Lateral Moves

The past few months have been good ones for Morrison & Foerster. The firm, which secured an impressive victory for longtime client Apple in the smartphone wars, could end up getting part of its $60 million in fees paid by the losing party, Samsung. MoFo has also been adding new talent at a good clip, including D.C. securities partners Martin Dunn and Scott Lesmes (formerly of O’Melveny & Myers), London restructuring partner Howard Morris (formerly of SNR Denton), and a slew of partners (formerly of Hogan Lovells) who opened MoFo’s new Berlin office.

So the news about lateral partners at Morrison & Foerster is exciting. Can the same be said about associate bonuses in the New York office, the first MoFo outpost to announce?

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Megyn Kelly of Fox News

* “Those of us from the Midwest think it’s actually easier to hide a child in New York.” Many of the current Supreme Court justices are from New York. How does it affect their jurisprudence? [Washington Post]

* The percentage of women associates in law firms may be down nationally, but in California, the demographic is on the rise — except in Silicon Valley, which is really hardly surprising. [The Recorder]

* Megyn Kelly, who’s been compared to a “brilliant supermodel,” is now considered the brightest star on Fox News, with more than 2.5 million viewers. Albany Law School must be so proud. [Washington Post]

* Class action powerhouse Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll hired Matthew S. Axelrod of DOJ fame (most recently as Associate Deputy Attorney General) to join the firm as a partner. Congrats! [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* “The fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive.” Yep. Rape insurance. Apparently that’s a thing in Michigan now, which is pretty unbelievable. The more you know. [MSNBC]

* Here’s a helpful hint for our readers: when you’re trying to get released on bail prior to your jewel heist trial, you probably shouldn’t list your occupation on a court form as “jewelry thief.” [Los Angeles Times]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

What can we expect for the first quarter of 2014 in terms of the lateral partner market? As I have detailed before, the market is generally volatile and the rate of change of each month and quarter from year to year is difficult to predict. In our calculations, the number of lateral movements in December accounts for less than 20% of the variation in lateral movements in January. However, on average there are 2.4 times as many moves in January as there are in the previous December (but this ratio is subject to much volatility).

Let’s look at some data:

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Another day, another round of Biglaw bonuses. Today is Hump Day, so why not pair our bonus news with some exciting lateral partner moves?

Earlier this week, Ropes & Gray announced its 2013 year-end bonus scale. It’s no Boies Schiller $300K bonus, that’s for sure, but it’s a tad more interesting than your run-of-the-mill Cravath match.

Keep reading for all of the details on the Ropes & Gray bonus, news on the firm’s latest partner class, and the announcement of a very recent lateral pick-up from a firm that’s bleeding partners….

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When we sit down at Thanksgiving this year, we’ll give thanks for Weil Gotshal. Over the past few months, the highly prestigious and profitable firm has generated a cornucopia of tasty news to cover.

And the drama isn’t over yet. Instead, the soap opera continues.

Soap operas feature ups as well as downs; they’re not all bad news (because that would be boring). Births and marriages balance out deaths and divorces.

So for today’s Weil Gotshal update, we’ll start with the happy stuff — new partners! — before moving on to the gloomier news….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

Lateral matchmaking is hardly ever “love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” It is a rigorous process that requires a multifaceted approach to satisfy a multitude of criteria. If you are questioning the degree of your lateral attractiveness, allow me to explicate this below.

Each firm has a unique culture and looks for different traits in lateral partners. Nonetheless, most firms have a baseline, a minimum threshold a lawyer must meet in order to seem attractive, at least at first glance. There are always exceptions to these rules, but in general this threshold is encompassed by the following: profitability (e.g., portable business, bill rates, hours, and leverage); pedigree (e.g., law school); vintage; and for some firms, even GPA.

The first criteria is profitability. I will walk you through a quick example to explain the difference between two partners, then share with you a game that will let you assess your value as a lateral in today’s market….

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Andy DeVooght

We’ve discussed in these pages the trend of going “from Biglaw to boutique” (and it was the title of Tom Wallerstein’s column for us as well). Lawyers who could easily work at mega-firms are opting instead for the flexibility and collegiality of small-firm practice — and clients are following them.

Today’s notable move involves Andy DeVooght, coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s in Chicago. DeVooght has an enviable résumé. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he worked as a partner at Winston & Strawn and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, for the late Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Instead of returning to Biglaw, a common path for someone in DeVooght’s shoes, he’s joining a buzz-generating boutique. Which one?

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As we’ve repeated countless times in these pages, Biglaw isn’t what it used to be, and good luck to you if you happen to be a partner. Sure, you’ve grabbed that brass ring, but you also have what could be described as “the worst job in Biglaw.” Here in the new normal, where layoffs and de-equitizations abound, despite increases in firm profits, many partners now have the same fears as associates.

So what happens when partners are pushed out of the law firms they once loved? Now we know, thanks to the results of a a new survey. You won’t believe how messy these bad romances can get…

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Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Brian Kozminski, a partner in LP’s Real Estate practice.

For those thinking about switching firms, one of the most important things to consider about any prospective new firm is the way in which it is managed. Preferably efficiently, transparently, and in a business-like manner. But because you are in the legal profession, that is likely not the case. Sound harsh? Let me explain.

In order to understand how fully stacked the decks are against good management in law firms, it’s instructive to step back and compare how management choices are made in law firms with other industries.

If you owned a restaurant, for instance, you probably would not assume that your best chef would also make the best restaurant manager. If you owned a movie studio, you probably would not assume that your best director would also make the best CFO. If you owned a basketball team, you probably would not assume that a great point guard would also make a great coach and president of your team. (Or you would, then regret it later.)

The restaurant, movie studio, and basketball team owners (with the exception of the Knicks) understand that the skills of their top producers — however impressive — are not necessarily transferable to executive positions. Law firms are only learning this lesson now. Following a historic practice that continues to this day, many firms are run by the lawyers with the biggest books of business.

It does not go too far to call this practice absurd. Certainly, yes, at any law firm it makes sense to place lawyers in the leadership positions of, for instance, managing partner and chairman. And there may be some overlap between the qualities needed to succeed in those positions — charisma being one — and those helpful in becoming a rainmaker. But to ask those lawyers to also make the trains run on time — to administer the business operations of the firm — is courting disaster, for any number of reasons…

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The year-end Biglaw management machine is starting to grind into motion. The compensation committee is starting to look at the numbers for individual partners — to decide who will be rewarded and who will be de-equitized. And the firm’s A/R collections crew is starting to pressure the partnership to get bills out the door and talk to clients about what will be paid by year’s end. The associate bonus committee? If one still exists, is must be having a hard time reserving conference room space to meet.

The end of the year is a serious time for law firms. For many individual lawyers in Biglaw, it is the time of year when their die may be cast, in terms of compensation, lateral movement options, or even their continued employment. As anyone who follows Biglaw knows, we are living in interesting times, with many firms navigating choppy seas in terms of client demand, financial performance, and expense management. And at many firms, there has never been a wider gulf between the rank-and-file partner and firm management when it comes to the ability to make or influence decisions about the firm. Partners at many firms are often clueless about what the firm is doing and why, to the extent that partners are asked to vote on lateral candidates or even mergers based solely on the “reassurances” and “enthusiastic outlook” of management.

The net effect of this divide between management and the partnership? An increasing sense among partners that they are simply assets of legal “brands” rather than owners or even stewards of a professional enterprise. For many, it is a bit of a hopeless feeling, especially when they consider the Biglaw options down the street, which usually present the same level of management opacity to the putative “owners” as their current firm. But just because management likes to tell the partnership to “leave the managing to us, you just focus on building your practice” does not mean partners aren’t entitled to information — even if it’s just the personal views of the managing partner on certain issues.

Here are five questions for your managing partner. The topics are varied, but the answers given should give partners a good sense of both their relative standing within their firms and the values that drive the business decisions of their leadership….

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