On Friday we brought you the story of Edward De Sear, a former partner at several top law firms who now faces a charge of child pornography distribution. De Sear — a graduate of Columbia and UVA Law, who is now one of the nation’s leading capital-markets lawyers — has been a partner at Allen & Overy, Bingham McCutchen, McKee Nelson, Orrick, and Milbank Tweed. As we mentioned in our prior post, the charges against De Sear came as a shock to fellow New York lawyers and to neighbors of his in Saddle River, New Jersey (my hometown — I can walk to De Sear’s place from my parents’ house).
After our story appeared, a former colleague of Ed De Sear came forward, to share some recollections. “I’m completely stunned,” said this attorney.
I grew up in the town of Saddle River, New Jersey, a suburb about 40 minutes outside of New York City. With its wooded rolling landscape and small-town charm, Saddle River is a pleasant place to live. Large houses, a mix of stately older homes and well-executed McMansions, sit on sizable plots of land, thanks to two-acre zoning.
It was a peaceful and bucolic locale, and when I visit my parents, it seems much the same. My colleague Staci Zaretsky, our newest full-time contributor here at ATL, also grew up there — and concurs with my assessment.
But Saddle River, like the suburbs depicted in such films as American Beauty and Happiness, is not without its drama. Yesterday Edward De Sear, 64, a resident of Saddle River and a capital-markets partner at the distinguished international law firm of Allen & Overy, was arrested at his home and charged with distributing child pornography. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
UPDATE (12:00 PM): Make that a former partner of Allen & Overy. De Sear has resigned from the firm, according to a statement issued by A&O. Read it in full after the jump.
Let’s learn more about the allegations against Ed De Sear, hear from someone who knows him, meet his high-powered defense counsel — and check out his beautiful and historic home….
Legal recruiters find work for lawyers — and sometimes they create work for them. We previously covered, for example, the litigation between mega-recruiter Major Lindsey & Africa and one of its former employees, Sharon Mahn.
Sometimes recruiters go after each other, and sometimes they go after law firms — firms that don’t pay them the placement fees to which they’re entitled. Recruiter Alan Miles, principal of Alan Miles and Associates, went after Bingham McCutchen — and won, big time.
After enduring a rough few years caused by the collapse of the structured finance market, the elite specialty firm of McKee Nelson has agreed to be acquired by the larger Bingham McCutchen.
Partners at both firms were informed Monday morning of the merger, which is scheduled to take effect August 1. The combined firm will be called Bingham McCutchen, and will include all of McKee Nelson’s lawyers.
No word on whether the McKee attorneys have the CHARACTER to become Bingham attorneys. But the merger looks good on paper:
McKee Nelson, which is known as one of the pre-eminent firms for tax planning and tax litigation, was viewed by Bingham as an attractive addition. “It’s really rare to find a firm that is this size that has three market-leading practices,” says Bingham chairman Jay Zimmerman, referring to McKee’s expertise in tax, financial institution litigation, and capital markets-structured finance. Structured finance might be moribund now, but Zimmerman sees it as an area worth investing in. “It will be part of our longterm strategy for serving the financial institution industry.”
How does this work on the McKee side of the ledger? We check in after the jump.
Today’s firm-wide meeting at McKee Nelson did not yield good news. A statement from the firm reveals the extent of the bloodletting:
This morning, McKee Nelson LLP laid off 17 of its corporate/finance associates, reducing this practice from 94 to 77 attorneys. The layoffs are concentrated in the MBS, ABS and CDO parts of our capital markets practice.
Our firm also laid off 15 administrative staff. All of the affected attorneys and staff members are in good standing at the firm. None of these layoffs are performance based.
At least the firm was honest about the reason for the layoffs. No stealth layoff / performance review rhetoric from the firm partners:
For the past 16 months, the partners of this firm have been committed to bearing the costs of the overcapacity in our structured finance group in order to keep our team intact. The devastation that befell the credit markets in September, however, was unprecedented. We have analyzed and created a projection of what we believe the structured finance business will look like over the next two years and what resources, capabilities and experience will be required to do that work. This layoff is a necessary part of the firm’s adjustment to this new reality.
Is something going down at McKee Nelson today? A tipster reports that there is a surprise, all-attorney video conference scheduled for 1:30 today.
Managing partner William Nelson announced the meeting succinctly via firm-wide email this morning:
There will be an all attorney meeting at 1:30PM.
Recently, these mystery meetings have been held to release good news. In September, Covington & Burling held a surprise meeting to announce the acquisition of Heller Ehrman’s IP department (admittedly, that was not good news for Heller Ehrman). Last month, Jenner & Block held one to reassure associates (shortly before a number of partners were let go).
Okay… so these meetings aren’t always “good news,” but they have been “good spin.”
What does the future hold for McKee Nelson? Well, one of their biggest clients is JPMorgan Chase, one of the only banks left standing. Things can’t be too bad, right?
We’ll let you know where the chips fall.
Update (2:15): McKee Nelson confirmed that they laid off 17 associates and 15 staffers today. Read additional coverage here.
This morning we brought you a special sneak preview of the 2009 Vault law firm rankings (to be released in full on Tuesday, August 12, over at the Vault website). We passed along two compilations: (1) firms ranked 26-50 by prestige, and (2) firms 11-20 on the “best to work for” list.
Now, as promised, we bring you the balance of the rankings: firms 1-50 by prestige, and all 20 of the “best to work for” firms.
Check out the lists, plus comment from Vault law editor Brian Dalton, after the jump.
An interesting article in today’s New York Times — by Lynnley Browning, author of the earlier Biglaw perks piece — focuses on the subprime mortgage mess and current investigations into the adequacy of disclosures to investors.
Investigators are focused on Wall Street, but lawyers involved in the securitization process may also face scrutiny. Government investigation is the last thing these struggling law firms need, as they try to retool in the face of a grim outlook for structured finance and real estate work.
The article focuses on McKee Nelson:
McKee Nelson burst onto the scene in 1999 and quickly grabbed lucrative Wall Street work from long-established rivals. William F. Nelson, one of its co-founders, said the firm, which is known for its sophisticated tax work, did not employ any special legal maneuvers to outflank its competitors. “There’s no secret, magic elixir that we sprinkled,” Mr. Nelson said.
In any case, the mortgage turmoil is now hitting the highly regarded McKee Nelson hard. The firm recently pared its structured finance department to 80 lawyers from about 115 through buyouts, sabbaticals and transfers to other departments. More cuts are unlikely, a spokeswoman said.
So that’s good news. And the firm is trying to take lemons and make the proverbial lemonade:
[A]fter profiting from the mortgage boom, McKee Nelson is now positioning itself to profit from the bust by riding the coming wave of lawsuits. In January, the firm flew its partners and their spouses to Charleston, S.C., aboard four Delta commuter jets, to map out its strategy.
“We’re heavily committed to doing more litigation,” Mr. Nelson said. The firm hopes to represent investment banks, hedge funds and other financial companies, as well as their executives, in a variety of litigation, he said.
We previously commended the firm of McKee Nelson for the steps it’s taking to accommodate its associates in the wake of the credit crunch. Credit market woes have significantly affected the firm’s once booming capital markets practice, but the firm is bending over backwards not to do layoffs.
So far backwards, in fact, that we’re going to go even farther: we wish we worked at MN. To paraphrase Crazy Eddie, the offers they’re making to associates are INSANE.
On Friday, the firm offered these options to its associates:
(1) a full bonus, and four months’ pay, to anyone willing to depart from the firm; or
(2) the option to take a year-long sabbatical, at 40 percent pay, AND with a full bonus for 2007.
Wow. How is option (2) — or even option (1), for people who wanted to change jobs or career paths anyway — not the sweetest deal ever? You get a year off from the Biglaw grind, at 40 percent of your pay (McKee is on the $160K scale), AND with a year-end bonus? (Their bonus table appears here — the firm is paying standard year-end bonuses, although not “special” bonuses.)
There are some caveats, according to our tipsters. First, there’s no guarantee of a job at the end of the sabbatical — whether you can return to the firm will depend on what the business climate looks like in a year. Second, you’re supposed to do something public-interest-oriented during that year — or, as the managing partner put it, “something that makes the world better.” So you can’t just go to Ibiza and party for twelve months (although cynics claim that turning lawyers into layabouts “makes the world better”).
On the other hand, there’s no requirement that you work for a 501(c)(3) during your sabbatical; the concept has some flexibility. Could you perhaps use the year — and the money — to study painting, or to finish the novel you started writing back in law school?
So many lawyers talk about the dreams that died when they went to law school. How is the McKee Nelson sabbatical program not a great opportunity to resurrect those dreams, with the luxury of free time and financial security? Earlier: Nationwide Personnel Reconfiguration Watch: McKee Nelson
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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.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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