Represented Oracle in Oracle v. Google patent infringement trial
Partner Andrew Woodmansee served as lead counsel in Fehrenbach v. Department of the Air Force challenging the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law
Worked on the first license of the Hello Kitty brand for baby bottles
from the firm
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.
Larren Nashelsky is the chair of Morrison & Foerster. Prior to becoming chair, Mr. Nashelsky focused his practice on U.S. and international restructurings, including Chapter 11 reorganizations, workouts, restructurings, secured financings and distressed acquisitions and investments. Larren is a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
To constantly demonstrate to clients the value of high-end legal services. In doing so, Biglaw needs to continue to push itself to better understand its clients’ business, culture, work style, industry, and markets. Then we need to use that information and knowledge to provide clients with, what in their eyes, is value.
2. What has been the biggest positive change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
Renewed focus on our obligation to provide quality legal services to those who need help but cannot afford it. This has been on my mind lately because our Senior Pro Bono Counsel, Kathi Pugh, will be retiring this summer. When Kathi started running our program 25 years ago, she was one of the first full-time pro bono attorneys in the country. The model Kathi built at our firm has since been replicated by nearly every large firm. Professionals like Kathi pushed us to constantly focus on our obligation to the profession and our communities.
3. What has been the biggest negative change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
The drive for short-term financial success that has dominated the profession, sometimes with tragic results. Even where firms are financially strong, competition among Biglaw causes many good firms to lose their focus on the profession, their culture and their communities.
4. What is the greatest satisfaction of practicing law?
Being trusted with and solving a client’s most difficult and complex problem. As a restructuring lawyer, I regularly am faced with companies with challenging futures. Being able to counsel them to the best possible business and legal outcome is incredibly gratifying.
5. What is the greatest frustration of practicing law?
The struggle to control the time demands of the practice and my family life. I have an amazing, long-suffering wife, and four boys aged 8 to 15. I strive to be both the best possible attorney I can for my clients, and, more importantly, the best possible husband and father I can be for my family. As everyone in Biglaw knows, that is no easy task.
6. What is your firm’s greatest strength?
Our people. And I don’t just mean the excellent service they deliver to our paying and pro bono clients every day, though that’s critical. I mean the character of our people – respectful, inclusive, collaborative, positive, engaging and supportive of the profession and our communities.
7. What is the single most important personal characteristic for a successful lawyer in your field?
Without question, being really smart. Of course that doesn’t get you far without humility, a sense of humor and resiliency.
8. What is your favorite legally themed film or television show?
A Few Good Men (affiliate link). I can recite too much of it from memory. The line I still want to work into a meeting is when Tom Cruise’s character says to Demi Moore’s character, “Oh, I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. You were sick the day they taught law in law school.”
9. What is your favorite legally themed book (fiction or non-fiction)?
The good people at Morrison & Foerster could abbreviate their name to “Morrison” or “Foerster” or even “M&F.” That’s what most Biglaw firms would do. But Morrison & Foerster morphs into “MoFo,” and these MoFo-ers just embrace it. They recruit with it. For a group of lawyers, they’re positively laid-back.
But we didn’t know that they were this laid-back. Tucked away in the otherwise mind-numbingly boring “Financial Services Report: Spring 2014″ are two full paragraphs of weed jokes. Drug talk! In a quarterly report! What the hell is going on with these motherf***ers?
Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam. You can read his inaugural column (and poem) over here.
On-campus interviews: the topic of this week’s Qui Tam observational “poem.” I can’t imagine a more dehumanizing job-related experience, unless of course you were one of those students who didn’t get any….
Meet Michael Graffagna, who’s one impressive MoFo… partner. The Harvard Law School graduate, admitted to practice in New York, California, and Japan, heads up the project finance practice at Morrison & Foerster.
Graffagna is now resident in the firm’s Tokyo office. So he and his wife, Midori Graffagna, recently sold their Manhattan pied-à-terre. And oh what a pied-à-terre it was — larger than most Manhattanites’ primary residences.
How large are we talking? How much did the Graffagnas get for it? And which celebrity lives upstairs?
* Morrison & Foerster just snagged a major government player for its global anti-corruption practice. Congrats to the firm on adding Charles Duross, formerly of the DOJ’s FCPA program, as a partner. [Washington Post]
* General counsel are keeping more and more work in-house, “presumably in order to minimize outside counsel spend.” In the alternative, it could be because the lawyers from the firms are too arrogant. [Corporate Counsel]
* If you dare to reject the Facebook friend request of the judge who’s presiding over your divorce case, then you can count on some retaliation in court. You can also count on the judge getting removed. [WSJ Law Blog]
* If you postponed applying to law school, please think long and hard about why you stopped applying the first time. Only take this advice if anything’s actually changed — like your grades, your LSAT score, or the job market. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]
* “This is a case to restore faith in the old-fashioned idea that divorce is something that lasts forever.” Steven A. Cohen is getting off when it comes to his ex-wife’s RICO claims, but not much else. [Reuters]
Which Biglaw firms are the best? Which Biglaw firms are the best in terms of providing quality client service? Those are two very different questions. Just because a particular law firm is classified as being one of the best does not mean it isn’t chock full of arrogant a-holes (there’s actually a ranking for that). On the other hand, just because a law firm is overflowing with arrogant a-holes does not mean that it isn’t one of the best. It can be a fairly complicated equation, and general counsel are often forced to pick the perfect sweet spot when choosing outside counsel for litigation matters.
How does your firm stack up against the others, and how can you increase the likelihood that yours will be chosen to represent some of the biggest brands in the business? Being rated as one of the “absolute best” by general counsel in terms of client service will certainly give your firm a fighting chance.
Did your firm make this year’s ranking of the Client Service 30? Take a look and find out…
This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes. This infographic is brought to you by our friends at Prestige Legal Search. Earn another $5,000 to $50,000 with their Rewards Program.
For the most part, Biglaw associate bonuses remain stuck at last year’s levels, reflecting expectations that firm profits will be flat at best. This might seem fair, with everyone feeling the pinch of the “New Normal” and so on. But when we take a small step back and see how these bonus numbers compare as a percentage of partner profits to the bonuses of just a few years ago, these bonuses are arguably pretty measly.
The current $10,000 “market” (i.e., Cravath-following) rate for first-years is just 0.29% of Cravath’s profits per partner (according to the American Lawyer). Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equaled 1.36% of PPP. In other words, the Cravath partnership was nearly five times more generous to its associates back then.
Obviously, Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. What are the implications of matching Cravath’s bonus scale for those firms with much lower profit margins? Today’s infographic takes a look at how big a hit to PPP partners willingly take in order to Keep Up With The Cravathians….
With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Wednesdays in 2013, it felt like the holiday season lasted forever. Not that we’re complaining — we enjoyed two weeks of relative quiet, and we suspect many of you did as well — but now it’s back to work, as we kick off the first full week of the new year.
One story that kept people engaged over the holiday lull was our fifth annual holiday card contest. Voter participation ran high, with more than 7,688 votes cast for the eight worthy finalists.
Which law firm’s card prevailed? Here’s a hint: it’s the most interesting Biglaw holiday card in the world….
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?
* After its patent battle in the courts, Apple wants Samsung to pay for a portion of MoFo’s legal fees. When you think of it, $15.7 million is a rather piddling amount when full freight is $60 million. [The Recorder]
* Say goodbye to your pensions! As it turns out, law review articles aren’t so useless after all. Detroit’s foray into Chapter 9 eligibility is the brainchild of a Jones Day partner and associate duo. [Am Law Daily]
* It must be really stressful to plan a wedding when your defamation victory is on appeal to the Sixth Circuit. The latest chapter in the Sarah Jones v. TheDirty.com case could mean curtains for online speech. [AP]
* When it comes to their credit ratings, stand-alone law schools are getting screwed due to their inability to put asses in their empty seats. Four out of five schools profiled could be in big trouble. Which ones? [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* “You need to not dress like that.” TMZ’s attorney, Jason Beckerman, is an alumnus of Kirkland & Ellis, and he was quickly advised by a producer that he needed to lose his lawyer duds. [California Lawyer]
* CeeLo Green, through his attorney, tells the judge and prosecutors in his criminal case to, um, Forget themselves. He’s miffed that the judge and prosecutors set up cameras during his arraignment and left themselves out of the shot creating a false impression of guilt. This marks the first time this guy didn’t want a camera fixated solely on him. [TMZ]
* Samsung wants a mistrial in its case with Apple because Apple’s attorney, Harold McElhinny, implied in his closing argument that American-made jobs building TV sets moved overseas because companies failed to protect intellectual property. Samsung is arguing that this is racist. [Bloomberg]
* JPMorgan is awfully sorry for making the conscious decision to sell toxic securities that helped destroy the economy. “Our bad, y’all!” [Gawker]
* The justices who penned Bush v. Gore shamelessly admitted how terrible the decision was by trying to claim it had no precedential value. Unfortunately, no one listened to them. [Mother Jones]
* In addition to the many lawfirms that are contributing to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, several Asian-American lawyer groups are organizing a fundraising event this coming Monday. If you’re in New York, please consider attending! [Facebook; AABANY]
* In sad news, the son of Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee shot and killed himself in the courtyard of the LDS Temple in Henderson, NV. Our thoughts are with Judge Bybee and his family. [Las Vegas Review-Journal (gavel bang: Las Vegas Law Blog)]