You don’t have to be a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars to have predicted that Warner Bros. — the company that produces Two and a Half Angry Men and, not un-coincidentally, Looney Tunes — would fire Charlie Sheen from the show. And on Monday, that’s exactly what happened. Writing on behalf of Warner Bros., Munger Tolles (specifically, partner John Spiegel) fired off an 11-page letter immediately axing Charlie from Two and a Half Laughs, Ever Men.
But even if someone wields a machete from a roof or requests a battle in the Octagon, you can’t necessarily fire him for cause just because he’s crazy. For instance, Tom Cruise jumps on couches and he has gone on to not be fired from several lackluster movies, most notably Valkyrie. Warner Bros. needs cause to fire Charlie under his $1.8 million per episode contract, and in the letter, they offer up a kitchen sink of it.
A lot rides on the outcome here: if Charlie prevails in arbitration and proves that Warner Bros did not have cause to fire him, he stands to get paid for the ten remaining episodes in the show’s ninth (!!) season. And if the reports are accurate, he also has a “Michael J. Fox” clause in his contract, which specifically permits a washed-up 80s actor to continue to draw paychecks from humorless sitcoms that remain in production after the actor has left the show to fade into obscurity – a hold over from the days when Sheen replaced Fox in Spin City and Fox continued to get paid. If Warner Bros. prevails, they may seek 10 episodes worth of lost revenue from Charlie, though admittedly it will be difficult to convince an arbitrator that anybody watches the show, must less pays to advertise on it.
In any event, down to brass tacks. Here are the various allegations Warner Bros. makes in the termination letter to assert that they have cause to fire Charlie under his contract, along with my evaluation of their merits….
* Several states are considering laws that would make it more difficult for college students and others to vote. College students fire back that they’re not going to take this lying down. But they’re going to get a little high first. [Washington Post]
We’re rolling through the Vault 2011 list of the “prestigiest” firms in the land, so that you can comment on what it’s like to actually live, work, and breathe those firms (when you’re not choking on all the prestige in the air).
We’ve covered #1-10 and #11-20. Here’s the next round-up. Now it’s time for the London-based Magic Circle firms to join in the elite fun:
Last month, associate bonuses were announced at the super-elite firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson — aka the West Coast home of The Elect, with about two dozen former SCOTUS clerks lying around. The firm is well-known for its exceedingly high hiring standards and intellectual (if somewhat nerdy) atmosphere.
One would expect a firm as picky as Munger to reward its recruits handsomely. But word on the street is that some MTO associates, unlike their counterparts at Irell & Manella, are not pleased with their 2009 bonuses.
Munger didn’t have lockstep in the past, but this year they decided to have it for first-year associates (from the class of 2008). Those associates received $5,000, below the market rate of $7,500. Second-year associates, i.e., class of 2007 graduates, received bonuses between $7,500 and $10,000, at or below market. (But note that Munger makes 3% contributions to some associates’ 401K plans, which most firms do not these days.)
The firm memo provides official ranges for bonuses. One tipster claims the ranges are somewhat misleading because most people received bonuses on the low end and very few receive bonuses on the high end, but we have not verified this.
The complete MTO memo, plus added explanation for associate discontent, after the jump.
Getting sued for malpractice, even if the claims lack merit, is never fun. Earlier this week, we wrote about Seyfarth Shaw, which is being sued by Tae Bo star Billy Blanks for malpractice (and being sued by a current partner for breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims).
Let’s declare this week “West Coast Malpractice Week” here at Above the Law. Yesterday a California appellate court reinstated a malpractice lawsuit against the super-prestigious firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and two of its partners, George Newcombe and Alexis Coll-Very, based in STB’s Palo Alto office.
The underlying lawsuit is somewhat complex; here’s the gist of it. Simpson Thacher represented PrediWave Corporation, a (now-bankrupt) California technology company, and its former CEO and president, Jianping “Tony” Qu. Prediwave alleges that Tony Qu was essentially looting the company, siphoning away its assets, and that Simpson Thacher — which represented both the company and Qu, a claimed conflict of interest — didn’t adequately protect the company’s interests against Qu (and even made it more difficult for the company to investigate Qu and his alleged self-dealing).
In the trial court, Simpson Thacher — represented by another powerhouse firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson (aka West Coast magnet for SCOTUS clerks) — won dismissal of the lawsuit, pursuant to California’s “anti-SLAPP” statute. If you’re not familiar with anti-SLAPP statutes, one of a blogger’s best friends (along with Section 230), here’s a brief description:
SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are lawsuits filed against people or organizations because they have exercised their right to petition the government or speak out on public issues. SLAPPs frequently contain claims for libel, slander, defamation, malicious prosecution, and/or abuse of process.
Can an anti-SLAPP law be used to secure swift dismissal of a malpractice action brought by a client against its former counsel? PrediWave, represented by Squire Sanders and California appellate boutique Horvitz & Levy (previously discussed here), argued that this is not a proper application of the statute. In its opinion (PDF), the California Court of Appeal (Sixth Appellate District) agreed, reinstating the suit against Simpson. (The court did not address the underlying merits of the case, leaving those to the trial court on remand.)
More discussion — including a statement from Simpson Thacher, which calls Prediwave’s claims “baseless” and declares that STB will “defend this claim vigorously” — after the jump.
Check out the big move by Munger. It’s up 11 spots on this year’s list. And let’s not forget about the firm’s #1 A-List ranking by Am Law earlier this year. Munger’s managed to do all of this without laying off a massive number of associates. Hopefully other Biglaw firms (and current 2Ls) will take note.
We know people have strong opinions about some of the firms on this list. Let’s get into them after the jump.
This list, which we launched in 2003, aims to measure and quantify the qualities that define an elite law firm, making an effort to look beyond profits. We examine four factors: revenue per lawyer, commitment to pro bono, diversity among lawyers, and associate training and satisfaction. Our formula gives more weight to the first two factors; we double a firm’s scores for revenue per lawyer and pro bono, and then add scores for diversity and associate satisfaction.
This year’s A-List? The elite of the elite? The top three firms are:
1. Munger, Tolles & Olson 2. Hughes Hubbard & Reed 3. Latham & Watkins
I’ll pause to give laid off Latham associates an opportunity to finish screaming. Please return after the jump.
We’re entering the second half of the Vault 100. This is part of a series of open threads to discuss the firms considered to be the profession’s most prestigious. Because we know you love prestige. And the opportunity for “TTT” accusations. [FN1]
Here’s the next bunch of firms, with prestige scores in parentheses:
Vault notes that attorneys at Pillsbury are treated to “freshly baked cookies.” But they also have to put up with being referred to as “Pillsburians” by Vault.
Compare, contrast, discuss… and if you’re at Pillsbury, have a chocolate chip cookie for us. Earlier:Vault 100 Open Threads – 2009
[FN1] We periodically get e-mails asking for the definition of “TTT,” which appears so often in comment threads. As the uninitiated have surely gathered, it’s a derogatory term. Likely originating on AutoAdmit, it stands for “third tier toilet.” For more, see Urban Dictionary.
* NFL Union president prepared for strike. [ESPN]
* Microsoft offers to acquire Yahoo for $44.6 billion to compete with Google. [MSNBC]
* Times reporter subpoenaed over “State of War” source. [New York Times]
* French President and supermodel girlfriend sue over pictures. [Washington Post via WSJ Law Blog]
* HLS grad Obama and YLS grad Clinton make nice, sort of, during debate. [MSNBC]
* SCOTUS stays Alabama execution, maintaining de facto moratorium on death penalty. [CNN]
* Roy Tolles and Arthur Kramer, of Munger Tolles and Kramer Levin, respectively, RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]
Warmest congratulations to our friends Junko Ozao and Jason Choy, whose lovely wedding was written up in this week’s Vows column. Jason is an associate at Kirkland & Ellis, but Junko is a normal person, and that shortcoming cost them a spot in this week’s Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. The news will likely ruin their three-week honeymoon, but such are the ruthless decisions our readers expect LEWW to make.
Here are the six finalists (all lawyers):
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.