Biglaw

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFHistory repeats itself. We quote from our post of January 10:

Just half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.

Earlier this morning, we once again posed the question: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” And once again, the firm has confirmed — this time to the WSJ Law Blog — that it will be laying off 96 lawyers, from counsel on down to first-year associates. The intelligence in our post from earlier this morning, which estimated the carnage at “as many as 100 attorneys, ranging from special counsel down to the current first-year associate class,” was essentially correct.

90 of the 96 cuts will come out of the real estate finance and securitization practices, said the firm’s chairman, Chris White. Most of the affected lawyers, said White, are in the New York, Charlotte and London offices, with “one or two” in Washington. The 96 layoffs are in addition to the 35 lawyers the firm laid off in January.

Wow — that’s a ton of attorneys. Ninety-six lawyers would appear to be the biggest round of lawyer layoffs in the current economic cycle (see Bruce MacEwen’s layoffs table). Congratulations, Cadwalader!
Cadwalader chairman Chris White gives the WSJ Law Blog a spiel about how the firm got caught up in the mania surrounding commercial mortgage-backed securities:

“There was a frothiness that occurred as a result of the Blackstones and the Apollos using mortgage-backed securities to fund their buyouts. It was a lot like junk bonds becoming the instrument of choice in the late 80′s and early 90′s.”

White explained that, in 2004, there were only $98 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities issued. In 2008, he said, that number ballooned to $314 billion. “So we grew right along with client demand. And now that market has contracted severely. That $314 billion from last year will go to roughly $60 billion in 2008 — an 80% contraction.”

With his use of the passive — “[t]here was a frothiness” — and his “we grew right along with client demand” remark, White seems to be offering a “not our fault, everyone was doing it, nobody predicted this” sort of defense. But isn’t it the job of firm management to make sure that a firm is well-diversified among practice areas and adequately protected against downside risk?
(Perhaps the WSJ Law Blog should have pressed White a bit harder on this. Maybe they could have gotten White to throw former chairman Bob Link under the bus, since the firm’s disastrous overexpansion happened under Link’s watch. Link is the leader featured in the firm’s embarrassing-in-hindsight video advertisement.)
To be sure, other Biglaw shops have been hurt by the credit crunch and the economic downturn. But after this latest round of layoffs, involving close to 100 lawyers, it lies beyond dispute that no major firm has been hit as hard as Cadwalader. This obviously raises questions — or should, in the mind of anyone looking to work for or retain CWT — about whether the firm is well-managed.

As for offering the “affected” associates an opportunity to transfer into other groups, White said, “We can do that a little bit at the junior levels — the first and second years — but, at the third, fourth and fifth years, lawyers aren’t fungible.”…

Markel said that the 96 associates who are laid off will receive severance pay through the end of the year.

Five months’ severance — is this accurate? If so, it’s definitely on the generous side. So look on the bright side, CWT associates: you’re getting almost half a year of paid vacation.
We’ll have more on the Cadwalader situation as it unfolds. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: More about the Cadwalader layoffs appears here.
Cadwalader to Cut 96 Lawyers [WSJ Law Blog]you're fired lolcat.jpg

ATL Idol Above the Law Idol AboveTheLaw Idol small.jpgEarlier today, we announced that the new editor of Above the Law was going to be picked by you, the readers of the site, through a “reality blogging” competition. We provided some initial information about the contest over here.
We urged you to check back later in the day for the contestants’ bios. “Later” is now; the short intro posts of the competitors are finally available. We apologize for the delay.
Check out the six contestants’ capsule biographies, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Idol: Meet the Finalists”

When we recently lamented the lack of summer associate scandals, in the New York Observer, did we speak too soon? Although we may be in the home stretch, law firm summer associate programs are not yet over — and neither, thankfully, are the salacious tales they generate.

Here’s a story we’ve known about for a while — it happened late last week — which has already surfaced elsewhere on the web. We’ve delayed on reporting about it because we wanted to get more confirmation and give the parties involved a chance to comment.

We reached out to numerous representatives of the firm — managing partner Daryle Uphoff, chief marketing officer Greg Wolsky, recruiting director Lisanne Weisz, diversity coordinator Nancy Vollertsen — by phone and by email, yesterday and today. We also contacted the two summers involved, via Facebook message. Nobody has gotten back to us, despite ample time to do so. We’ll have to push ahead without them.

Since we’ve heard the story from multiple sources, all offering generally consistent accounts, we are fairly confident in its accuracy. But if you have any corrections or additions to offer, please email us (subject line: “Lindquist and Vennum Summer Associate Scandal”).

Here are some of the versions we heard (many tipsters sent it in):

1. Word through the grapevine is that two female summer associates at Minneapolis firm Lindquist & Vennum were fired recently for getting drunk at a firm event and making out with each other.

2. I’m an associate at a large Minneapolis firm, and word is that two female summer associates at Lindquist & Vennum, another of the large firms in town, got drunk at a summer associate event and were making out with each other. They were fired on Friday.

3. [Two summers at] Lindquist & Vennum were fired over the weekend. Drinking was involved; however, the firm supplied it to them during a boat cruise in 90+ degree weather. Can you get this posted? I want more information.

4. I am a summer associate at a Minneapolis law firm. I can tell that you that two female Lindquist and Vennum summer associates were recently fired (within the last week). I could not tell you for sure why they were fired, but the rumor is that they were drunk at some sort of firm social event (one that had partners present), and started to make out with each other.

And they got fired for this? We’re surprised the old-white-male partners didn’t cheer them on.

Update / Correction: According to reports received after this post was published, whether the SAs were “making out” or merely kissing on the lips is unclear. Furthermore, the event in question was not the boat cruise, but a post-dinner gathering at a bar. For an update post containing additional information and corrections, see here.

One tipster pointed us to some corroborating evidence:

Lindquist has removed all photos/references of the two from its summer associate section on its website.

This is true. We verified it ourselves, by comparing the current summer associate page, which lists eight summers, to an older version, which lists ten summers. (But please do not post in the comments any links to archived or cached versions of the page.)

You can read more, if you want to — if you don’t, then don’t — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Summer Associates of the Day: Sapphic Summers in Lesbianic Lip-Lock?”

Uncle Sam Wants You for Biglaw Recruiting.jpgWe resume our series of open threads on career alternatives for attorneys. If you have a law degree, but can’t get into / aren’t interested in Biglaw or contract attorney work, what are some other good options?
One of you snarkily suggested manager at Legal Sea Foods (which, by the way, has excellent clam chowder). But in an effort to cabin the universe of possibilities, we’re going to focus on fields where a law degree adds significant value or is at least somewhat relevant.
Thus far we’ve discussed working as a law librarian or for a major accounting firm, two fields popular with holders of J.D. degrees. If you have a suggested alternative career path, please email us (subject line: “Career Alternatives”), and include some basic info about the field that you’re nominating (e.g., how to get into it, pluses and minuses, salary data, etc.).
Today we’re going to focus on the people who bring you aboard in Biglaw: law firm recruiting coordinators (or, to use the NALP terminology, “legal recruitment and attorney management professionals”). They’re the law firm employees who work with law schools to set up the fall interviewing process, coordinate on-campus and callback interviews, run summer associate programs (read: plan awesomely fun events for aspiring pro wrestlers), and generally oversee the process of hiring and recruiting qualified attorneys at major law firms.
(Note: Also falling under the broad terms “legal recruiter” or “recruiting professional” are people who work for legal search firms / headhunters — e.g., Kinney, Lateral Link, Mestel. We’ll discuss them in a future post.)
If you’re curious about opportunities in law firm recruiting departments, read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Law Firm Recruiting Coordinator”

bored no work law firm Above the Law blog.jpgBack in December, we conducted a survey focusing on how busy those of you who work for large law firms were. The results were somewhat comforting. A majority of you said work at your firms was not slow, and 78 percent of you said you weren’t afraid of losing your job.
That was about seven months ago. Have times changed? In addition to all the recent law-firm layoffs, here is some anecdotal evidence that they have:

Given the hard economic times, you guys should do a story about associates that have no work. And I’m not talking about light billable hours, but NO WORK.

I work for [a large firm] and I’m currently relegated to surfing the internet, reading ATL, and looking for new incarnations of ceiling cat. I’ve begged and pleaded with partners to give me work, but to no avail.

I’d be curious what other associates around the country who are slow are doing to drum up work or, better yet, kill time.

Have any suggestions for this frustrated reader? This person already knows about legal blogs as a procrastination aid. Given the uncertain economy, online shopping binges probably aren’t smart. IM’ing with friends at other firms is fun, but not everyone has that option.
If you know of other ways to pass the non-billable time — and please, safe-for-work proposals only — feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks.

DLA Piper logo Above the Law blog.jpgThese aren’t the best of times for Biglaw, in case you hadn’t noticed. The most recent evidence: staff and lawyer layoffs at Sonnenschein, news that we broke last night (and might write more about, so feel free to email us with info).
But here is a tiny sliver of good news. In response to our open call for information about delayed start dates for incoming associates, which some law firms have been using to reduce expenses, we received very little.
First, we learned that DLA Piper has instituted a nationwide start date of October 1. This isn’t terribly exciting, since October 1 isn’t that late. Other firms that have announced delayed start dates have gone for late October or even January.
The change also doesn’t appear to be economically motivated. From DLA spokesperson Jason Costa:

The changes were made to provide a uniform start date across all our offices. The new collective date allows us to have a uniform orientation process. We think it will also be good for the associates, since the shared start date will probably lead to a tighter knit class.

Our tipsters mentioned the availability of pay advances if needed, which Costa confirmed: “We are more than happy to give pay advances to any incoming associates who had planned to start earlier than October, and who may need the extra cash.”
Second, we received more details about Pillsbury Winthrop, which previously said it was spacing out start dates “over several months.”
Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Update on Start Dates: DLA Piper, Pillsbury Winthrop”

Legal Pad (a Cal Law blog) has a link to this amazing complaint [PDF] filed by paralegal Jason Herrera against Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Herrera’s complaint — “for discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraud” — reads like a reality TV show pitch about the lives of paralegals. Herrera has been a paralegal in Weil’s Silicon Valley office since 2004. In his complaint, he talks about:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: As the Paralegal World Turns…”

laptop small pink girl woman Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGThat’s a question that our friends at the ABA Journal are planning to tackle in a forthcoming article. Perhaps you can help?
Some background, from reporter Richard Acello:

We’re looking to do a story on law firms’ tech savvy or lack thereof. At a recent technology conference, some IT people complained about how their technological requirements were just not accepted by the older partners. But the young lawyers, used to more advanced technology, had no problem adapting when changes were made.

We’re looking for some examples from associates, as well as suggestions for new associates who come in and are appalled at how backward the tech is at their law firms. Yes, we will allow anonymity.

You can email Rich Acello, the writer on the story, at richace at cox dot net. Also feel free to comment on this post if you have some thoughts on law firms and how “with it” they are when it comes to tech.

Bingham McCutchen Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThis isn’t as sexy as lawyer layoffs and associate pay cuts. But today has been a bit slow on the news front, so we’ll take what we can get. From Legal Pad:

Bingham McCutchen just confirmed to us that it laid off staff last week in at least two Bay Area offices — 12 in San Francisco and five in Silicon Valley.

San Francisco Managing Partner Geoffrey Howard said the S.F. layoffs constituted between 5 and 10 percent of the staff there and affected three departments: support services (e.g. copy/fax, mail room, catering, etc.), accounting and records.

They laid off people in catering? One might expect Bingham to pay increased attention to food and beverage, in the wake of Roofiegate.
Bingham Lays Off Bay Area Staff [Legal Pad]

Dewey LeBoeuf LLP logo D&L DL Above the Law blog.jpgProps to our friends over at Dewey & LeBoeuf. Sure, Denim Day is great at all, and their wine-and-cheese events sound like a lot — maybe too much — fun.
But DL also thinks of the less fortunate. From an internal email that went around recently:

As news of the devastation in China and Myanmar spreads, and in support of our colleagues and clients in Asia, we recognize a responsibility to support and assist the many thousands of individuals and families in need at this time. Current news reports suggest that the massive earthquake in the Sichuan province of China has already claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people, with numbers that could soar to as many as 50,000. The deadly cyclone of the Myanmar delta region has already claimed over 75,000 lives, with more than 55,000 people still missing and over 1 million people in need of aid.

The firm will match all donations made by our lawyers and administrative staff up to $200,000 to the following four funds designated for relief in China and Myanmar….

Perhaps other law firms are undertaking similar efforts? If your firm is, feel free to note that in the comments.
The complete Dewey & LeBoeuf email, including links to four relief organizations that you can support, appears after the jump.
Update: As noted in the comments, Heller Ehrman is one of the firms stepping up to the plate. The firm is matching employee donations to the Red Cross up to a total of $50,000. Memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Humanitarian Crises in Myanmar and China: What’s Your Firm Doing?”

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