Last decade — back in the aughts — a Holland & Knight real estate partner got up to some very bad things. While we have heard that coke can be an aid for sleep-deprived attorneys, it caused problems for Theodore Silva Jr.
Silva was formerly a partner in Holland & Knight’s D.C. office. According to the National Law Journal, in 2005, Silva forged signatures and created fictitious notaries for an easement agreement. Then he lied to his clients and bar counsel about that and about his cocaine use:
[Silva] attributed his conduct to stress, cocaine use and drinking. The incident cost the firm about $150,000 in expenses plus 50 hours’ work from another Holland & Knight partner who had to rectify the problems.
Silva, who had made partner in 1995, was fired by Holland & Knight in 2006. The District of Columbia Board of Professional Responsibility just issued its report [PDF] and its recommendation for discipline last week.
The Legal Blog Network is surprised that this conduct was not enough to get Silva disbarred. We’re surprised to learn that Silva had a coke use criminal charge in 2002 and that it passed the sniff test at Holland & Knight. As long as the snow helped Silva make it rain, it seems the firm didn’t mind what he did with his dollars.
Holland & Knight announced today that it would be moving away from lockstep associate compensation. But unlike the firms that have rushed to jump on the Orrick-style, three-tier “pure merit” model, Holland is adopting a hybrid approach. Here’s how Holland & Knight managing partner Steve Sonberg explained it to associates this morning:
The base salary of an associate will no longer depend solely on seniority and the number of hours billed by an associate during the preceding year. Instead, the firm will evaluate each associate on the basis of both objective and subjective factors.
The objective factors will continue to include the number of billable and creditable hours. The firm’s existing policy on creditable hours is not being changed. In addition to the number of billable and creditable hours, the firm will now also consider other factors that objectively measure an associate’s contribution to the firm and to our clients (e.g., collections, profitability, significant matter responsibility, and successful client development).
The subjective factors will include professional and career development (including client development skills), the quality of the legal services provided to our clients, and other contributions to our profession, our communities, and the firm. We are committed to providing an evaluation process that clearly communicates to associates what is expected of them.
Under the new model, this combination of subjective and objective factors will be used to determine what kind of raise associates receive from year to year.
Above the Law spoke with Adolfo Jimenez, the partner at Holland & Knight who oversees the firm’s associate program. H&K’s new compensation plan is very different from the ones we’ve been seeing lately, and we asked Jimenez why the firm decided to go in a different direction.
The penalty for having a partner announce layoffs on a train was six spots according to Vault. There have been other Pillsbury cutbacks. But the Acela incident happened when associates had Vault surveys sitting on their desks.
After the jump, let’s take a look at some of the other firms in this group.
Last week, we brought you some salary cut news from the Sunshine State. Today we bring you more such news. Holland & Knight, a large national law firm with a significant presence in Florida (the state it started in), announced pay cuts yesterday for associates, senior counsel, and senior professionals. The salary cut will be effective with the next paycheck (i.e., this Friday). The information was disseminated by voicemail — or, to be technical, a secure link to a Flash audio message — at approximately 7 p.m. Eastern time yesterday.
Our sources reported pay cuts averaging around 10 percent. But according to managing partner Steven Sonberg, the overall cuts are closer to 7 percent.
The explanation, including the firm’s full statement on the cuts, after the jump.
Former Thelen associates might still be scrambling to pick up the pieces of their aborted legal careers, but former Thelen partners continue to land on their feet. The latest partner refugee is an All-Star. Richard Raysman (of what used to be known as Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner) has ended up at Holland & Knight.
Raysman left Thelen in August for Otterbourg Steindler. He got out before Thelen collapsed. Not surprisingly, Holland & Knight’s announcement downplays Raysman’s connection to his defunct former firm:
After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and receiving his J.D., from Brooklyn Law School while working at IBM as a systems engineer, Raysman founded the firm of Brown, Raysman, Millstein, Felder & Steiner which grew to 250 attorneys. The Brown Raysman firm was the first significant firm to focus on computer law. Raysman was among the first lawyers to recognize that the practice of law in the area of computers would be increasingly important as digital technology spread through commercial enterprises.
But ex-Thelen employees still remember My. Raysman. Remember, earlier this month former Thelen employees were granted class status to pursue claims against Thelen. Their lawyer has indicated a willingness to go after former partners of the firm.
But clients probably won’t care about Raysman’s connection with the unfortunate events surrounding Thelen. He’s a leading lawyer in an important field. We’re sure Holland & Knight will be thrilled by the extra rain.
You know how a lot of buildings omit the “13th floor” out of superstition? I’ve noticed that really superstitious people think about the 14th floor as the danger zone, because counting is not a particularly hard thing to do.
I bring this up because tomorrow is Friday the 13th, and I’m just wondering if the invisible hand of market collapse decided that Thursday the 12th was a “better day” for everybody to get fired.
In any every, as many commenters have already noticed, there appear to be massive layoffs at Holland & Knight today. Some of our sources report that as many as 200 attorneys and staffers could be out of a job by the end of the day. Other sources place that number closer to 300.
Holland & Knight has declined to offer us a statement at this time.
Update: According to the WSJ Law Blog, the firm fired 70 lawyers and 173 staff. From a statement: “Today, we began restructuring our operations to better meet the needs of our clients and to take steps to fully respond to the adverse effects of the current economic downturn.”
After the jump, we have additional details from tipsters.
Every year, the National Law Journal names individual people and firms that have done outstanding pro bono work. This year perhaps more than others, it is especially important to recognize those that gave their time to charity. With the economy crumbling, there is a huge need for free legal services.
Eric Blinderman, international legal counsel to Proskauer Rose, had gone to Iraq in March 2004 as an associate general counsel for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Later, he served as chief legal counsel and associate deputy to the Regime Crimes Liaison. In 2007, Blinderman’s firm officially became a part of The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Refugees, a nonprofit organization founded that year to help resettle Iraqis in danger because of their affiliation with the United States. Holland & Knight had already been collaborating with the project, and Mayer Brown signed on this year.
Firms nationwide were inspired by the historic 2008 presidential election to devote pro bono time to protecting access to the voting booth. Lawyers went to court in several states on voter access issues, most frequently to prevent a voting reform law, the Help America Vote Act, from becoming a barrier to the ballot. The law required states to match voter rolls with another database, usually the registry of driver licenses, to create a more accurate list of voters.
Read the full list of winners here. And please share your stories about other great pro bono acts in the comments.
Judging from our traffic, readers are enjoying this rundown of the Vault 100. We do aim to please here at ATL. We appreciate those who have offered insights about firms in the comments.
Moving on to the next group (with prestige scores in parentheses):
As we move down the Vault list, “notable perks” are becoming less elaborate. This group is dominated by tales of free food, from endless soda at Greenberg Traurig to weekend doughnuts and muffins at Foley. And it appears that Pillsbury lacks a monopoly on cookie benefits; over at Cahill, lawyers are plied with “twice daily cookie trays.”
We note this food-related perk at Bingham: “If any lawyer takes out a more junior lawyer for drinks/dinner, he/she can submit the expense to the mentoring budget AND the senior person can get creditable hours.” Can you expense the roofies?
We invite you to compare and contrast these firms’ work, lifestyle, benefits… and cookies, in the comments. Earlier:Vault 100 Open Threads – 2009
The bad news continues to roll in. Becker & Poliakoff, which just announced across-the-board pay cuts for its lawyers, isn’t the only Florida firm that’s hurting.
From a report by Julie Kay, for the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal:
In another sign of the hard times facing the legal industry, particularly in real-estate heavy South Florida, two local law firms — Holland & Knight and Shutts & Bowen — have laid off non-lawyer staffers.
On a day that could be dubbed Black Friday in South Florida legal circles, Tampa-based Holland & Knight, one of Florida’s largest and most venerable firms with 1,150 lawyers, laid off 70 staffers Friday, including legal secretaries, IT and accounting staff. No lawyers were laid off.
The layoffs of about four employees in each of Holland’s 17 offices represented 5% of Holland’s non-lawyer workforce.
Shutts & Bowen, a 200-lawyer, Miami-based firm, Friday laid off nine people, all entry level file clerks or paralegal clerks. No lawyers or legal secretaries were affected.
Holland & Knight spokeswoman Susan Bass told the Daily Business Review that the firm “had some redundancies and inefficiencies.” Seventy staffers is a whole lot of redundancies.
Read more — about prior layoffs at H&K, and the situation over at Greenberg Traurig — below the fold.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.