Bankruptcy

Robert Ruyak

One of the most colorful characters in the saga of Howrey LLP, the once-thriving law firm that dissolved this past March, was Robert Ruyak, former chairman of the firm. How many law firm leaders write inspirational poetry for their summer associates?

Alas, many at Howrey found Ruyak’s leadership to be less than inspiring. He was frequently cast as the villain in the demise of the firm, which he led for over a decade before its dissolution. As noted by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak was criticized “[i]n some corners of the blogosphere” for “not respond[ing] swiftly enough to declines in the firm’s productivity” and “not sufficiently shar[ing] management responsibilities with his fellow partners.” According to the American Lawyer, he caused the firm to overexpand, taking on too much risk — in the form of lateral partners and contingency cases, among other things — when it should have been buckling down for tough times ahead.

Today brings news that Robert Ruyak has found a new professional home. Where’s he going?

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Judge Peggy Ableman

Ed. note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow. A restful and happy Labor Day to all!

* More about the Delaware benchslap that we covered last week (including the news that Judge Peggy Ableman’s pajama party did not go forward as proposed). [Delaware News-Journal]

* The federal government is suing 17 banks for almost $200 billion, blaming the banks for mortgage-backed securities that went bad. [Bloomberg]

* An interesting dissection of the legal fees that Dewey & LeBoeuf is running up as counsel on the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy. [New York Times]

Roger Clemens

* Roger Clemens will face a second trial next year. Lester Munson, the esteemed legal analyst, explains why. [ESPN]

* “From One Bankrupt Firm to Another: Brobeck Asks Heller For $471,000.” [Am Law Daily]

* AT&T faces a tricky balancing act in dealing with the Justice Department’s challenge of the T-Mobile deal. [New York Times]

* If you’re confused about the current role of lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Michael Arrington over at AOL, in the wake of AOL’s acquiring his TechCrunch site, you’re not alone. [Digits / Wall Street Journal]

* I’m flying this weekend for the first time in over a year (it couldn’t be avoided). I’ll need to brush up on what rights I still retain during air travel. As long as I acknowledge TSA’s droit du seigneur to my wife, I’m allowed to carry an unopened water bottle on board, right? [Legal Blog Watch]

* There’s a statement from the University of Baltimore on the Phillip Closius situation. They say their “forward momentum” will continue. Does that mean they expect future Baltimore Law students to be unable to run a Google search? [WSJ Law Blog]

* Lat imagined a future legal career for Casey Anthony that starts with a Anthony getting a GED (before clerking on the Supreme Court and becoming a law partner of Jose Baez). But doesn’t Hustler seem like something more in her wheelhouse? [Gawker]

* Have we done irreparable damage to our credit rating, unless we can prove we have a legal “fail-safe” in case a vocal Tea Party minority hijacks the entire freaking nation again? [Blackbook Legal]

* Taco Bell employee fired for refusing to get his hair cut. I guess they were worried about 100% real hair mixing with their isolated oat product — er, seasoned beef. [Associated Press]

* Howrey going to massively reduce our assets for bankruptcy reporting purposes? [Chapter11Cases]


A busy Biglaw bee.

If you’re bummed about having to shelve your plans for a nice tropical vacation this summer, you’re not alone. According to 43% of survey respondents, this summer is turning out to be busier than the rest of the year.

The top reasons cited for the increased billables are that partners are bringing in more business (63%) and the economy is improving (42%). Some of the other reasons, however, are not as upbeat: respondents report having to pick up the slack for other associates who left their firm voluntarily or involuntarily (28%), or who went on vacation (15%).

Another 30% of survey respondents say that this summer has been slower than other months (while the remaining 27% of respondents report that their workload is about the same as the rest of the year).

Why the work slowdown? Which firms and practice areas are turning up the heat this summer? An which ones are cooling things down?

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If I were in their role and in their position, I probably wouldn’t understand it either, that a club really can’t attract minority members.

– Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr. of the Sixth Circuit, commenting to the New York Times about two of his colleagues on the court — Eric L. Clay and R. Guy Cole Jr., both African-American — and their strong reactions against a bankruptcy judge’s membership in an all-white, all-male country club.

(Judge Merritt is also a member of the Belle Meade Country Club, although an honorary one without voting privileges.)

Does this sign also mean no blacks or women allowed?

It’s the ruling that is splitting the Sixth Circuit apart. A federal bankruptcy judge, George Paine II, belongs to an all-white country club in Nashville. But there is a pesky judicial code of conduct that says that judges “should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin,” according to the New York Times (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

That seems cut and dry to me. An all-white, all-male country club sounds a hell of a lot like an organization practicing “invidious discrimination.” But I’m not on the Sixth Circuit.

And the Sixth Circuit essentially told Judge Paine: guys in my high school used to belong to discriminatory clubs all the time, it was no big deal.

In a 10-8 decision, the circuit decided to allow Paine to continue his membership in the club and on the bankruptcy court.

So that code of judicial conduct means what exactly?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Last month I received an email from Cameron McCord. McCord is a fifth-year associate at a boutique bankruptcy firm in Atlanta, where she’s been having “a great experience.”

“I am in court all the time and have started handling my own trials,” McCord wrote. “I have worked here since my second summer and am able to have a good work/life balance. I have an 11-month-old and a four-year-old, and my husband is a full-time student. I think it is important for people to realize that you can be successful without working at [Biglaw].”

Upon reading her email, I knew I had to feature her and her firm. I mean, she reads my column! And, I suppose, a firm that affords its attorneys the opportunity to maintain a life outside of work is, well, awesome.

Here is what goes down at Jones & Walden LLP….

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When in need of a pic of a T.V. cheerleader, am I right to go with Minka Kelly over Hayden Panettiere? Can we get some kind of ruling on this?

* Is it possible that in South Dakota you have to go through a shorter waiting period to buy a gun and shoot someone who is already alive than you have to go through in order to have an abortion? Could somebody check on that? [MSNBC]

* Did you see this chart showing that law professors make more than all other professors at the college level? I think I forgot to mention it because when my brain sees such horrible atrocities it enacts self-defense protocols and deletes the knowledge from my… Did you see this chart showing that law professors… [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Same-sex couple gets deportation put on hold to pursue marriage-based immigration case. I think we’re all safer when Homeland Security isn’t run by Leviticus. [Stop the Deportations]

* If cheerleading were a real sport, this lawsuit might be really interesting. [Jezebel]

* If you think our coolest law firm bracket is dorky (don’t forget, voting ends tonight at midnight), you should check out what the bankruptcy people at Weil are up to. [Bankruptcy Blog]

* Once you get off the legal treadmill, do you ever have the urge to go back? “… That’s pride f**king with you. F**k pride.” [Law and More]

* If you think about it, pay raises should really come in the spring, when everything is new and happy, instead of the middle of winter, when everything is cold and dead. [What About Clients?]

* An obituary for Warren Christopher, former O’Melveny partner (and secretary of state, too). [Huffington Post]

The economy seems to be on the mend. Corporate profits are strong, and the Dow is north of 12,000. In the legal world, layoffs are down, bonuses are up, and hiring is way up.

But governments — federal, state, and local — are staggering under mountains of debt. State and local governments have borrowed $2.4 trillion as of mid-2010, and they’ve promised another $3 trillion in retirement benefits.

There is tons of talk out there about a possible wave of municipal bankruptcies. And even if the talk might be overblown, the possibility of default by multiple local governments or even state governments — which might someday get the ability to declare bankruptcy — can’t be ruled out.

If municipal bankruptcies start popping up all over the place, Dewey & LeBoeuf will be ready. The firm just picked up a leading expert in the area….

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Accept your offers. It’s wise advice for 2Ls going through fall recruiting, and it’s wise advice for partners of the rapidly unraveling Howrey law firm, most of whom have offers to join Winston & Strawn. Last weekend, Winston made offers to a little over 75 percent of Howrey partners, with responses requested in 21 days.

Yesterday we mentioned that a Howrey partnership conference call took place on Tuesday. During that meeting, firm chairman Robert Ruyak and Winston & Strawn managing partner Thomas Fitzgerald apparently urged Howrey partners with Winston offers to accept them as soon as possible, according to The Recorder.

Many Howrey partners have already left for other firms, as chronicled in these pages. A group of eleven attorneys recently departed for Morgan Lewis, for example.

Of the 200 to 230 Howrey partners who remain, how many are likely to go with Winston?

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