Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
Is Bingham about to fall victim to its own strategy?
Since 1994, the firm has leapt from a regional firm that worked almost exclusively with the Bank of Boston to one of the fifty largest firms in the world. The impetus behind this expansion was a series of about ten mergers over the course of sixteen years. The firm picked up productive but possibly struggling boutiques and mid-size firms, growing from a 200-attorney firm in 1994 to an 850+ attorney firm in 2009.
How did Bingham reach its current state? Let’s look at the history.
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.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.