Money

Math is hard.

I’m somewhat reluctant to criticize other people’s bad financial decisions, having made so many atrociously dumb decisions in my own life. My financial stupidity isn’t even in the past tense — I have a brand-new PS4, but I’m waiting until the new year when my Flexible Spending Account resets to go to the doctor.

On the other hand, sometimes it takes an idiot to spot an idiot (I just made that up). At the very least, I’m somewhat uniquely qualified to identify which financial mistakes are “common” among the financially illiterate, versus the mistakes that take a special kind of dumb.

There are a few articles making the rounds today: there’s a Salon article trying to explain why law schools are comfortable scamming their students, and there’s a Forbes article making the stupid “now is a good time to go to law school” argument (which should make smart people roll their eyes). We’ve been down those roads before.

But we also have an article from a guy who says law school was the start of his financial downfall. He doesn’t blame law school, which is good, because I’m pretty sure he’s got nobody else to blame besides himself. And maybe his ex-wife….

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Kent W. Easter

* Former U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride will be joining Davis Polk as a partner in the firm’s white-collar defense practice. Nice work, DPW — he’s actually kind of cute. Earn back that rep! [DealBook / New York Times]

* Matthew Kluger, most recently of Wilson Sonsini, was disbarred in D.C. following his insider trading conviction. His criminal career apparently began while he was still in law school. Sheesh. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Kent Easter, he of the “I am but a spineless shell of a man” defense, was just on the receiving end of a mistrial. It seems the jury was totally deadlocked. Guess they felt bad for him. [Navelgazing / OC Weekly]

* The Iowa Law Student Bar Association supports the school’s decision to cut out-of-state tuition by about $8,000 because to stand against such a measure would be absolutely ridiculous. Congratulations on not being dumb. [Iowa City Press-Citizen]

* Apple won more than $290 million from Samsung in its patent infringement retrial. Siri, tell me what the fifth-largest jury award in the U.S. was in 2013. OMG, I didn’t say delete all my contacts. [Bloomberg]

* The trial for James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre, was delayed by a judge until further notice. A hearing has been scheduled to reassess the situation in December. [CNN]

* Myrna S. Raeder, renowned expert on evidence and criminal procedure, RIP. [ABA Journal]

It’s nearly that time of year, when all the grueling hours that Biglaw associates have put in will pay off in the form of fat bonuses. Or don’t pay off, with miserly bonuses, or nothing at all. Or something in between? Point being, we have no idea how the 2013 bonus season will play out. Presumably, the answer is buried somewhere deep in Allen Parker’s unknowable heart.

The signs thus far are not especially encouraging, at least for those with a vested interest. (Admittedly, for most, this is all much ado about white-shoe people problems.)

Yes, Cravath might be doing well, at least if its large partner class is any indication. But on the subject of law firm 2013 profits in general, the Citi Bank Private Law Firm Group’s report on the first half of the year concluded:

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The ruins of a house on the outskirts of Tacloban, capital of Leyte.

Law firms and the legal profession have a long and distinguished tradition of contributing to the public interest. Earlier today, we highlighted five Biglaw firms that are pro bono all-stars.

Most pro bono cases involve clients and causes here in the United States. But in today’s increasingly global world, law firms look beyond borders when it comes to helping the needy.

Yesterday we commended Skadden for its generous support of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. And today we recognize several other law firms that have joined in this worthy cause….

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The Dewey nightmare continues for non-settling partners.

Many former partners of now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf signed up to join the “Partner Contribution Plan” that was hatched during the law firm’s bankruptcy case. The gist of the Plan: pay a certain sum (which varied from partner to partner) into the pot, and win a release from any future Dewey-related liability.

The main appeal of the Plan was finality, a way of putting the entire Dewey debacle in the rearview mirror. And that appeal was strong: more than 400 ex-partners agreed to the Plan, which freed them up to focus on their post-Dewey lives at new firms.

But a minority of former partners refused to sign on. A lawsuit filed last week against one ex-partner reveals what lies in store for them….

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The Empire State Building, lit up with the colors of the Philippine flag to show support for Typhoon Haiyan victims. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Navarrete.)

When disaster strikes, lawyers are there (and not just to hand out their business cards). Lawyers and their law firms have responded swiftly and generously in the wake of natural disasters, giving of their time and treasure to help the victims of calamities around the world.

Lawyers and their law firms, especially Biglaw firms, have come to the aid of people affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and earthquakes in Haiti and China. We have chronicled and commended these efforts in Above the Law over the years.

In light of this track record, it should come as no surprise that one of the world’s top law firms is giving generously to support relief efforts in the Philippines, my ancestral homeland, where thousands have died due to Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). Which firm, and how much is it giving?

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On this conservative analysis, an associate is bringing $640,000 in revenue to the firm while costing only $340,000, meaning that each associate has a surplus value to the firm of around $300,000/year.

On this model, a partner in a leveraged firm (i.e., four associates per partner), could make $1.2 million in a year without billing an hour.

Samuel Blatchford, breaking down the economics of associate compensation in Ramblings on Appeal. (That’s assuming an associate billing a mere 2000 hours/year, which many associates should have hit by August.)

As we’ve repeated countless times in these pages, Biglaw isn’t what it used to be, and good luck to you if you happen to be a partner. Sure, you’ve grabbed that brass ring, but you also have what could be described as “the worst job in Biglaw.” Here in the new normal, where layoffs and de-equitizations abound, despite increases in firm profits, many partners now have the same fears as associates.

So what happens when partners are pushed out of the law firms they once loved? Now we know, thanks to the results of a a new survey. You won’t believe how messy these bad romances can get…

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The Beresford (at right)

Seven years ago this month, M&A lawyer Gregory Ostling was elected to the partnership of Wachtell Lipton, effective January 2007. In our story about the news, we referred to Wachtell as “obscenely profitable and dazzlingly prestigious.”

Wachtell routinely tops the Am Law 100 rankings in profits per partner and the Vault rankings of law firm prestige. In 2011, according to the American Lawyer, WLRK enoyed PPP of $4.975 million.

Because the firm has a single-tier partnership and is fairly lockstep (with just a handful of senior partners off the lockstep), even junior partners at Wachtell do very well for themselves. So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that a relatively young partner like Greg Ostling just bought not one but two multimillion-dollar apartments at the Beresford — one acquired from a famous athlete, and one from an heiress — which presumably he’s going to combine into a single fabulosity-oozing residence….

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In the ultimate expression of #richpeopleproblems, a recently retired Biglaw partner just figured out that $19.5 million is missing. Technically, the money was allegedly slowly stolen by the partner’s spouse over years of financial mismanagement, but the point remains that a partner couldn’t be bothered to keep track of almost $20 million and is now running to court to complain that downright neglect should be rewarded.

Look, it sucks when people take advantage of you, but when a lawyer whose expertise is finance complains that money comes up missing, it’s hard to have much sympathy.

They say lawyers make the worst businesspeople. I guess they’re right…

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