Apple, betrayed by its own law firm [Ars Technica]
Apple, betrayed by its own law firm [Ars Technica]
* “Hindsight is always 20/20.” Perhaps AG Eric Holder should’ve quit when he was ahead after President Obama’s first term, because now White House insiders are wishing he’d step down. [New York Times]
* Dewey think Steven Davis will ever live down claims that he brought about the death of a once legendary law firm? No, but at least his $19.5 million mismanagement settlement was approved. [Am Law Daily]
* “What’s disgusting? Union busting? Who’s disgusting? Joe Genova.” Damn. This partner had some issues with Legal Services NYC lawyers on strike outside his office last week. [New York Law Journal]
* With all of the talk about patent trolls, this Morgan Lewis attorney allegedly thought it would be a good idea to get a piece of the action. Oopsie, it sounds like you got some splainin’ to do. [Ars Technica]
* LEAVE THOMAS JEFFERSON SCHOOL OF LAW ALONE! TJSL alumni appreciate their alma mater so much they’re willing to sign love letters written by the school’s PR flack. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Widener Law is thinking of splitting its campuses into separately accredited schools, but this isn’t a cost-saving measure — neither were the buyout packages offered to professors. [Delaware Law Weekly]
* Alexis Wright, the Zumba instructor who ran a prostitution ring out of her dance studio, will ditch the workout and join the party in jail, because this hot mama was just sentenced to 10 months. [CNN]
* The National Labor Relations Board, now with fewer recess appointments! Partners from Arent Fox and Morgan Lewis were nominated to fill seats necessary for the board’s quorum. [National Law Journal]
* Shearman & Sterling seems to be bucking the Biglaw system. The firm is cutting pay for high earners and increasing it for lower-ranking attorneys. We’ll probably have more on this later today. [Reuters]
* “It is technically more legal to screw a walrus than to get gay married.” You know you live in a very sad place when not only do article headlines like this exist, but they’re also CORRECT. [Death and Taxes]
* An American Eagle pilot is facing attempted drunk flying charges. Yes, that’s a thing, but come on now, anyone who’s seen the movie Flight knows you can fly a plane while you’re wasted. [Bloomberg]
* Lindsay Lohan blew off a deposition in Los Angeles yesterday. Cut the girl some slack; she had to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, which was way more important. [Contra Costa Times]
Around here, one can’t mention the concept of something being “overrated” without reference to one of the weirdest and most enduring ATL comment memes, a play on the late, great Hitch’s assertion that the four most overrated things in life are “champagne, lobster, anal sex, and picnics.” So who are the, um, lobsters of Biglaw?
Last week, we had a look at what our audience considered to be the most underrated Biglaw firms, by practice area. Today, inevitably, we turn it around and have a look at what you’re telling us are the most overrated firms.
Among other things, our ATL Insider Survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with overrated practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, etc.
To be sure, these survey results need to be taken with some buckets of salt — we realize that, for some, answering this question might be a chance to take an easy shot at a more successful rival or competitor. Of course, there are crazy people who will tell you that such paragons as Benjamin Franklin or Tom Brady are “overrated,” but that probably says more about the person making that statement than anything else. But that said, these survey responses are a fun glimpse at which firms Biglaw attorneys think are more sizzle than steak….
Hot air balloons, Ice Cube, new socks, Ray Guy, Uzbek food, Kevin Bacon, plus-size models, Pittsburgh… what do the items on this random list have in common? In some nook or cranny of the internet, someone is making the claim that they are “underrated.”
Apparently also underrated? The corporate group at Cahill Gordon, according to the ATL audience. Cahill received the most mentions as having an “underrated” corporate group in our ATL Insider Survey. Biglaw has a fairly stable roster of alpha dogs in each practice category (Weil in bankruptcy, Wachtell in M&A, etc.), but we wondered which firms’ practice groups deserve more recognition. So, among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.
Read on and have a look at the top three underrated firms in each practice area:
Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the firms that the Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. These are the firms that corporate clients turn to when they’ve got bet-the-company litigation. From Exxon Mobil to Apple to Walmart, and everywhere in between, these are the clients with the deepest of pockets, and if you care at all about the business end of the law, then this is a list that you should care about.
But this time around, the list looks a little different. Due to the state of the economy, general counsel are now looking for more ways to reduce costs, and are constantly seeking out alternative fee structures. The firms on this year’s list may have been the ones that were most amenable to such changes.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at which firms topped this year’s list….
Congratulations to Ted Cruz, who will most likely be the next U.S. Senator from the great state of Texas. Cruz, who is currently a partner at Morgan Lewis, just won a runoff election for the Republican Senate nomination. Considering that Texas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, the general election is probably Cruz’s to lose.
Cruz, 41, defeated a formidable opponent in the primary: Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, 66, who had the advantage of wide name recognition thanks to nine years in his current statewide office. Dewhurst, a wealthy businessman, also had money on his side: he outspent Cruz by about three to one. But Cruz — an amazing college debater, known for making his opponents wet themselves (he and I know each other through debate circles) — knows how to fight. And to win.
Ready for some résumé porn? Read on to learn about Cruz’s Texas-sized achievements….
Aficionados of wedding-related WTF-ery should not miss this slide show of married-name train wrecks. The one shown at right is mild compared to some of the other exhibits!
And speaking of train wrecks, lawyers continue to marry at a depressing rate. Here’s our roundup of all the recent legal weddings, plus an in-depth look at the following outstanding newlyweds:
Read on for the details on these couples — plus photos and links to their wedding registries.
Over at The Belly of the Beast, former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven J. Harper has an insightful and interesting profile of Jeffrey Kessler. As you may recall, Jeff Kessler is the prominent litigator who left Dewey, where he served for a time in the “Office of the Chairman,” and moved over to Winston & Strawn.
It’s not a particularly flattering piece to Kessler. If you think we’re snarky here at Above the Law, you need to spend more time reading Steven Harper. He writes:
Apparently, Jeffrey Kessler (Columbia University, B.A., 1975; Columbia Law School, J.D., 1977) has become a prisoner of his celebrity clients’ mentality. A prominent sports lawyer, he analogizes big-name attorneys to top athletes: “The value for the stars has gone up, while the value of service partners has gone down.”
…. Kessler was a vocal proponent of the Dewey & LeBoeuf star system that produced staggering spreads between people like him — reportedly earning $5.5 million a year — and the service partners, some of whom made about five percent of that. It was the “barbell” system: top partners on one side; everybody else on the other.
In such a regime, there’s no shared sacrifice. What kind of partnership issues IOUs to star partners when the firm doesn’t make its target profits? Something that isn’t a partnership at all.
We discussed the “star system” at Dewey, and its corrosive effect on the firm’s “partnership” (to the extent that it had one), back in this detailed post.
Dewey’s star system, which warped the firm’s compensation and governance for years, even affected the firm’s (ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to right itself. From Harper:
To deal with outstanding IOUs to Dewey partners whose guaranteed compensation couldn’t be paid when the firm underperformed for the year, Kessler helped to mortgage its future: for “a six- or seven-year period, starting in 2014, [a]bout six percent of the firm’s income would be put away to pay for this….”
It’s a remarkable notion. Partners didn’t get all of their previously guaranteed earnings because the firm didn’t do well enough to pay it. But rather than rethink the entire house of cards, it morphed into a Ponzi scheme whereby future partnership earnings — for six or seven years — would satisfy the shortfall. Never mind that there was no way to know who would be among the firm’s partners in those future years. The money had to be promised away because the stars had to be paid.
Can you blame the Dewey partners for defecting? Those on the low end of the totem pole understandably didn’t want to toil away for years so that a hefty chunk of the revenues they generated would go to those at the top. And, at a certain point, those at the top realized that the Ponzi scheme wasn’t going to pay out. Once they started to leave, LeBoeuf was cooked.
(It is interesting to note how many of the star partners stuck around longer than their less-high-powered counterparts. A lot of the stars — Kessler, Martin Bienenstock, Morton Pierce — didn’t leave until near the end. Perhaps they were hoping that their guarantee deals could somehow be saved.)
Harper acknowledges that major players need to be paid, but suggests that the gap should be kept within reason:
[D]oes Kessler really think that he and a handful of his fellow former Dewey partners are the first-ever generation of attorney stars? Twenty-five years ago when average partner profits for the Am Law 100 were $325,000 a year, did his mentors at Weil Gotshal earn twenty times more than some of their partners — or anything close in absolute dollars to what Kessler thinks he’s worth today? Does he believe that there are no stars at firms such as Skadden Arps, Simpson Thacher or other firms that have retained top-to-bottom spreads of 5-to-1 or less?
For more discussion of the very interesting subject of the spread from lowest-to-highest partner incomes within law firms, check out this great article by Patrick J. McKenna and Edwin Reeser, cited in Harper’s post.
Harper closes his “profile” of Jeffrey Kessler on a harsh note: “Beyond his prominence in the profession, Kessler is shaping tomorrow’s legal minds as a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia. For anyone who cares about the future, that’s worth pondering.”
Actually, considering his involvement in the biggest law firm bankruptcy ever, Kessler probably has a lot of hard-earned wisdom to impart. He should just be sure to warn his students: “Dewey as I say, not as I do.”
U.S. Trustee Appoints Dewey Creditors Group — Plus One For Retired Partners [WSJ Law Blog via Morning Docket]
Former Partners, Vendors Selected to Advise on Dewey Bankruptcy [Am Law Daily]
DEWEY’S JEFFREY KESSLER: STARS IN THEIR EYES [The Belly of the Beast]
Spread Too Thin [Am Law Daily]
Paul Hastings Continues Antitrust and Competition Expansion with Former Department of Justice Executive in DC [Paul Hastings (press release)]
Dewey Beijing chief joins raft of partners at Morgan Lewis [Legal Week]
It has been quite a while since we have covered a grand mal discovery screw-up here at Above the Law. For a while, we almost started to believe the legal industry as a whole had finally caught up to technology — or at least had figured out how to keep major mistakes under the radar.
Well, our dry spell has ended. As we mentioned yesterday in Non-Sequiturs, the California office of a Biglaw firm handling some high-profile litigation for Goldman Sachs accidentally released an unredacted version of some files that the firm and its clients have spent years trying to keep secret.
Keep reading to learn more about the case and see which firm reportedly disseminated evidence of the bank’s “naked” short selling…
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Columbia University Law School: 8/12
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