Holy Crap

We’ve had to wait a long time for this announcement. Last year, Cravath kicked off bonus season on November 2nd. This year, bonus news took longer to arrive.

Was it worth the wait? Cravath just announced its bonuses, this afternoon.

So, what are the Cravath year-end bonuses looking like for 2010?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Cravath Bonuses Are Out: The 2010 Bonus Season Is Under Way!”

Today Chief Judge Vaughn Walker (N.D. Cal.) issued his ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage. The case was famously brought by Ted Olson and David Boies, two of the nation’s top lawyers (who previously faced off in Bush v. Gore, on opposite sides of the case). We first learned of the news at 4:35 PM today (via Chris Rovzar of New York magazine).

In his 136-page ruling, Chief Judge Walker — a Bush I appointee to the federal bench who is generally viewed as a moderate, not some crazy San Francisco liberal — ruled that Prop 8 is “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses.” Accordingly, he “order[ed] entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement.”

A permanent injunction? Expect Prop 8 proponents to turn to a higher court in 3, 2, 1…. But is the famously left-leaning Ninth Circuit going to be much help?

For excerpts from the opinion and more links, see below….

UPDATE: This post has been revised extensively since it was first published.

Note especially the update near the end of this post regarding Judge Walker’s STAYING THE ENTRY OF JUDGMENT.

We have also added a READER POLL, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional!!!”

fire.jpgLast night, NYU had two “firestorms”: the announcement that Dr. Thio would not be coming to campus, and a more literal fire at NYU’s Bobst library.
From a tipster around 5 p.m. yesterday:

Just got out of NYU’s Bobst library. There was a small fire and they evacuated everybody inside. I had to run down 6 flights of smoke filled stairs. Great way to prep for the bar exam…

Our correspondent from Greenwich had particularly bad luck:

I actually think if I went down the main stairs I would be fine. They herded us towards two separate fire exits (on the washington park side), and the one I went down was the one filled with smoke. It cleared up around the first floor, so maybe the fire was on the second floor? … The ironic thing is, the other set of stairs seemed fine, and I’m not even a student at NYU. I just came here for one day to see a friend and for the change of atmosphere.

We’d advise heading to the NYU Law Library to study instead, but we have heard that mysterious smells lurk there.
Soooooo, the bar exam is next week. How’s that studying going? Feel free to kvetch in the comments.
Earlier: Breaking: Dr. Thio Is Not Coming To NYU Law
Breaking: Mystery Smell Hits NYU Law Library!!!


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

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFThis is, like, WOW. We don’t quite know what to say.

This departure memo, sent by an associate leaving the San Francisco office of Paul Hastings, is extraordinary. It also confirms the rumors — which have swirled about for quite some time, but without confirmation until now — of associate layoffs at PH.

We’re reaching out for comment to the associate in question and to Paul Hastings. But we wanted to put this up ASAP, to break the story first.

Farewell email below (with a handful of minor typos corrected). “Transition Agreement and General Release,” after the jump.

*******************

From: [Redacted]

Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:14 AM

To: [redacted]

Subject: My departure

The circumstances surrounding my departure from Paul Hastings have been deeply disappointing. It is one thing to ignore an email sent as a colleague is waiting to have her uterus scraped after a miscarriage, but it is wholly another level of heartlessness to lay her off six days after that. [Partner X] is the only one who expressed any sympathy after my miscarriage, and I am grateful to him for that.

Paul Hastings LLP Paul Hastings logo PH San Francisco ATL Above the Law blog.jpgA business is a business, but it takes very little to convey some level of humanity to carry out even the most difficult business decisions. We are human beings first before we are partners or associates. Had you simply explained that the department is unable to sustain the number of associates in the office, I would have completely understood. Had you explained that the office had been directed to reduce the number of associates and I was chosen because of my high billable rate and low billable hours, I would have appreciated such directness, even though the consequences of blindly raising billable rates to an unsustainable degree is plainly predictable. What I do not understand is the attempt to blame the associate for not bringing in the business that should have been brought in by each of you and to hide your personal failures by attempting to tarnish my excellent performance record and looking to undermine my sense of self esteem.

The last few months have been surreal, at best. Just last year, I had celebrated my engagement and marriage with many of you. In fact, during the engagement party, the head of the department took my then-fiancée aside to express to him what a great attorney I am and what a great future I faced. Indeed, less than a week before this year’s bizarre performance review, I was again told by the same partner that my work is great and that the slow business in no way reflected on my performance. A week later, I was given a mediocre performance review and told that I should worry about whether I have a future at Paul Hastings. When I asked for specific examples of my alleged deficiencies, I received no response. When I asked for an explanation as to why I had been downgraded in so many performance categories when I received absolutely no criticism throughout the year and my prior year’s review was stellar, I was told that my prior year’s performance assessment may have been “over-inflated.” What a startling response.

After my miscarriage, I had discussed my concern with several associates that Paul Hastings may use that opportunity to lay me off quickly before I have a chance to get pregnant again. Those associates thought it unfathomable that a firm would be so callous and assured me that Paul Hastings isn’t that kind of a place. What a lesson this has been for them – and for me. I would not have anticipated that a partner would tell me one thing and completely renege on his words a week later. I would not have anticipated that a female partner (whom I had looked to as a role model) with children of her own would sit stone faced as I broke into tears just days after my miscarriage. Even a few words of sympathy or concern would have made a world of difference. What kind of people squander human relationships so easily?

If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off. It shows startlingly poor judgment and management skills — and cowardice — on your parts. If you should ever have the misfortune of suddenly losing something or someone precious to you, I hope you don’t find similar heartlessness as I have.

As for your request for a release, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreement in return for three months’ pay, I reject it. Unlike you, I am not just a paid mouthpiece with no independent judgment. I will decide how and to whom to communicate how you have treated me. I find it ironic that you would try to buy the right not to be disparaged after behaving as you have. Your actions speak volumes, and you don’t need much help from me in damaging your reputation.

I attach the proposed release for any associate who may be interested in reviewing its details.

[Redacted]

*******************

And that’s all she wrote. The release that Paul Hastings wanted this associate to sign, after the jump.

Update (5:10 PM): We have heard back from the associate in question, who had no additional comment.

Update (8:20 PM): Previously posted in the comments, but now we can bring it up to the main page. Here is Paul Hastings’s statement, from Eileen King, Global Director of Public Relations:

“We disagree with the person’s description of what occurred, but unfortunately we don’t comment on internal employment matters.”

Update (5/6/08): Blog reactions to this story are collected here. Additional discussion of pregnancy discrimination cases appears here. Lawyer layoffs at Paul Hastings are covered here.

Further Update (5/9/08): The author of the email, Shinyung Oh, has gone public and given an interview. See here.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: A Dramatic Farewell Email
(And proof of Paul Hastings layoffs.)”

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFGuess we picked our Lawyer of the Day too soon.
Update (2:30 PM): Press conference scheduled for 2:15 p.m., but Governor Spitzer is running 15 minutes late. “I don’t blame him,” said Ben Smith of the Politico, interviewed just now on CNN.
Update (2:35 PM): Jeffrey Toobin, who was an HLS classmate of Eliot Spitzer, described the news as “a total shock.” He said Spitzer has been “nothing but a straight arrow” for many years.
Update (2:50 PM): Still no press conference. Brooke Masters, author of Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer, was just interviewed on CNN. She noted that this scandal comes at a bad time for Spitzer politically, in the wake of last year’s scandal involving his misuse of the State Police for political purposes.
Update (3 PM): We’re stepping away for a bit, to give a talk at Stanford Law School. We’ll be back online as soon as we can. Some content will be posted while we’re gone (material prepared ahead of time, not Spitzer updates).
Developing… Check back for updates.
Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring [New York TImes]

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFIt’s very early, but it’s true: Cravath, Swaine & Moore announced bonuses today!!! Here are the numbers:
Class of 2007 — Year end bonus $35,000 (prorated), no special bonus
Class of 2006 — Year end $35,000, special $10,000
Class of 2005 — Year end $40,000, special $15,000
Class of 2004 — Year end $45,000, special $20,000
Class of 2003 — Year end $50,000, special $30,000
Class of 2002 — Year end $55,000, special $40,000
Class of 2001 — Year end $60,000, special $50,000
Class of 2000 — Year end $60,000, special $50,000 (same as 2001)
Cravath Swaine Moore LLP Above the Law blog.JPGUpdate (5:05 PM):

1. No official comment from the firm (we called their spokesperson), but this news is solid. It has been confirmed for us by multiple sources at Cravath, by phone and by email.

2. As noted in the comments, the “special” bonuses will be paid in November (on November 9, to be exact). The year-end bonuses will be paid in December.

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGUpdate (5:40 PM): If you’d like to compare this bonus table to what Cravath (and pretty much everyone else in New York) paid last year, you can check out the 2006 CSM bonus memo over here. As you can see, the year-end bonuses for this year and last year are basically the same; it’s just that this year, there are “special” bonuses that take total compensation higher.
Also, recall that the base salaries in effect in December 2006 were lower than current base salaries. The Simpson Thacher-led move to $160K didn’t happen until January 2007. So between the higher base salaries and the “special” bonuses, CSM associates this year are significantly better off than last year’s batch.
As for timing, last year’s Cravath bonus memo was issued on December 11, 2006. So this year’s bonus announcement comes quite early in the season. The 2006 bonus season was kicked off by Milbank, which announced on December 8, 2006.
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch [2006]: A Real Milbank Bonus Announcement
Associate Bonus Watch [2006]: Cravath Announced; Cadwalader Rumored
Breaking: Simpson Thacher Raises Associate Base Salaries!!!
Related: Associate Bonus Watch 2007 archives (scroll down)

Aaron Charney Sullivan Cromwell settlement Above the Law blog.jpgYes, the Brokeback Lawfirm litigation has come to an end. No, this is not an April Fools’ joke.
Sullivan & Cromwell and Aaron Charney ride off into the sunset, with Charney a little sore in the saddle — from all the money he’s sitting on. No more “bending over” for this cowboy.
The scoop, from Anthony Lin, appears in the New York Law Journal:

Sullivan & Cromwell said Thursday it had reached a settlement with former associate Aaron Charney, who sued the New York law firm earlier this year for sexual orientation discrimination.

“Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell have resolved their differences in connection with all pending disputes between them,” the firm said through a spokesman.

Charney’s lawyer, Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop, did not return a call for comment.

The settlement, the terms of which are confidential, brings to a close a dispute that had fascinated the New York legal community over the past several months, both with its allegations concerning partners at one of the city’s most prestigious firms and its bizarre twists and turns in the courtroom.

The rest of the piece recites the facts of the case and its procedural history, which will be familiar to ATL readers. But it’s a clear and cogent summary, and you can read the rest of it here.
We’ll have more to say in the morning. In the meantime, have at it in the comments.
Aaron Charney, wherever you are: Good night, and good luck. And if you need any help spending those settlement proceeds — call us.
P.S. Anthony Lin’s article was linked to by Howard Bashman at 10:58 PM, but we’re not exactly sure when the news broke. (We just got home from the Georgetown Law EJF auction, which was great fun.)
Sullivan Settles With Former Associate Who Sued Firm for Discrimination [New York Law Journal]

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT bed bugs bedbugs Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.jpgSources in the New York office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft have informed us that a bed bug has been found on the 20th floor. It is believed that said bedbug infiltrated the premises through a delivery or box shipment. Perhaps it was hidden in a document production from opposing counsel?
Attorneys were notified of this breach in CWT’s bed bug security via email. We haven’t seen the email message, which we understand was protected against forwarding, printing, or copying.
But if you have further details, please post them in the comments (or email us). Thanks!
Update: We like this commenter’s speculation: “Cameron Diaz brought it!”
Earlier: Breaking: Cadwalader Overrun By Bed Bugs!!!
Cameron Diaz at Cadwalader!

yale law school.jpgA first-year student at Yale Law School was found dead in his apartment last night.
You read it here first; the story is developing. More details to appear in this space; refresh your browser for the latest updates.
Update (12:40 PM): We just got off the phone with Bliss Bernarda in Yale’s Office of Public Affairs. She confirmed that a Yale Law School student has died but said the university does not have further comment at this time. We provided her with our contact information, and we will let you know if and when the school issues a statement.
Update (1:05 PM): We are hearing that the death may not have been violent (as some people appear to be assuming) — that he may have died of natural causes. But we don’t have confirmation or details.
Further updates appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: Yale Law School First-Year Found Dead”

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