporate rotation. In October, the groups will switch and those who were in the litigation rotation will be rotated to their other corporate rotation and those who have completed their second corporate rotation will rotate into the litigation rotation. We anticipate final assignments will occur in May 2010.

A six-month rotation through litigation for new corporate attorneys just starting their careers sounds like a polite way of saying, “we simply don’t have enough work to justify having all of these people hanging around.” When you couple that with the Sidebar program and the staffing cuts, this new information is sure to make people worried.

At least it’s better than layoffs. More after the jump.

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Will Smith Pursuit of Happyness.JPG* What should you wear while pounding the pavement looking for a job? I suggest the Will Smith “Pursuit of Happyness” look, but there are other ideas. [Corporette]

* Because the real world doesn’t have its very own Kyle Broflovski, maybe we should all sign this petition? Whether or not its good policy, a student loan bailout would be just awesome. [Cancel Student Loan Debts]

* Wow. Marion Barry. That dude is still kicking around? He reminds me of herpes. [TaxProf Blog]

* A University of Florida professor got fired. You’ll see why once you click on the link (scroll down because the video is no longer on YouTube) and go to at least the 2:35 mark. [Legal Writing Prof Blog]

* Speaking of Florida, I’m just not sure how we can justify that state having so many electoral votes anymore. I mean, the professional wide receiver to competent individual ratio is way out of whack down there. [The Legal Satyricon]

* There is a lot of Spirit and Opportunity in this week’s Blawg Review. Now is a great time to look explore and imagine other planets, given how terrible mother Gaia is starting to look.

[Declarations and Exclusions via Blawg Review]

Manatt logo.JPGAs we follow the sun through its appointed circuit, we’ve learned that additional layoffs have occurred today out west. Manatt, Phelps has laid off 25 people today: 17 lawyers and 8 staff.

Here’s the statement the firm provided to Above the Law:

The broad economic slowdown continues to present challenges to businesses in every industry. The quality and breadth our national practice, as well as initiatives to improve resource utilization and reduce expenses, have positioned us to meet these challenges. Responsible stewardship, however, requires ongoing evaluation and appropriate alignment of staffing levels with client needs.

With this in mind, we have made the extremely difficult decision to reduce our lawyer ranks by 17 and our staff ranks by 8. Due to the nature and timing of these actions, we have provided those affected with financial and other assistance to help with their transitions.

We understand that the layoffs took place in the finance, tax, and advertising practice groups.

This is the second round of cuts for Manatt. We reported earlier that Manatt has already laid off 47 people since October, 2008.

A tipster also informs us that Manatt first years will be taking a pay cut:

Bill Quicksilver announced … that first year salaries would be reduced to $145K starting April 1. And no on campus recruiting.

Is this the new trend, lay people off while cutting salaries? It certainly appears that firms are trying to finish off this round of cuts before Passover and Easter.

Update (4:48): Additional details about severance after the jump.

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Stroock logo.JPGMore bad news on the last day penultimate day of March. We’re now able to report that the firm so nice they named it twice, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, is laying off ten percent of its associates and staff. Here’s the statement from a Stroock spokesperson:

For some time, we have watched, with concern, as firms and businesses around the country have responded to difficult economic conditions through layoffs of hardworking, dedicated employees. Over the past several months, we have sought to avoid taking similar steps. However, the economic downturn has not abated and we have determined that these conditions require us to take similar action. So, today, we have reduced the number of associates and staff by approximately 10% firm wide. We remain well staffed to serve our clients and to grow when conditions improve.

These actions sadden us greatly, but under current economic conditions are unavoidable.

We also understand that that the firm will be asking certain associates to take a pay cut. More details after the jump.

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Judge DeBello above the law.jpgThe story of New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lawrence DeBello has the makings for a great romantic tale — the forbidden love between a judge and his law clerk.

From the New Jersey Law Journal:

A Mercer County, N.J., judge has admitted breaching judicial ethics and policies by sending romantic e-mails to his former law clerk via his judiciary e-mail account and by using his judicial office to help land her a public defender job.

The alluring law lovely, who has not been named, clerked for DeBello in Hudson County Family Court from 2006 through 2007. When she left, she and DeBello kept in touch, exchanging e-mails that discussed “personal matters” and used “offensive language”, according to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct complaint [PDF].

DeBello unwisely used his judicial e-mail account for their correspondence, rather than opening a get_underneath_my_robes@gmail.com account. Even after being warned by his judicial superiors, DeBello could not keep his passion tamed:

DeBello admitted that at a December 2007 meeting with Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli and Hudson County Trial Court Administrator Joseph Davis, he conceded the e-mails were inappropriate…. But after that meeting, the e-mails continued and even heated up. DeBello admitted that in December 2007 and mid-January 2008, he “participated in the escalation of the intimate tone and nature of those e-mail exchanges, which concerned their respective romantic feelings for one another.”

In January 2008, DeBello was transferred to Mercer County, but kept up the e-mails, trying to help the former clerk get a new job. He admitted he “used the power and prestige of his office” to advance her “private interests” by making an unsolicited telephone call to Deputy Public Defender Edward Marable — head of the Office of Law Guardian for the northwest region, who had appeared before him in court — telling him the former clerk was interested in a law guardian job.

Love obviously made this justice blind to the error of his ways. We just hope he got more than legal research out of his judicial Juliet.

DeBello has filed an answer [PDF] to the complaint which basically amounts to “Busted.” As Will S. said, the course of true love never did run smooth.

Judge Admits Ethics Breach Over Torrid E-Mails With Former Clerk [New Jersey Law Journal]

Judge Hit With Ethics Charges Over Steamy E-Mails With Former Clerk [New Jersey Law Journal]

Letter from London Queen.JPGEd. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to Letter from London, a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

The G20 summit, accompanied by its anti-capitalist sideshow, arrives in London this week – and UK Big Law is feeling a little scared.

Law firms are warning employees not to wear suits on Wednesday or Thursday so as to avoid being targeted in the violent protests planned around London’s financial district.

Which provokes an interesting question: how ghetto does a corporate lawyer need to dress in order to avoid arousing suspicion as to their true identity?

We’ll soon find out.

It all seems a bit unfair, really. It’s not as if lawyers got the super big bonuses. And now their salaries are actually falling. If those nasty anti-capitalists had bothered to have a quick scan of The Lawyer last Wednesday, they’d have seen that Shearman & Sterling’s London office had followed Freshfields in cutting newly qualified associate salaries by 8%.

Are we going back in time? More after the jump.

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Fried Frank logo.jpgLate last week, we told you that bad things were coming down the pipe at Fried Frank. This morning, the firm announced that 99 people will be let go:

Effective today, we are implementing changes that will result in an overall reduction of 41 associates and 58 administrative staff from our U.S. workforce. This decision is one we worked very hard to avoid. But we must respond responsibly to the current environment. We would like to express our appreciation to everyone impacted by these decisions for all they have done for our Firm and our clients.

The economy is so bad that even firms that “don’t do lawyer layoffs” are having to do lawyer layoffs.

It’s not even surprising anymore that the firm is deferring all incoming first-year associates to January 2010. Fried Frank is also following the trend of asking associates to defer until the fall of 2010:

Additional steps announced today pertain to our fall 2009 class and our 2009 summer associate programs in the U.S. The start date of our fall 2009 class has been deferred to January 28, 2010. All incoming associates whose start date is deferred until January 2010 will receive a $10,000 stipend. We are also offering an opportunity for members of the fall 2009 class to defer until the fall 2010. We are encouraging those associates to develop their legal skills by pursuing a public interest or government position or by volunteering with a legal, political or community-based organization. Those who elect this deferral will receive a stipend of $70,000 plus health benefits.

And Fried Frank is cutting its summer program from 12 weeks down to 10.

Ninety-nine layoffs. Shortening of summer programs. Deferral of incoming associates:

I don’t like,
I don’t like,
I don’t like Mondays.

Read the full memo after the jump.

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Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPG* Dahlia Lithwick likens the high drama at the High Court over who-will-retire-first to an Oscar Wilde play. [Slate]

* Holland & Knight was one of the firms that took part in the pre-Valentine’s Day massacre, but one practice group was actually hiring. It’s a good time to be a lawyer-lobbyist. [Washington Post]

* Dewey & LeBeouf may help the MGM Mirage unwind. [Swiss Press]

* Jury selection begins today for the trial of Brooke Astor’s son and lawyer, who allegedly took advantage of her Alzheimer’s to steal millions from her. The case has been getting media attention for years, but now (post-Bernie Madoff) It seems almost quaint. [New York Times]

* Solo practitioners and small firms are getting creative in how they bill. Some are even bartering. A cow for some document review perhaps? [National Law Journal]

Law Shucks layoffs layoff tracker.jpg[Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks. Law Shucks has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.]

Things are either quieting down or it’s just the calm before the storm. We suspect the latter. Although there were more people laid off this week than last, it was still relatively quiet, particularly compared to the beginning of the month. Still, first quarter results are being calculated and it’s not going to be pretty.

Life does go on for some. Freshfields kicked off the London firms’ partnership-announcement season with news that 14 associates had made partner – just more than half the 25 of last year, though. Surprisingly, nine of the 14 were in corporate practices. Not surprisingly, none were in the US.

Of course, the layoffs continue. Clifford Chance had its eighth layoff announcement – 25 transactional lawyers in New York this time (although we note that it’s sometimes difficult to track the UK firms’ layoffs because the redundancy process sometimes includes layoffs that have been previously or are later reported as if separate). Anyway, that brings the firm’s total up to 391 (210 lawyers, 181 staff) – good for #4 on the Top Ten list.

The other big news for the week was Dechert sneaking back onto the list when it laid off 125 people – 63 lawyers, 62 staff. That brought the firm’s total to 239 (144 lawyers, 95 staff), good for the #10 spot. This is another firm that just can’t get it right. The firm has had 5 separate layoffs.

News, analysis, and context, after the jump.

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