Law Shucks

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

One of the many interesting features of BigLaw is the comings and goings of its denizens. Whether it’s looking for the bigger, better deal, jumping off a sinking ship, or departing for the greener pastures of inhouse or government life, every move has a story.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about which firm is wrapped up in an Inspector General investigation of the firm’s practice of hiring former SEC lawyers, who then turn around and advocate for clients at the agency they just left. The Senate Finance Committee is none too happy about the "revolving door," claiming that in at least one instance, the SEC was unduly lenient because of the firm’s close ties with the commission. Usually lateral hires aren’t contentious (examples like Jeremy Pitcock notwithstanding), so this could put a damper on hiring some of the most-coveted free agents.

So which law firm or lawyer(s) might be facing Senate scrutiny?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 06.27.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

This is supposed to be the quiet time of year for BigLaw, but it seems firms and lawyers are taking that as an opportunity to re-assess their situations. Merger talks and lateral moves have been on the upswing lately.

The Hogan Lovells merger is old news by now, and it’s been just over a week since Sonnenschein and Dentons partners voted to approve the merger of those firms to create SNR Denton, which will become effective September 1. The Ho-Love tie-up led to more than a dozen partners’ departures, and we won’t be surprised to see similar movement in the coming months as the SNR Denton closing approaches.

We may be seeing a handful of other firm combinations, particularly continuing in that Anglo-American variety.

Chicago’s Mayer Brown, which has already integrated one UK firm (Rowe & Maw back in 2002), has been in on-again/off-again (currently on) talks with London’s Simmons & Simmons. Proskauer and SJ Berwin have also been rumored to be talking merger, although that has been quiet for the past month. Bruce MacEwen at Adam Smith, Esq. has his thoughts on what makes these mid-ranking London firms attractive targets to a certain type of US firm.

Reed Smith, K&L Gates, and Bryan Cave are other US firms that would "actively consider" UK acquisitions. Reed Smith has already walked down this path twice: with Richards Butler in 2007 and Warner Cranston in 2001.

Freshfields is taking a much-more casual approach. Rather than committing to anyone, the firm is "creating a framework for ad hoc referrals" rather than a "Lovells-style ‘Mexican Wave’" arrangement (we had to look that one up – the ‘Mexican Wave’ is just ‘the wave’ thing done by crowds at sporting events – and we’re still not sure how it applies to law firms).

After the jump, we recap the week’s news on summer programs, lots of law-firm litigation, and, unfortunately, another addition to the Layoff Tracker.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 06.20.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

In honor of the commencement of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we’re going with a sports-themed edition for this week.

But when lawyers say they’re "Masters of the Game," they’re not talking about an athletic endeavor.

Despite the paucity of accomplishments on the field (although Business Insider did pull together a list of lawyer Olympians a few months ago), lawyers, especially big-firm lawyers, have played critical off-field roles in sports. Lawyers also like to set up World Cup office parties and attend other sporting events.

For example, there would be no free agency without BigLaw (Weil Gotshal and Paul Weiss in particular). That has given rise to sports agents, many of whom are lawyers, and players’ associations, the NFL’s version of which is now run by a Patton Boggs lawyer.

More-recently, Covington & Burling and Jones Day went head-to-head at the highest legal playing field. Jones Day won in a 9-0 rout (much to the surprise of FantasySCOTUS players) when the Supreme Court struck down the NFL’s antitrust exemption and remanded for further hearings on apparel licensing, which could redistribute hundreds of millions in fees.

Even on the deal side, nothing gets done without BigLaw. Newly merged Hogan Lovells represented Russian gazillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov on his investment in the New Jersey Nets from a seller represented by Simpson Thacher, and the list goes on from there.

That’s all history.

After the jump, we take a look at the surprising amount of sports-related work BigLaw does in just one week.

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Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

Most summer programs have kicked off by now, but ATL pointed out a problem waiting in the wings. While law students are taking a sabbatical from studying, former associates are returning from their actual sabbaticals. As we’ve been saying forever, deferral programs like Dewey & LeBoeuf’s DL Pursuits program just delayed a problem. The inevitable conflict between fêting summers, hiring new graduates, and making space for returning associates is finally coming to a head. In some cases, returnees aren’t finding the welcome as warm as they expected.

It’s all well and good to insist that firms keep their promises to all the affected individuals, but what are they supposed to do with an excess of junior associates at a time when clients are actively looking to move the work formerly done by new lawyers to lower-cost alternatives? And it’s not just junior associates under the gun; clients are seeking to reduce outside counsel’s hours across the board, which means firms are going to have to respond somehow.

Firms in Texas and New Jersey have cut back their summer programs, and hiring has been at a glacial pace for more than two cycles already. Bryan Cave is sticking with the wait-and-see approach. Class of 2010 offerees are getting the same year-and-a-half delay the class of 2009 got.

More about the firms and their reactions, plus the deals, suits and other events of the week, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 06.06.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for business, if not for astronomers, and with that comes the arrival of the summer associates. Most years, it’s a months-long party, but lately it’s taken on a veneer of respectability as young gunners put on their best face and try on professionalism. Gone are the days of cruising through, knowing that you’d really have to screw up to not get an offer. Offer rates have plummeted from the high 90s to little better than a coin flip at some firms.

If you think you need advice on how to behave during the summer program, there’s plenty out there whatever your role.

Bitter Lawyer has the best list, with nine simple things to avoid. It’s not just the summer associates who need advice on summer programs, though. BL’s Unethical & Amoral Matthew Richardson provides the lecherous associate’s perspective.

Corporette has some practical advice on keeping the weight off while being tempted left, right, and center with the city’s finest food. Even Jones Day’s hiring partner has some advice.

The highest-profile incoming summer associate is probably Sara Hallmark (nee Albert), a competitor on America’s Next Top Model, who will be summering at Hogan Lovells’ DC office. Not that she in particular needs fashion advice, but the newly merged firm did feel the need to publish a dress code for the legacy Lovells lawyers who are about to be freed to enjoy their first casual Fridays. Even with everyone on their best behavior these days, and no clash of culture excuse, other firms still send the dress-code memos out. Weil Gotshal is one of the latest – at least they illustrated their version.

Of course, we expect common sense in abundance from those smart enough to gain entry to BigLaw. But it’s good to know that if someone can fail out of medical school and get disbarred, there’s always business school.

After the jump, we hit the recent highlights and lowlights in BigLaw.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 05.31.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

May is normally a slow month for BigLaw. There’s generally no recruiting going on, as firms prepare for summer associates’ arrivals.

The highlight is Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the start of summer and ends a long drought of holidays. Partners start thinking about readying their summer retreats over the long weekend.

It’s also a pretty tame time of year for most clients. It’s the middle of the second quarter, and there aren’t a whole lot of seasonal businesses that spike during the period. Annual reports and proxy statements have gone out, and most companies have held their annual shareholder meetings.

This is as close as it gets to "routine."

For BigLaw, routine means malpractice allegations, billion-dollar deals, bailing out Superman, and acting like lawyers are trained to run businesses….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 05.16.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

Although this column has turned away from layoff news, we’ll still touch on overall unemployment periodically. The news this week was mixed at best, and the White House accentuated the positive: 290,000 jobs added to payrolls, the vast majority of them in the private sector. Seasonal hiring for the census also contributed a fair number.

But the base employment rate increased from 9.7% to 9.9%. That’s actually the result of some optimism. A lot of people who had given up on the job search renewed their efforts. Of course, they didn’t count as unemployed when they weren’t looking, so their return to the hunt increased the overall workforce (i.e., increased the denominator).

Lump in the discouraged workers, and the "true" unemployment rate is north of 17%, close to its all-time high of 17.4% from October.

While announced law-firm layoffs were few and far between in April, the legal sector lost 1,100 jobs, according to BLS. Note that we specified "announced" layoffs. Stealth layoffs continue, and we think it’s important to specify exactly what that does and doesn’t mean.

For those who abide in BigLaw, there were plenty of interesting developments….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 05.09.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

The big news in BigLaw this week was the release of the American Lawyer rankings.

League tables come and go, Vault rankings are for students – the AmLaw 100 is the de facto scorecard for BigLaw.

The trend we’ll be keeping an eye on is perhaps the beginning of a rift between elite and big:

[T]he top quintile of firms in PPP was the only segment of the market to show modest increases in both profits and RPL. This group includes New York’s 13-firm moneyed elite, plus such giants as Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, as well as smaller, pure litigation plays like Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

There were a number of other themes in the reporting: “it could have been worse”; New York outperformed the rest of the country; and litigation was the place to be.*

* Sort of – Quinn Emanuel was #2 and Boies Schiller was #4 in the profits per partner rankings, but they also both had significant declines: -6.1% and -6%, respectively. Of the rest of the top 10, only Simpson Thacher (#8, -2.4%) and Cleary Gottlieb (#10, -0.6%) showed declines. Perhaps the high profitability is due to the firms’ leverage, rather than their practices. Boies Schiller has 240 lawyers, of which just 34 are equity partners. Compare that to #1 PPP firm Wachtell, which has almost the same number of lawyers, with 231, but more than twice as many equity partners, at 86.

But that was last year. What’s been happening this week?

After the jump, we focus on the deals, suits, and other stories from BigLaw that made headlines this week.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 05.02.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

Layoffs are no longer the core theme of this column, and there were none reported at major firms this week, but it’s still the source of one of the most-interesting stories. New Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance pink-slipped 10 ADAs (of about 500 total) [HT: ABA Journal].

It’s a detour from our focus on BigLaw, but you’ll have to excuse us, because: (a) most of those affected were very senior, so are more likely to join or face off against BigLaw, and (b) their reactions are exactly the same as we’ve been hearing from affected BigLaw lawyers for two years now:

“It’s been very unsettling, I think, for a lot of people because it hasn’t been part of the culture here that people would get fired,” said one prosecutor… .

Another senior assistant district attorney said that morale was “terribly low.”

“We’re all now told that the firings are over for the time being,” the assistant said. “Everybody is walking around wondering if they’re going to be next.”

Some prosecutors, the assistant continued, “are starting to reassess their career path.”

Sound familiar?

After the jump, we get back on track with BigLaw news about sanctions, laterals, and more.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 04.18.10″

Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

Law-firm layoffs have fallen from a peak of 3,682 in March ’09 to 164 in March ’10. Although firms continue to lay people off, firms are increasingly looking for alternative ways to manage their finances. The Law Shucks “This Week in Layoffs” column had evolved to include those alternatives.

Now, we’re taking the next step and expanding the scope further in this new column. We’ll continue with recaps of layoffs and the related economic events (salaries, start dates, PPP, etc), but will also cover a broader range of events in BigLaw.

BigLaw is slow to change, though. After the jump, we kick off the new column with the old stalwart: layoffs.

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