Yesterday, after whining about law schools on NPR, I motored over to the Fox headquarters on Sixth Avenue. They wanted me on to to talk about a post I did a couple of weeks ago, encouraging oil-spill victims to take their BP money from the $20 billion fund being administered by Ken Feinberg, instead of pursuing private lawsuits against BP. For the debate, they brought on a plaintiff’s lawyer.
I thought it was a good segment, and I do believe the BP fund will be better for the victims (and the justice system) than a slew of plaintiff’s lawyers jumping on BP — and taking a sizable cut out of whatever damages a judge (most likely) reduces.
Ellie [sic], I think you are on the brink of finally embracing the fallacy of prudential regulation and the idea that government or semi-government programs are ever going to be able to take care of someone who refuses to take the most basic steps of self-preservation. I saw you on Fox News and I bet you vote Republican this November.
I don’t think I was accessing my inner elephant. But check out the clip and tell me what you think…
As we mentioned this weekend, the BP oil spill has been capped (for the time being), and now we can fully focus on who needs to get paid. As with so many things, it’s Ken Feinberg’s world and we’re just living in it. Bloomberg reports:
Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing a $20 billion fund to pay damage claims from BP Plc’s oil spill, pledged to create a system “more generous and more beneficial” to spill victims than taking the company to court.
More generous than court? Ooohh, judicial system, Czar Feinberg is calling you out. You gonna just take that?
In journalism, there are certain go-to stories that one writes around big events. At Halloween, everyone writes the “most popular costume” story. At Christmas, it’s the “most popular toy” story. At Thanksgiving, it’s the “how the community is giving back” story.
Over the last two years, a recurring event has been “the big bankruptcy.” And it seems that the journalistic go-to is the “how much are the greedy lawyers making off of this” story. We’ve seen it with the GM bankruptcy, the Tribune bankruptcy, and the Chrysler bankruptcy. Yesterday, the New York Times applied the story model to the Lehman bankruptcy, but they got pay czar Kenneth Feinberg to weigh in — and lay into the firms working on the case: Weil, Jones Day, and Milbank.
“It violates any sense of proportion,” says Kenneth Feinberg, the Washington lawyer who serves as the “pay czar” for banks bailed out by the government and whom the court appointed last June to monitor fees associated with the Lehman bankruptcy. The court asked him to participate after concerns were raised in the news media about the soaring fees in the Lehman case.
“Unemployment is over 9 percent, and to be paying first-year associates $500 an hour angers the public,” he observes. “People read about all of this and say that lawyers and the legal system are one more example of Wall Street out of control.”
The article outlines the fees that have outraged — tangential Nationwide Perk Watch: Weil attorneys get limo transport — and the new limits that have been placed on bankruptcy attorneys on the case. No first class for you!
Friday was the last day for companies on the government dole to submit their pay plans to Kenneth Feinberg, our nation’s new Pay Czar. The new compensation commissar is as powerful as a mid-winter blizzard on the Eurasian Steppe. According to Law.com:
The Obama administration’s “pay czar” is embarking on a review of proposed compensation packages for the top employees at seven companies that are on government life support, marking the first time a federal official will have veto power over how much private-sector executives are compensated.
Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the government’s fund for families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has 60 days to approve or reject the compensation plans submitted this week from bailout recipients. They include American International Group Inc. and General Motors.
Can’t you just see a detail of Feinberg’s men assigned to follow Fritz Henderson (the new CEO of GM) during his training routine? One day maybe Fritz will outrun Feinberg’s men and climb to the top of a high peak and scream “Fein-BERG,” as he prepares for an epic final battle with Feinberg himself?
In the meantime, here are more reasons why being a lawyer right now is better than being a banker.
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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.
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.
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