Since Judge Denny Chin is moving on up to the Second Circuit, the S.D.N.Y. cases pending before him have to be redistributed. Lawyers for Bank of America, which has 15 civil shareholder lawsuits on Chin’s docket, sent the chief judge a letter requesting that the cases be reassigned using a lottery system. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Cleary Gottlieb, Davis Polk, and Wachtell Lipton all signed the letter.
Why did they need to send this special letter? Because they were scared of B of A landing again in the lap of Judge Jed Rakoff, says the Wall Street Journal:
Judge Rakoff disappointed bank executives last year when he rejected a $30 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had charged the bank with misleading shareholders about bonuses paid prior to the Merrill merger. The New York judge reluctantly approved a new $150 million agreement in February but called it “half-baked justice at best.”
One of the pending shareholder cases accuses the bank of failing to “disclose billions in Merrill losses before shareholders approved the deal in December 2008.”
Apparently, the lawyers debated whether or not to name Judge Rakoff in their letter, thus making it clear that he was the particular judge they hoped to avoid. They ultimately decided to name names.
They were successful in steering their cases clear of Rakoff, though the chief judge claims the letter wasn’t a factor in her decision to assign the cases to Judge Kevin Castel (aka the John Gotti judge). How did she decide?
You can access the various charts via this portal page. Aric Press and Greg Mulligan summarize the results:
It could have been worse. That’s the best that can be said for the performance last year of The Am Law 100, the top-grossing law firms in the nation. Three of the four key categories we’ve measured for 25 years — gross revenue, head count, and revenue per lawyer — fell, while profits per equity partner (PPP) barely increased by 0.3 percent, or $3,463, to $1.26 million.
So PPP was basically stable in 2009 — not a bad result given the continuing economic weakness last year. Perhaps law firm partners are better business managers than they get credit for?
It’s a been a beautiful week in New York City. The sun is shining and Biglaw partners are making it rain. Am Law Daily reports some great news from Cravath:
Cravath, Swaine & Moore joins the exclusive ranks of New York firms that achieved a significant jump in both revenue and profits per equity partner (PPP) last year. The firm’s revenue rose 7 percent to $569 million; PPP increased 8 percent to $2.7 million, according to our reporting.
This is wonderful news compared to what was coming out of Cravath last year:
Cravath’s 2009 results are an optimistic change from a disappointing 2008 when reveue fell 13 percent and PPP plunged 24 percent, as we reported last year. Despite this rebound, the firm’s numbers remain below the high water mark of 2007, when revenue reached $610.5 million and PPP soared to $3.3 million.
But Cravath isn’t the only New York titan that received good news this week …
“No idea why,” said our source, “but Davis seems like a place where disappearings are rare.”
Indeed. It’s one of a handful of super-elite firms, like Cravath and Wachtell and Sullivan & Cromwell, where partners rarely leave. When they do, there’s often a story behind the departure. See, e.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda and John O’Brien, formerly of Sullivan & Cromwell.
We followed up by calling the firm yesterday. The first time we called the main number, the receptionist hung up on us after we asked for Pat Bradford. This was very un-Davis of her, since DPW is known for its passive-aggressive uber-polite, genteel, “kinder and gentler” atmosphere.
We called back, and this time we were connected to a secretary who put us into Bradford’s voice-mail. We left him a voice-mail and followed up with an email. Today Bradford confirmed his departure from DPW, in a short statement to ATL:
I have withdrawn from my firm to pursue a position in government service.
A financing unit of Cerberus Capital Management L.P. has sued Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, claiming the law firm gave it bad advice in connection with a loan the private equity firm made last year to a company looking to bring retailer Steve & Barry’s out of bankruptcy.
Ableco Finance LLC, a unit of Cerberus with more than $6 billion under management, filed an amended complaint Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court against its former lawyers seeking more than $55 million it said it lost because of the $125 million loan. Ableco claims it would never have made the loan last year if the Paul Hastings team had advised it that the buyer would not have rights to all of Steve & Barry’s inventory, which Ableco understood would back the loan.
“No competent, diligent finance lawyer would have put his client in such a vulnerable position,” Ableco’s complaint reads in part.
Ouch. We agree with Ashby Jones of the WSJ Law Blog: “It’s never good for a law firm to get sued by one of its clients. But when the client is a deep-pocketed heavyweight like private-equity giant Cerberus, the news is probably especially unwelcome.”
But Paul Hastings is fighting back, with the help of high-powered counsel.
Well, here’s an early Thanksgiving present from the partnership at Davis Polk & Wardwell to their associates. Bonus news.
DPW will be putting the same meal on the table as Cravath:
We are pleased to announce that associates in good standing will receive a bonus payment as outlined below. Bonuses will be paid on December 24th, 2009 in the same manner as the regular December monthly payroll, and will be subject to proration for those who arrived after January 1, 2009 and those on part-time schedules or other special arrangements. Bonuses for counsel and other attorneys will be determined on an individual basis and will be communicated and paid according to the normal time schedule.
Class of 2008: $ 7,500
Class of 2007: $10,000
Class of 2006: $15,000
Class of 2005: $20,000
Class of 2004: $25,000
Class of 2003 and senior: $30,000
We thank you for your efforts over the past year, and wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.
The Management Committee
In this season of thankfulness, some DPW associates feel they deserve a few more blessings than what the firm is offering.
Commenters often complain that we feature too many Biglaw associates in this space — uninspiring young people who’ve drifted through college and law school and are now drones at soulless firms. We’re delighted that this week, Biglaw associates make up only one-third of our couples. Rounding out the field are a soulless-drone partner and a former associate who abandoned Biglaw for the classic refuge of the disillusioned JD: law teaching. Enjoy this foray into the unexpected!
We suppose it’s fitting that on Yom Kippur, when our Jewish friends are fasting at home, today’s Legal Eagle Wedding Watch is a total WASP-fest. (Last weekend was Rosh Hashanah, which explains the unusual dearth of Jewish nuptials in the NYT announcements.) We look forward to receiving plenty of tasteful feedback about how there are “too many gentiles” this week.
Here are your six finalists — all Biglaw associates, as it happens:
1. Wachtell 2. Cravath 3. Skadden 4. Sullivan & Cromwell 5. Davis Polk
As we noted yesterday, the only change in the top five is Skadden jumping over S&C. Is that fair? A lot of you opined that Skadden’s prestige score was settled before it starting deferring associates. But surprisingly few of you noted that Skadden paid out bonuses that were double what Cravath, S&C, and DPW paid.
Is twice as much bonus money worth one extra spot in the rankings? Vault’s managing editor, Brian Dalton, suggests that Skadden’s bonus carried some weight:
Skadden had a good year, climbing over Sullivan & Cromwell to take the #3 spot. Among other factors, the notion of ‘half-Skadden’ is a potent one, though not quite enough to carry the firm past Cravath. (Mildly ironic in that Cravath’s bonus decision spawned that meme.)
Truly striking is the reach of the Skadden brand: Third in the Boston regional ranking, second in Chicago, and–taking over from Latham–No. 1 in Northern and Southern California. (Vault’s regional rankings are calculated using only the votes of the survey respondents in the particular region.) By contrast, in its hometown of New York City, Skadden places fifth. (These regional rankings are coming soon to the site.)
After the jump, should any of these firms in the top five move over to make room for somebody else?
Summer programs at many firms are shorter this year than last year. That means the summer is over at a lot of places, and summer associates are starting to learn their fates.
So far, there is some surprising news. Summers are getting offers. Many people have reported that their firm has given full, 100% offers to 2009 summer associates. Summers at Sullivan & Cromwell and Davis Polk are just some of the people reporting good news:
Davis Polk & Wardwell and Sullivan & Cromwell have extended offers to all of their summer associates.
Update (12:35): Additional tipsters inform us that Davis Polk has only given 100% offers to the summers that have already left. That is about half of the summer associates. The rest of the SAs leave on Friday, so we’ll see.
We also have received word that Cravath is making 100% offers.
After the jump, let’s look at a few more firms that we believe are making full offers to this year’s summer associates.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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