Musical Chairs

He’s going to Disney World? No, not this veteran M&A lawyer….

Let’s say you graduated from a leading college, summa cum laude, and from an elite law school, also summa. You began your legal career as a transactional lawyer at one white-shoe law firm, where you made partner. You left that firm for investment banking, where you encountered significant success. Then you returned to the legal world, first as an M&A partner at one top firm, then at another. At your final firm, you served as global co-chair of the firm’s renowned mergers and acquisitions group, working on some of the biggest deals around the world.

Then, in your 70s, you decide to leave your firm and also the legal world. Where would you go next?

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When people leave the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, they do it in style. Remember the humorous departure memo of partner David B. Johnson, who left the firm to pursue a career as a novelist? Or the epic farewell message of associate Tyler Coulson, who left to hike across the country with his dog?

(And write a book about the experience, with a great title: By Men or By the Earth: A Corporate Lawyer Walks Out on Law, Love, and Life, and Walks Across America With His Adopted Dog (affiliate link).)

Today we have news of another lawyer leaving the Chicago office of Sidley. But this departure reads more like a mystery novel than a memoir. Let’s find out who’s leaving, even if we don’t yet know why….

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Many of the lawyers from the bankrupt law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf have found new professional homes. But what about the managers? Since the firm filed for bankruptcy, we haven’t heard much about the fates of D&L’s leadership troika: former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and former chief financial officer Joel Sanders. What’s going on with them? Have they found new jobs?

Of course, they can afford to take some time off before returning to the workforce. As we previously reported, DiCarmine and Sanders each received more than $2.9 million — in salary, bonuses, and expense reimbursement — in the year leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy filing.

So, assuming he has reasonable living expenses, former CFO Joel Sanders can afford to coast for a while. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s already back in the workforce.

What if we were to tell you that the chief financial officer of Dewey has found a new position? At a law firm — a pretty sizable one, in fact?

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David Bernick

As we just noted in Non-Sequiturs, the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner has managed to fill the — possibly peep toe? — shoes that were recently vacated by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Trading one famous name for another, the firm just hired celebrated litigator David Bernick (as reported earlier today by Thomson Reuters).

So it seems that there will be two David B’s in the building. Boies Schiller was founded, of course, by the legendary David Boies, one of the greatest litigators of our time — known for his work on such marquee cases as Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, the Perry / Prop 8 case (which could end up in the Supreme Court), and too many others to mention.

Let’s take a closer look at David Bernick’s résumé, and analyze what his arrival means for BSF….

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Elizabeth Wurtzel

Last week, Elizabeth Wurtzel left Boies Schiller & Flexner. The bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Prozac Nation and other books, and a contributor to such publications as the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, Wurtzel started working at the formidable firm in 2008. She was personally hired by legendary litigator David Boies, after she graduated from Yale Law School.

We heard some interesting rumors about what led to La Wurtzel’s departure from BSF. On Friday afternoon, one tipster breathlessly told us the following: “Wurtzel was fired from Boies Schiller after she demanded a window office (she had been working in an internal office similar to what staff use). The partners looked at her hours — which are so minimal that it’s amazing she is still employed at all — and gave her the boot. She is also still not licensed. She passed the bar — but what about character and fitness?”

(The potential character and fitness issues arise out of Wurtzel’s wild pre-law life. As the New York Times put it, Wurtzel is someone “whose attempted suicide, drug use, self-mutilation and indiscriminate sex have made her famous” — thanks to her turning these experiences into the books Prozac Nation and More, Now, Again. To learn more, read her nomination blurb in our contest for Yale Law’s most disgraceful graduate.)

The notion of Wurtzel getting fired over a dispute about office space struck me as a little… well, like Office Space. Did she demand a red Swingline stapler too?

I reached out to Liz Wurtzel and Boies Schiller to find out what actually went down. Here’s what I learned….

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What Husch Blackwell first-years look like right now.

* The Apple Samsung carnival returns to court today. I can’t wait to see what happens. We will probably have more on this later. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

* After being found guilty of judicial misconduct for misappropriating public funds, Michigan state Judge Sylvia James will be removed from the bench for the remainder of her term. [Detroit Free Press]

* London-based Herbert Smith poached six partners from Chadbourne, including the head of the firm’s litigation group, Thomas Riley, and Gregory Loss, who helmed the products liability group. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* San Bernardino is the newest California city to declare bankruptcy. The city apparently has over $1 billion in debt. I wonder if they had to cut their prosecutors’ salaries also. [Wall Street Journal]

* First-year associates at Husch Blackwell will see a nice salary bump this year. Oh boy! [Blog of the Legal Times]

* President Obama nominated prosecutor Pamela Chen to be a new judge for the Federal District Court in New York. If confirmed, she would become the second female Chinese-American federal judge in U.S. history, and also would be one of the first openly lesbian federal judges. [Metro Weekly]

* Republicans filibustered the Obama administration’s high-priority cybersecurity bill. [New York Times]

Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, check them out here and here.

Devotees of international soccer, and I have come across quite a number of them in my Biglaw career (from foreign-born colleagues to more recent converts like myself), are currently enjoying one of the world’s foremost tournaments, the European Championship or the “Euros.” Because the tournament is played in Europe, the games have been on during lunchtime and the early-afternoon hours here on the East Coast, perfect for sneaking out to a local bar for a slightly longer than usual lunch break to watch. I would imagine that most Biglaw Euro watching is being done via Espn3.com, on the “second screen” that most IT departments insist on hooking up in order to enhance the lawyer’s “productivity.” Truth is that when it comes to work, the second screen is fantastic — but it is more fun when it acts as a substitute television.

Now, ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of this year’s Poland/Ukraine-based tournament has definitely raised the Euros’ profile in the USA — but for those unaware or uninterested in the proceedings, realize that each match draws as much interest and television viewership as the Super Bowl. And the level of play on display is absolutely top-notch, as each team is composed of hardened veterans of the top European leagues, those renowned for attracting the top soccer talent worldwide with the allure of riches and fame.

As an aside, knowing something about soccer, just like speaking a foreign language, is a great normalizer when dealing with clients and colleagues in overseas offices. Sports and business are intertwined, and as professional services providers in increasingly international businesses serving an increasingly global clientele, it behooves firms to ensure that both partners and associates have some familiarity with the world’s most popular game (in both amount of fans and corporate support).

In what way is soccer like Biglaw, and what lessons might it have for those of us who toil in law firms?

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Flo Rida

* Flo Rida was caught lying to a judge in the “slave wages” case filed by his former assistant, who claims he paid her only $3.08 an hour. Now he has been ordered to cough up $7,000. Not cool, Flo. [Inquisitr]

* Is News Corp. going to divide itself in two? [Dealbook / New York Times]

* Speaking of job changes, Patrick Fitzgerald, the outgoing U.S. Attorney for Chicago, will be replaced on an interim basis by long-time prosecutor Gary S. Shapiro on July 1. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* I admit, when I first saw the words “heroin burrito” I thought: that sounds delicious. Not because of the heroin, necessarily. Burritos are simply very tasty. [New York Daily News]

Justice Keith Blackwell

* Congratulations to Justice Keith Blackwell, the newest member of the Georgia Supreme Court! [Associated Press]

* Defense attorneys for a man on trial for assaulting a priest who allegedly abused him as a child are now claiming prosecutorial misconduct. Can you spell M-E-S-S? [Mercury News]

* A police officer in Carteret, N.J. saved Ellen Shane’s life by shooting and killing the man who held her hostage at knife point. But apparently that wasn’t enough, and now she has sued the city for $5 million. If she wins, she might want to consider donating the money to her lucky stars. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.

Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.

Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.

Here’s what Weiss and Jaso had to say….

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As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.

What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”

It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”

The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?

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