The performance of litigation as a Biglaw business line during the Great Recession has been widely viewed as disappointing. But at least one type of litigation seems to be picking up. From the New York Times:
A diamond is forever? Prove it.
Companies that were once content to fight in grocery-store aisles and on television commercials are now choosing a different route — filing lawsuits and other formal grievances challenging their competitors’ claims…. The goal is usually not money but market share. Companies file complaints to get competitors’ ads withdrawn or amended.
The cases themselves might seem a little absurd — an argument over hyped-up advertising copy that not many consumers even take at face value. Pantene has attacked Dove’s claim that its conditioner “repairs” hair better, and Iams has been challenged on one of its lines, “No other dog food stacks up like Iams.”
Dueling over dog food quality? Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Here we are. The end of the Vault 100.
To be on the Vault 100 is to be a well-known firm. Sure, maybe not well-known to law students or junior associates who can’t see past the mountain of doc review boxes in their windowless conference rooms. But known to partners … and clients. Look down your nose at these firms if you wish, but remember the old African proverb: “The smallest elephant can still crush your Lexus.”
Here is the final batch of top law firms for discussion:
As we follow the sun through its appointed circuit, we’ve learned that additional layoffs have occurred today out west. Manatt, Phelps has laid off 25 people today: 17 lawyers and 8 staff.
Here’s the statement the firm provided to Above the Law:
The broad economic slowdown continues to present challenges to businesses in every industry. The quality and breadth our national practice, as well as initiatives to improve resource utilization and reduce expenses, have positioned us to meet these challenges. Responsible stewardship, however, requires ongoing evaluation and appropriate alignment of staffing levels with client needs.
With this in mind, we have made the extremely difficult decision to reduce our lawyer ranks by 17 and our staff ranks by 8. Due to the nature and timing of these actions, we have provided those affected with financial and other assistance to help with their transitions.
We understand that the layoffs took place in the finance, tax, and advertising practice groups.
This is the second round of cuts for Manatt. We reported earlier that Manatt has already laid off 47 people since October, 2008.
A tipster also informs us that Manatt first years will be taking a pay cut:
Bill Quicksilver announced … that first year salaries would be reduced to $145K starting April 1. And no on campus recruiting.
Is this the new trend, lay people off while cutting salaries? It certainly appears that firms are trying to finish off this round of cuts before Passover and Easter.
Update (4:48): Additional details about severance after the jump.
We hope you enjoyed the Labor Day holiday and long weekend. Alas, now it’s back to work — for you and for us.
We’re still digging ourselves out from an email avalanche, as well as trying to figure out what’s going in the world (and what we should write about today). This may take us a little while, so please be patient.
In the meantime, let’s conclude our series of open threads on Vault 100 law firms. Here are the firms to talk about today:
It’s the Friday before a major holiday — and firms are scrambling to get their pay raise announcements out the door. It’s a nice way to send your bedraggled and overworked hardworking associates into a three-day weekend (assuming they don’t need to come in on Monday).
We’re about to sign off for the weekend, and we won’t be back until Wednesday. (Billy Merck, who has filled our shoes in the past, will be your guest editor on Tuesday.)
Before we go, here are the latest salary announcements that we’ve confirmed:
But the Manatt “raise” has a catch. Its effective date? January 1, 2008.
HA. That’s kind of funny, in a sick sort of way — provided you’re not at Manatt.
Memos appear after the jump. And we’re out the door. Have a great holiday weekend! Update (2:50 PM): We’ve verified the Pillsbury Winthrop raise news. Memo below. Update (3:25 PM): Jeez, you’re going to make us miss our flight to Las Vegas. Memo from the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn, added after the jump.
The interesting comment thread to our recent post about the Seyfarth Shaw memo — aka “We’re on the List of Shame, and We’re Telling You We’re Not Going” — reminded us of something we meant to link to earlier.
It’s an article, from this month’s ABA Journal, reporting the results of a survey of young lawyers. The survey focused on the trade-off between compensation and billable hours — in other words, money versus lifestyle. Here’s a summary of the results:
[I]f associates were given an opportunity to work—and earn—a little bit less, would they?
Yes, say an overwhelming number of young lawyers who participated in an unscientific online survey conducted by the ABA Journal in November. Respondents identified themselves as associates.
Of the 2,377 respondents who answered all or part of the survey, 84.2 percent indicated they would be willing to earn less money in exchange for lower billable-hour requirements.
A sizable minority of associates are looking for a big workload cut—31.9 percent of respondents favored a 20 percent reduction in billable hours. That was followed by a 10 percent cut in hours (chosen by 27.8 percent of respondents), a 15 percent cut (14.3 percent), a 25 percent reduction (13.5 percent) and a 5 percent cut (4.3 percent).
Heck, who wouldn’t want to work less? But the survey respondents were willing to put their money where their mouths are:
A majority of respondents—no matter how much less they wanted to work—were willing to accept a pay cut equal to the percentage reduction in their workload. (Though 15.1 percent of those looking for a 20 percent cut in billable hours would be willing to sacrifice 25 percent or 30 percent of their pay for less time at work.)
Could we see a significant rise in either true lifestyle firms, or lifestyle tracks at Biglaw firms — where associates work (and earn) less than the average Biglaw lawyer? It’s doubtful:
[P]artners and consultants say no to the idea, for the most part.
“I don’t think this would work if you want to have a very successful firm,” says Carl A. Leonard, former chairman of Morrison & Foerster. “The world has always been competitive, and it just gets more so.”
These sentiments are echoed by Paul Irving, chairman of Manatt Phelps & Phillips:
[L]owering billable-hour requirements for all his associates, [Irving] says, would not work. The firm has a starting annual salary of $145,000 and a billable-hours requirement of 2,000 hours a year.
“Our experience is that, for the most part, the people we recruit are looking for top compensation and a highly engaging work experience.”
Lots of interesting moves, both actual and rumored, to report upon today. Possible promotion:
* Elena Kagan, the popular (and hot) dean of Harvard Law School, is being considered for the presidency of Harvard University. In government:
* New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is on a hiring spree (just like his successor as AG, Andrew Cuomo). Lloyd Constantine, who currently heads a 40-lawyer firm, will serve as a senior advisor to Spitzer. Debra Bachrach, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, will direct the state’s Medicaid program. Joseph Baker, bureau chief for health care under AG Spitzer, will take over as deputy secretary for health and human services. “You’re Fired”:
* Former Apple in-house lawyer Wendy Howell was discreetly discharged, late last year, for her role in the options backdating fiasco. Reunited and it feels so good:
* Structured finance lawyers William Cullen, Janet Barbiere and Bola Oloko, to Thacher Proffitt & Wood, from Sidley & Austin. The trio left Thacher Proffitt together in 1997 (back when Barbiere and Oloko were still associates; they were recently promoted to partnership at Sidley). Other lateral moves:
* Bankruptcy lawyer Steven Wilamowsky, to Bingham McCutchen, from Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Headhunters at Harvard May Pick a Woman [New York Times] NY Bankruptcy Partner Switches Firms [NYLawyer.com] NY Trio Returns to Firm They Left in the ’90s [NYLawyer.com] Spitzer Taps Three NY Lawyers to Fill Key Positions [NYLawyer.com] Apple Quietly Canned Lawyer Who Backdated [The Recorder via Law.com]
Some other noteworthy moves within the legal profession (besides Chief Judge David Levi’s selection as Dean of Duke Law School): Within government:
* This is big news: the new Attorney General for New York, Andrew Cuomo, has hired Barbara D. Underwood as his solicitor general.
Underwood has a resume to die for. She has served as counsel to Eastern District U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf, as chief assistant U.S. Attorney in the E.D.N.Y., and as principal deputy solicitor general over at the Justice Department (under President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno).
Surprise surprise: Barbara Underwood is among the Elect (OT 1970/Marshall). We hear that she beat out other former Supreme Court clerks to win the New York SG job.
The fact that so many high-powered people were vying for the gig shows that state solicitor general posts are acquiring more and more cachet. Being an ex-SCOTUS clerk is rapidly becoming a requirement for these jobs. E.g., Ted Cruz in Texas (OT 1996/Rehnquist); Kevin Newsom in Alabama (OT 2000/Souter).
The rest of today’s transitions, plus links, after the jump.
Welcome to the latest installment of Legal Fee Voyeurism, in which we dish about how much lawyers are getting paid for their labors.
Today’s subject: Amtrak, the federally subsidized passenger railroad that’s a perennial source of bad news. From the AP:
Amtrak cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses, an independent investigator said Wednesday.
The legal department of the federally subsidized passenger railroad failed to properly manage its outside law firms, which charged $103 million from June 2002 through June 2005, according to a review by the Transportation Department’s inspector general.
We knew Amtrak was expensive. We didn’t know it was THAT expensive.*
Here are some of Amtrak’s infractions:
The report found that Amtrak didn’t review law firms’ bills, didn’t request budgets and didn’t scrutinize bills. The railroad also hired expensive big-city law firms without requiring them to compete for its business, the report said.
Now you’re wondering: Which major law firms had Amtrak bend over and grab its proverbial ankles?
Here’s what various top firms billed Amtrak in the period from June 2002 to June 2005 (from the WSJ Law Blog):
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!