Are billing disputes between law firms and their clients on the rise in the recession? We feel like we’ve seen a lot of them lately.
The most recent disagreement involves Bingham McCutchen. A Boston-area investment company, Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, has sued Bingham, claiming it was overcharged for legal services provided in connection with preparing an SEC registration statement.
The case isn’t that exciting — it seems like a garden-variety fee dispute — but this aspect struck us as interesting. From Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (subscription):
The Sept. 16 complaint accuses Bingham of stacking the case with young associates who had “inadequate” experience. “The billing statements reflect that these junior lawyers in essence were enjoying the benefits of on-the-job-training at Tuckerbrook’s expense,” the complaint states.
So the allegation is that young lawyers were being trained on the client’s dime. But is that an indictment of Bingham McCutchen, or of the billable hour? Grumpy in-house lawyers regularly complain about paying for the training of Biglaw’s junior associates. This is why some corporate counsel explicitly refuse to pay for first- and second-year associates (and provide for that in their retainer agreements; presumably Tuckerbrook could have done that here).
More news about Bingham, including its summer associate offer rate and its real estate needs in New York, after the jump.
I’m sure you all remember the Stepford Secretary. She is the secretary that praised lawyers at her firm for their CHARACTER. She was fired, and then she lawyered up.
But the President’s speech on health care last night inspired her. Well, at least it inspired her to email Above the Law:
In his speech tonight the President made reference to the “character of our Country.” I chuckled and said “Watch it, Mr. President, using the word character got me fired.”
Tonight after sitting and watching the President’s address I thought it would be time to give you an update.
I went to [my firm] asking graciously for six months severance (approximately two weeks salary for each of my ten years there). The firm’s decision to terminate me for an attempt (albeit, poor judgment) at giving certain props to colleagues was not persecution enough. They denied my request (shocking) and offered a twisted view of both me and the reasons for my termination. Sadly, there is no hope of taking these well educated, uncouth individuals to Court. I just do not have the bank roll or emotional tolerance for the extended crap they will surely put me through. I know that my original statement came from a place of despair. For now, there is just a file containing numerous accounts of misconduct on the part of the company, and the facade continues.
We’re now into the back half of the brand new Vault law firm rankings. Just like last year, we worry about a proliferation of “TTT” accusations in the comment threads. But such terms of art can miss the positives of many of the firms in this section of the Vault rankings. Here’s the list:
51. Fulbright & Jaworski 52. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 53. Morgan Lewis & Bockius 54. McDermott Will & Emery 55. Alston & Bird 56. Bingham McCutchen 57. Fish & Richardson 58. Dechert 59. Greenberg Traurig 60. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft
We have already extensively talked about the Morgan Lewis situation. Let’s move on to other firms after the jump.
We already mentioned the Erin Andrews situation this morning. The ESPN anchor was spied on through a peephole at a hotel. Andrews is considering her actions, and she has retained counsel. Bingham McCutchen will be taking on this high-profile case.
Here is the statement from Bingham’s Marshall B. Grossman:
While alone in the privacy of her hotel room, Erin Andrews was surreptitiously videotaped without her knowledge or consent. She was the victim of a crime and is taking action to protect herself and help ensure that others are not similarly violated in the future. Although the perpetrator or perpetrators of this criminal act have not yet been identified, when they are identified she intends to bring both civil and criminal charges against them and against anyone who has published the material. We request respect of Erin’s privacy at this time, while she and her representatives are working with the authorities.
One of these days, the people who snap this kind of footage and the publishers who make it available are going to get smacked down, hard.
We like to highlight examples of Biglaw associates who get to do especially interesting or high-profile work. E.g., Lindsay Harrison, the Jenner & Block associate who argued a case — and won — before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Most lawyers tuned in to Congress yesterday were listening to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings (even if day 4 was less than thrilling). But over on the House side, one young lawyer was talking rather than listening. Jason Pinney (pictured), a (rather handsome) sixth-year associate at Bingham McCutchen, got to testify before lawmakers.
Pinney addressed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, specifically, the Subcommittee on International Organization, Human Rights and Oversight. He spoke about his work as part of a Bingham legal team representing a group of Uighurs detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Bingham lawyers obtained the release of two Uighurs in 2006 and four more Uighurs last month.
(As explained by the AP, “[t]he Uighurs, a Turkic minority from China’s far west, were sent to the U.S. facility in Cuba after their capture in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. The Pentagon determined last year that they were not enemy combatants.” Oops!)
Congrats to the Bingham lawyers on their successful representation of their clients — and to Pinney on his congressional testimony. To download a copy of the testimony, click here. Today in Congress: July 16, 2009 [Washington Post] Lawmakers want investigation into Uighurs at Gitmo [AP] Jason S. Pinney [Bingham McCutchen] Pinney Testimony [PDF]
After enduring a rough few years caused by the collapse of the structured finance market, the elite specialty firm of McKee Nelson has agreed to be acquired by the larger Bingham McCutchen.
Partners at both firms were informed Monday morning of the merger, which is scheduled to take effect August 1. The combined firm will be called Bingham McCutchen, and will include all of McKee Nelson’s lawyers.
No word on whether the McKee attorneys have the CHARACTER to become Bingham attorneys. But the merger looks good on paper:
McKee Nelson, which is known as one of the pre-eminent firms for tax planning and tax litigation, was viewed by Bingham as an attractive addition. “It’s really rare to find a firm that is this size that has three market-leading practices,” says Bingham chairman Jay Zimmerman, referring to McKee’s expertise in tax, financial institution litigation, and capital markets-structured finance. Structured finance might be moribund now, but Zimmerman sees it as an area worth investing in. “It will be part of our longterm strategy for serving the financial institution industry.”
How does this work on the McKee side of the ledger? We check in after the jump.
Three months after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination dismissed her complaint, a former Bingham McCutchen associate has fired back with a gender-discrimination suit against the Boston firm she left in 2008.
In a highly charged complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court on June 23, Michelle A. Moor, who now works at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, alleges that she was involuntarily drugged with a “roofie” during a Dec. 14, 2007, firm-sponsored holiday party….
In a written statement, Bingham’s senior communications manager, Claire Papanastasiou, said the firm acted sensitively, responsibly and fairly at all times.
“We are disappointed that [Moor] persists in pursuing baseless claims against the firm, particularly in light of the [MCAD's] April 9 dismissal of her complaint for lack of probable cause,” she wrote.
Wait, there are people out there who want banking lawyers? Really? This is excellent news! Morgan Lewis & Bockius announced today that it has acquired eleven people: five partners and six associates, from Bingham McCutchen’s Boston office. But the real shocker is that all of the lawyers are from Bingham’s Banking and Leveraged Finance Group:
Morgan Lewis today announced the addition of five partners and six associates from Bingham McCutchen’s Banking and Leveraged Finance Group–including a former co-chair of the practice–to its Business and Finance Practice, resident in the firm’s Boston office. Partners Robert A.J. Barry, Jonathan K. Bernstein, Sula R. Fiszman, Matthew F. Furlong, and Sandra J. Vrejan, will focus their practice on corporate finance, as well as restructuring. Their experience across a broad range of industries–including retail, manufacturing, food and beverage, energy, media, communications and sports–add to the depth of knowledge Morgan Lewis offers clients as they face today’s rapidly changing economic conditions. In addition, their arrival significantly increases the firm’s presence in Boston.
Isn’t it great to live in a world where law firms need corporate finance lawyers?
“Particularly in light of the difficult credit markets faced by both our lender and borrower clients, there is an ever-increasing need for us to be able to provide additional top-flight financing expertise across a multitude of industries” said Firm Chair Francis M. Milone. “This expansion reflects our continued commitment to providing clients with the kind of counsel they need to execute credit transactions in any business environment.”
It seems right to focus on “any” business environment, considering that the politicians seem to be making it up as they go along.
A statement from Bingham and the the Morgan Lewis press release after the jump.
The Bingham McCutchen “Stepford Secretary” has decided to speak out about her termination from Bingham and her decision to hire a lawyer.
In an email she sent to Above the Law, the Stepford Secretary describes her firm wide CHARACTER email as “totally harmless.” She also describes the way in which she was fired from Bingham:
I panicked prior to my termination. Bingham disconnected my computer, took my identification and escorted me out of the building.
Why a possible lawsuit? Bingham terminated me for violation of policy. There is no written policy regarding NOT being able to send mass internal emails. It says to use discretion. I’m sure that policy has been or will quickly be updated.
Stepford claims that she always intended her email to be an internal communication with in the firm. She writes that she didn’t even know Above the Law existed before she sent her email.
She does now.
Read her full email after the jump. She has requested that we maintain her anonymity to the general public.
We’ve been following the trials and tribulations of the former Bingham McCutchen “Stepford Secretary” who sent out a mission statement to the firm about CHARACTER. After the email, the secretary was fired by Bingham.
Now, she’s lawyered-up. No complaint has been filed, but we understand that the secretary has hired an attorney and is considering her options.
What possible claims could she have?
We understand that the Stepford Secretary was let go for violating the firm’s email policy, and insubordination. But she had been with the firm for over ten years. According to some of our sources, the Stepford secretary doesn’t see her email as “insubordinate,” because the email didn’t disparage the firm. As one tipster puts it:
Bingham never bothered to ask why she sent the email or what provoked the cry for help.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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