Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs

Is lateral partner hiring a game of musical chairs that law firms can’t win? Anecdotes about unsuccessful lateral hires abound. You hear stories about high-profile partners moving from Firm A to Firm B, often lured by huge guarantees, only to leave Firm B a few years later, after failing to integrate or deliver the expected business.

And some of the most successful firms in all the land, places with immense prestige and sky-high profits, do very little lateral hiring. Their refusal to engage in the lateral market hasn’t seemed to hurt them.

When it comes to lateral hiring, should firms “just say no”? Well, that’s not what’s actually happening in the marketplace. Last year, lateral partner hiring climbed, suggesting that it must be working out — at least for some firms….

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* Justice Sotomayor’s memoir made the NYT’s best-seller list, and in terms of sales, she’s officially beating the pants off other Supreme Court justices who’ve released books of a similar nature. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* In case you were sleeping under a rock yesterday when this happened, John Kerry was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state. Don’t think we’ll be getting a Texts From John Tumblr, though. [New York Times]

* Despite having a “pretty spectacular” year, Blank Rome’s legal secretaries may soon find themselves blankly roaming in search of new employment. Better hurry up, the buyout offer expires on Friday! [Legal Intelligencer]

* Straight up now tell me, do you really wanna sue me forever? Corey Clark once claimed he had an affair with American Idol judge Paula Abdul, and now he claims MoFo and Gibson Dunn defamed him. [Am Law Daily]

* In this round of musical chairs, we learn that Orrick hoovered up three energy and project finance partners from Bingham, one of whom will co-chair the firm’s U.S. energy group. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Remember the Zumba prostitution ring? Now we know you can’t be prosecuted for secretly filming Johns in the act in Maine, because there’s no expectation of privacy in “bordellos, whorehouses, and the like.” [Wired]

* Energy drink makers are facing class action suits over claims made about their products. Fine, Red Bull may not give you wings, but it tastes like piss, and that’s gotta count for something, dammit. [National Law Journal]

* Much like herpes, Lindsay Lohan’s legal drama is the gift that just keeps on giving. Her longtime lawyer Shawn Holley wants out, and her new lawyer, Mark Heller, isn’t even licensed to practice in California. [CNN]

It looks like a silly marginal tax increase on the personal incomes of the top 2 percent is the last thing the barons of Wall Street need to worry about. President Obama is sending a new sheriff into the regulatory fray.

Dealbook reports that Obama will nominate former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sending in White to the SEC is a little bit like calling the Wolf to drive home your blood-soaked vehicle. It’s a bold move for an agency that is often overwhelmed by the impressive lawyers marshaled on behalf of the financial industry in defense of their most complex transactions.

Unlike Elizabeth Warren (bless her heart), Mary Jo White is no academic, she’s a hard-nosed litigator. And she might be exactly what the SEC needs…

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* “The bottom line is … I’m the 800-pound-gorilla that you want to settle with.” By the way, if you weren’t sure, Howrey’s trustee Allan Diamond wasn’t kidding about suing the firm’s former partners. “Either we’re going to cut deals, or I’m suing you.” [Am Law Daily]

* It takes two to do the partnership tango: in the expansion of its Financial Institutions Group, Goodwin Procter picked up Brynn Peltz, an attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, and an ex-partner at Latham and Clifford Chance. [Fort Mill Times]

* Hello, predictive coding! Goodbye, jobs! Not only can computers do the work of lawyers on the cheap, but they can do it more intelligently, too. Get ready to welcome our new digital overlords. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Another day, another op-ed article about the law school crisis in the pages of the New York Times. But at least this one is about something most can support: changing the third year of law school. [New York Times]

* As it turns out, with 82 applications for the program’s first five spots, there’s actually a demand for Yale Law’s Ph.D. in Law. So much for this being “[t]he worst idea in the history of legal education.” [National Law Journal]

* Linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with Bountygate was dismissed. Wonder when Goodell will suspend Vilma for thinking he could win. [Bloomberg]

* Francis Lorson, former chief deputy clerk of the Supreme Court, RIP. [Blog of Legal Times]

Cravath partners enjoy discounts at Subway, among other perquisites.

It’s rare for partners to leave Cravath, given the prestige, pay, and perks associated with partnership at the firm. And it’s especially rare for a Cravath partner to leave for a rival firm, as opposed to a Wall Street investment bank or major corporation.

Cravath has a very specific system for running itself, and that system has served Cravath very well over the years. As its competitors expend increasing amounts of effort to climb the prestige hierarchy and expand across the globe, Cravath remains at the top, serenely servicing its clients — and printing money for its partners. Part of the reason why Cravath so rarely loses partners to other firms is that it’s so profitable overall that even a partner being paid under Cravath’s lockstep system still does better than a “star” partner at many other firms.

So that’s why today’s news is so notable. A prominent young partner at Cravath has decided to leave Worldwide Plaza and take his talents across town.

Who is the partner in question, and where is he headed?

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* “The people who are paying us say this is what we want.” When it comes to cross-border mergers, law firms aren’t becoming behemoths for the hell of it. The end goal is to be able to edge out the rest of the competition. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, and “[e]verybody wants to go back downtown,” but some Biglaw firms in New York City — firms like Harris Beach and Cahill Gordon — are still stuck in their temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* Following Jeh Johnson’s adieu to the DoD, drone-loving Harold Koh will be packing up his office at the State Department and returning to Yale Law to resume his professorship next month. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector is employing 5,800 more people than it was at this time last year. We’d be in good shape if 40,000 people hadn’t graduated law school in May. [Am Law Daily]

* Another day, another wrist slap: Villanova Law has been placed on probation for by the Association of American Law Schools over its grade-inflation scandal. Does that even mean anything? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* The Lanier Law Firm, known for its spectacular Christmas parties, hosted some country superstars at this year’s event. Guess we know where Faith Hill and Tim McGraw go for legal assistance. [Houston Chronicle]

* A slim majority of American adults think that federal government employees should just sit back, relax, and smoke a bowl instead of enforcing federal laws against marijuana use. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* “I’m sorry they are confused in the White House.” Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum received a majority of votes, but lawmakers say the results of the two-part plebiscite are too confusing to add a 51st state. [CNN]

* “[L]awyers aren’t trained as accountants,” but Gibson Dunn, Freshfields, Drinker Biddle, and Skadden may have some splainin’ to do when it comes to Hewlett-Packard’s M&A blowout with Autonomy. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Looks like it’s time for some holiday musical chairs: Dorsey & Whitney’s managing partner Marianne Short will be leaving the firm at year’s end to join UnitedHealth as its chief legal officer. [Twin Cities Business]

* The court-ordered mediation between Hostess and the bakers’ union broke down last night. If Judge Drain approves the company’s liquidation plan, the Twinkie may disappear from whence it came. [Reuters]

* Remember the students from Texas Southern who sued because their contracts prof allegedly “curve[d] them out of the class”? Yeah, that got dismissed faster than you can say R2K §90. [National Law Journal]

* You shall not pass — or use Lord of the Rings characters in online gambling games! J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate is suing Warner Brothers for $80M over improper licensing of the late author’s characters. [Bloomberg]

* Please don’t tickle me, Elmo. One week after an accuser recanted his allegations against puppeteer Kevin Clash, another one filed suit over an underage sexual relationship. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* There’s nothing like some man-on-man sexual harassment to get you going in the morning. Sparks Steak House paid $600K to settle charges lodged by 22 male servers over an eight year period. [Corporate Counsel]

* Seems like this pulchritudinous plaintiff’s contract case is still kicking, and Emel Dilek testified that sleeping with the boss was “absolutely not” one of her roles during her time at Mercedes-Benz. [New York Post]

* Lululemon and Calvin Klein have settled their patent spat over elastic waistbands on yoga pants. Here’s hoping the Canadian yoga-wear company turned this lemon of a lawsuit into lemonade. [Businessweek]

* What do divorcées do in their spare time? They go to Florida’s $350M courthouse to spray paint it with broken hearts and notes for the judge who presided over their proceedings. [Riptide 2.0 / Miami New Times]

Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

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In the next few months, we’re going to see a lot of lawyers switching jobs in Washington, D.C. Regardless of who wins the election — my current prediction is that Barack Obama will prevail (sorry, Anonymous Partner) — many lawyers will move into and out of government in the weeks before and after Inauguration Day.

For those who joined the Obama Administration early, three or four years is long enough to make them nostalgic for private sector paychecks. What use is a punched ticket if you never redeem it?

In fact, the movement has already started. Today we bring you news of two notable moves from the nation’s capital. One of them involves a lawyer leaving a top government post, and the other concerns an in-house lawyer entering the firm world….

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Habemus Papam! The white smoke is rising over at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which just announced who will succeed Ralph Baxter as chairman of the 1,100-attorney, 25-office firm.

So who is Orrick’s new chair, and what do we know about him? For starters, he’s quite young….

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