Magic Circle

deirdre dare expat allen and overy.jpgFor those of you who have missed Deidre Dare, the expat lawyer who was terminated from the Moscow office of Allen & Overy after writing a smutty steamy online novel, give thanks. She’s baaaaaack.

Deidre “To Russia With Donkey and Dwarf Love” Dare is struggling with the cash flow these days. The Columbia Law grad’s London lawsuit against Magic Circle firm A&O for unfair termination in its Russia office was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, so she filed a new complaint in New York. As you might expect from an amateur sex novelist, the complaint is rather juicy. Dare (a.k.a. Deidre Clark), who was a senior attorney in A&O’s London, Singapore and Moscow offices from 2007 to 2009, claims that she was terminated after giving into — and later spurning — her supervising partner’s sexual advances. (Excerpt: “[Tony] Humphrey made sexual advances on Clark, who was intoxicated at the time. This conduct included intimate sexual contact. Humphrey kept saying “I love sex.”)

Dare is upping the ante on the lawsuit. In London, she sued for £3.5m, but in her Big Apple lawsuit, she’s hoping to take a bigger bite out of A&O: namely, $35 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

“I think NY will take jurisdiction,” Dare, a member of the New York Bar, told us by email. “And thank god for that.”

In the meantime, Dare is working on another project that is, er, rather racy….

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Ed. note This is the final installment in London-based journalist Alex Aldridge’s series of stories for Above the Law about the royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. You can read the prior posts here and here.

Well, they got married.

Best man Prince Harry remembered the ring. None of Wills’ disgruntled exes opted to speak now rather than forever hold their peace. And Kate — who has been made a Duchess rather than a Princess — even smiled. So now for the party!

Unless, that is, you work at one of London’s U.S. law firms, where lawyers staffing American deals are missing out on the public holiday everyone else in Britain is enjoying. “There are no celebrations here,” one cheery soul told me this morning in that weird Madonna accent Yanks acquire when they’ve been in London too long.

Don’t worry, though, the joke will be on us on next week, when we enter the existential crisis that customarily follows royal hysteria.

“What the hell happened there?” we’ll mutter, warm beer still on our breath.

“Oh no, we’ve only gone and got over-excited about that bunch of royal weirdos again,” we’ll groan, as we remove our commemorative Wills & Kate mugs from view and pour our tea into alternative vessels.

“Why do we, the country that brought the world the rule of law, have a royal family at all?” we’ll wonder indignantly, gnashing our yellow teeth and feeling a touch murderous….

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Ed. note This is the second in a series of posts that Alex Aldridge, a London-based journalist who covers legal affairs, will be writing for Above the Law about the upcoming royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. You can read the first post here.

In Britain, middle-class people who don’t know what to do with their lives have the option of trying to wed a royal.

If that doesn’t work, the situation is much the same as in the US: they become lawyers. A case in point is Prince Harry’s on-and-off girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, who will begin a traineeship with “Magic Circle” law firm Allen & Overy in September, having failed to secure the ginger hell-raiser on a permanent basis. Had Kate Middleton’s 2007 split with Prince William proved final, our future queen — whose ex is an in-house lawyer — may well have gone down the same route.

Needless to say, royals don’t do law. It’s too aspirational. They don’t even sue; one lawyer who has had dealings with The Firm once told me (in jest, possibly): “The royal family don’t take people to court, they kill them.”

Perhaps this explains why they’re so keen on the military: Wills and Harry have followed family tradition by going into the air force and army, respectively. They probably won’t stick around long, though. Like Princes Charles and Andrew before them, the pair will soon be eased into a middle age of government handouts and state-provided housing. Royals, bless ‘em, are basically very rich poor people.

So is a union between a very rich poor person and a member of the middle class likely to work?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Royal Wedding: A Legal Look (Part 2)”

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and we all know what that means: the arrival of summer. And we all know what summer means: people taking their clothes off, at the beach or pool.

People taking their clothes off got us thinking about one of our favorite personalities here at Above the Law: Deidre Dare, the sexy ex-associate in the Moscow office of Allen & Overy, who started writing about erotic exploits on the internet. Dare presented her work as fiction, but she did hint that it was in part autobiographical (a point she underscored by posing online in her undies).

Alas, the powers-that-be at A&O were not amused by Dare’s literary endeavors. After seeing that the project finance lawyer’s writing talents extended to sex scenes as well as sale-leasebacks, they terminated her employment. Dare then turned around and sued the firm, seeking £3.5 million in damages.

And now Deidre Dare is once again in the news….

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Angela Reinholz: Apparently getting pregnant didn't screw her enough.

It takes balls to file this kind of lawsuit.

A man working for the British firm Eversheds filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit after being fired from the firm. He claimed that the firm should have fired a woman out on maternity leave — but Eversheds didn’t because it was worried that the woman would file a sexual discrimination lawsuit.

Catch-22 for Eversheds? Maybe. The English Employment Tribunal ruled in favor of the laid off man. The Daily Mail (gavel bang: ABA Journal) reports:

John de Belin won £123,000 in damages after one of Britain’s biggest law firms ‘deprived him of his livelihood’.

Mr de Belin, 45, was one of two associates facing redundancy from Eversheds’ property division in Leeds. The other was Angela Reinholz, 40.

To decide who would be sacked, the firm undertook an assessment of both Mr de Belin’s and Mrs Reinholz’s abilities, including financial performance, discipline history and absence records.

Mr de Belin was fired in February 2009 after losing by just half a point, scoring 27 out of 39 in the exercise against Mrs Reinholz’s 27.5.

The problem was that Reinholz’s score was “inflated” while she was out on maternity leave…

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This morning, the Lawyer reported that Clifford Chance was changing the requirements for associate bonuses in London:

Clifford Chance is set for a radical overhaul of its associate bonus system, with the maximum award now open only to senior associates and payments no longer based primarily on hours worked….

A spokesperson for ­Clifford Chance said: “While billable and investment hours continue to be ­important, the bonus will not be directly linked to achieving a target number of hours. We’ll weigh a ­number of factors to ensure a balanced and flexible bonus scheme.”

Dear Lord, it looks like the American epidemic of moving towards merit-based compensation just hopped a transatlantic flight.

But don’t worry Clifford Chance New Yorkers, your bonus requirements will not be affected by the changes in London…

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White and Case logo.JPGOur coverage of the London legal market tends to be episodic. We tried offering more regular coverage for a while, with our Letter from London column, but we put the feature on hold to focus on domestic developments. (We might revive the London column if we can find a sponsor for it.)
We will, however, cover major news out of London — such as last week’s massive defections from White & Case to Latham & Watkins.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGCheerio, old chap! This week brings news of bonuses — and a salary “unfreeze” — in the New York office of Allen & Overy.
Allen & Overy — a global mega-firm with over $2 billion in annual revenue, headquartered in London but with a worldwide footprint — is making a go of it here in the United States. And, as reflected in this latest news, A&O intends to play with the big boys in New York. They’re paying market-level bonuses this year.
And, effective January 2010, they’re paying market-level salaries. The increase in salaries undoes the salary freeze from earlier this year. Green shoots?
But there is a catch. Read the full memo, from New York managing partner Kevin O’Shea, after the jump.

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outsourcing biglaw aba tsunami.gifIt appears that Magic Circle firms have fallen in love with outsourcing. Most American associates will hope that like Mad Cow disease, the outsourcing craze stays on English side of the ocean. The Lawyer reports:

Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the first magic circle firm to outsource legal work as an increasing number of UK firms embrace legal process outsourcing (LPO) in a bid to reduce their overheads.
The firm has partnered with LPO provider Integreon to outsource basic litigation document review to teams in New York and Mumbai, in what could generate a 30-50 per cent cost saving.

Anybody think we’ll see some geographic hypocrisy in the comment thread? Outsourcing to New York = good, outsourcing to Mumbai = bad? Or will everybody simply agree that outsourcing = apocalyptic?
After the jump, The Lawyer has an excellent chart that shows us where British firms stand with regards to outsourcing.

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allen overy logo.jpgCould transatlantic law firm mergers become the hot new trend? Last week brought news of merger talks between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells. And now we’re hearing rumors of a possible merger involving Allen & Overy, a top U.K. firm and a member of the prestigious Magic Circle.
This is not, of course, the first time we’ve heard such buzz. A year ago, the word on the street was that A&O was thinking about getting with Shearman & Sterling.
For the record, Allen & Overy denies the latest rumors. Here’s the firm’s official statement, responding to an inquiry from Above the Law:

As a global player who has been quite open about the importance of the US market, we are often subject to such rumours. We have openly stated for a number of years now that we have the desire to expand in the US market and as such we would consider any opportunities that may arise with a suitable US partner. That remains the case, but at the current time we are not in any merger talks whatsoever with a US partner. Your [reports seem] to refer to a global call our management held with all partners recently on our current view on strategy, though your questions below do not reflect the content of what was said whatsoever.

Find out what they were reacting to, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Merger Mania: Allen & Overy and a Mystery Suitor?”

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