Law Firm Mergers

We posed this question earlier today. The answer, according to a recent news report, is yes.

The past few months have been bumpy for Bingham. In February, we reported on falling profits, partner defections, and staff layoffs. In June, we covered additional partner departures. (By the way, the two “unidentified partners” who went to Skadden turned out to be tax partners Rajiv Madan and Christopher Bowers; they left Bingham due to a client conflict.)

In recent weeks, Bingham conducted a management shake-up. And now comes word that it might be looking for a merger partner.

Keep reading for our review of the reports, plus an internal email that just went around the firm commenting on the speculation….

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

In our two most recent Flashback Friday posts, we looked at associate compensation in the 1990s. Today we’ll take a break from that topic and mix it up a bit. (We’ll return to cover associate comp in the remaining batch of legal markets at some point in the future.)

Last week we looked at associate pay in New York in the 1990s. Let’s stay in that city and that decade and examine another subject: NYC’s top law firms, circa 1991.

Some of these firms remain on top today. And some of them are six feet under….

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The old ball and chain, dischargeable in bankruptcy only in the most limited of cases. Go ahead, try and prove you’ve got a ‘substantial hardship’ preventing you from paying. We dare you.

* Now that a federal judge has classified California’s death penalty as unconstitutional, it’s only a matter of time before the issue reaches the Supreme Court. We have a feeling the justices will likely roll their eyes. [National Law Journal]

* Word on the street is that Bingham McCutchen has got the urge to merge, and has apparently spoken to a handful of potential partners over the course of the past three months. We’ll have more on these developments later. [Reuters]

* As it turns out, it was neither Wachtell Lipton nor Jenner & Block that managed to snag the coveted GM litigation oversight job. Nice work, Quinn Emanuel — you’re considered a “well-respected outside law firm.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Congrats, Flori-duh, you did something right. A state court judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution in the latest post-Windsor victory for equality. Yay! [Bloomberg]

* Thanks to their hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt, many graduates are considering declaring bankruptcy. Too bad most won’t be able to get their loans discharged. [Connecticut Law Tribune]

The average high temperature for Houston in July is a scorching 94 degrees. It’s one hot legal market.

Figuratively as well as literally. Back in April, for example, we talked about Kirkland & Ellis opening a Houston office — and prying away partners with $5 million pay packages. You don’t need to be a high-powered partner to get in on the fun; even junior to midlevel associates are getting offered signing bonuses when they lateral.

And this hot market is only getting hotter. Who’s the latest major law firm to land in Space City?

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There’s nobody I’ve talked to at Squire Sanders who doesn’t think Patton Boggs doesn’t have the potential to take the firm down.

– A disgruntled former partner of Squire Sanders who left the firm following its recent merger with Patton Boggs.

(Do other legacy Squire Sanders & Dempsey partners feel the same way?)

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Lindsay Lohan

* Law firm mergers are on a record-setting pace, with 39 thus far in 2014. Just one “megamerger” was announced in the second quarter (Patton Boggs / Squire Sanders), but hey, we still have half the year ahead of us. [Am Law Daily]

* It hasn’t been a good week for the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. In addition to all of its enrollment woes, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its defamation suit against Team Strauss/Anziska. [National Law Journal]

* The doctors who spent the month of June evaluating Oscar Pistorius’s mental health found that he was depressed and posed a potential suicide risk. You’d feel the same if you were facing jail time. [CNN]

* Walgreens will give $180,000 to an ex-employee with diabetes as a settlement after the store fired her for eating a $1.39 bag of chips before paying to fend off a low blood sugar attack. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Lindsay Lohan is suing Rockstar Games over an alleged character likeness in Grand Theft Auto V. To be fair, the character does kind of look like LiLo circa her “Mean Girls” days. [International Business Times]

Yesterday we wrote about a managing partner’s abrupt departure from her firm — a departure that the remaining members of management noted in a somewhat snarky email.

At the time, we didn’t know where she was headed. Now we know her destination — and we can understand why some of her former colleagues might be bent out of shape over her leaving.

Where did this prominent partner land, and what might happen to the firm she left behind?

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* “They aren’t required to hear it, but this is the major social issue of the day.” The Supreme Court will likely hear a gay marriage case soon, and it’ll obviously be a vehement 5-4 opinion. [NBC News]

* But is SCOTUS really so bitterly divided now? Here’s a fun fact: The justices agreed unanimously in 66 percent of this term’s cases, and the last time that happened was in 1940. [New York Times]

* A partner has left the luxuries of earning up to $4.8 million per year at Wachtell Lipton to start his own executive compensation boutique, which we understand is basically like seeing a unicorn. [Am Law Daily]

* The post-merger world at Squire Patton Boggs is similar to the pre-merger world in that partners are still being churned in and out of the firm every other day. Check out the latest ins and outs. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The Fourth of July is coming up, and you know you want to light up some fireworks. Sure, it’s illegal to sell them in your state, but here’s where you can travel to go to buy some to celebrate freedom. [Yahoo!]

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

Alliteration aficionados are bemoaning the tongue-twisting fusion of Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs into Squire Patton Boggs. I prefer the feudal-esque Squire Boggs, but then again, I was not on the naming committee. Aside from this rebranding exercise, Squire Patton Boggs makes it clear that mergers (or acquisitions) are easier to execute in principal than reality.

Many of the firms in the Am Law 200 are the result of previous mergers including WilmerHale and DLA Piper. Most of these mergers were consummated before the recession, and since then, the parity between Am Law 200 firms has been dwindling.

The race for supremacy in the legal market has created a system with far less parity than before and consequently, a greater degree of difficulty for mergers. For example, the spread of Profits Per Partner in 2003 is right-skewed — and this will likely always be the case — but overall, there is little variance in spread of PPP in 2003 when compared to the spread in 2014…

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* “[T]hree names are unnecessary, and over time I think you’ll see Squire Patton start to take hold.” Sanders got the boot in this law firm merger, and it won’t be long before Boggs follows. [Am Law Daily]

* The “great female brain drain” at Am Law 200 firms isn’t slowing down, and it will only get better if Biglaw firms concentrate less on their failed “fix the women” approaches. [Harvard Business Review]

* Mary Jo White of the SEC promised to dust off an often ignored — but “potentially [] very powerful” — section of securities law to pursue financial violations. Be wary of the “innocent instrumentality” doctrine, defense attorneys. [DealBook / New York Times]

* We’ve got some breaking news for our readers from the “no sh*t” department: Law school graduates are still having a very tough time getting jobs as lawyers, and there is no real end in sight. [Sacramento Bee]

* If you’re looking for a way to explain a switch in your undergrad major when applying to law school, show admissions committees how pretty your grades are now. Tada! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

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