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Elizabeth Fontaine Howrey LLP.jpgIn yesterday’s post regarding the tragedy that left a Howrey associate, Elizabeth Fontaine (pictured), and three of her family members dead, we promised to keep you posted on new developments. We now bring you this update, from the Orange County Register:

Sheriff’s investigators believe they know how four people, including two young sisters, died in a bloody heap Monday inside a million-dollar home in Talega.

Grandmother Bonnie Hoult, 67, fired the gun that killed her daughter and grandchildren before turning the .357 magnum on herself, a senior homicide investigator told the Register, citing the department’s prevailing theory behind the killings that rocked a gated community.

He said her daughter Elizabeth Fontaine, 38, appeared to have been a willing participant in the killings, with both she and her mother choosing death for themselves and the girls instead of allowing the sisters to be sent temporarily into the custody of a sister of their father.

More about these modern-day Medeas, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Update: Grandma May Have Been Triggerwoman in Howrey Associate Murder-Suicide”

Susan Finkelstein Phillies sex.JPGIn October, we told you that a Philadelphia Phillies superfan, Susan Finkelstein, allegedly attempted to trade sex for World Series tickets. Her preliminary hearing was yesterday, and … well, I’ll let the Philadelphia Inquirer explain it to you:

“I admit it. I’m a prostitute. I love sex. I’m a whore,” the Bensalem police officer testified that Finkelstein had told him as he posed as “Bob” at Manny Brown’s in Bensalem.
She talked about “how much she loved anal sex,” he said, alleging later that she pulled up her denim skirt to expose her genital area and asked, “You wanna touch it?”

Hey now. That might be even too much drama for TNT. Who does she think she is, Eddy Curry?
Finkelstein denies all of it. Her side after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Cop Claims Phillies Fan Said She Was a Whore”

start dates being pushed back to 2010 2011.jpgThe big day is almost here for many young lawyers. Recent law grads nestling up in their beds have visions of Blackberries dancing in their heads.
January 2010 will bring start dates for many bound for Biglaw firms. But some firms have had second thoughts. Winston Strawn and Nixon Peabody recently informed incoming associates of more deferrals.
This has made lots of young lawyers nervous. Brian Baxter at AmLaw Daily wants to help calm your nerves, so he surveyed over 40 top firms to ask whether their little associates can count on start dates coming down the chimney. Over half responded.
We’ve noticed that Paul Hastings-bound associates have been especially vociferous in our comments section. They can stop flipping out. According to a spokesman there, the firm plans to start them “on time” in January.
Given recent news and the AmLaw survey, we’ve decided to update our start date round-up. After the jump, we’ve got a new list of start dates at firms nationwide, sorted two ways: alphabetically by firm name and chronologically by start date.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Start Date Round-Up: Who’s making contact in 2010?”

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGBonuses at Sidley Austin are out, and they are all individualized. Perhaps Sidley doesn’t want its associates to know what their colleagues are making.
Which might be a smart move. Above the Law sources report that there is significant variance in the Sidley bonus. We’ve heard of bonus payouts as high as $90,000 for associates. That’s the kind of payment that blows Cravath and S&C out of the water.
But we’ve also heard about associates who received nothing at all. According to our sources, some Sidley associates received a bonus of squat (though none of the people who allegedly received nothing spoke with us directly; all of our tipsters received at least something).
Still, with a big bonus disparity, you can understand why the firm might want to keep the information hidden from its own people. You don’t want these kinds of conversations at the holiday party:
SIDLEY: Look, no large purchases, okay? Don’t draw attention to yourself. Nothin’ flashy.
WINNER: Check out this new coat I bought for my girl! Ain’t it beau-ti-ful ?
SIDLEY: Whatta you, stupid? You’re gonna get us all pinched!
WINNER: I’m sorry, Sidley, I just thought ..
SIDLEY: Get it outta here, get it outta here!
LOSER: Ahh, ahh, Sidley, umm, we’ve got to talk. I ain’t got paid yet.
SIDLEY (to winner): Keep that guy away from me.
WINNER (to loser): Why are you coming in here bustin’ balls? C’mon, it’s Christmas.
LOSER: Look, I see guys with fur coats, guys with fancy Christmas trees, and I ain’t got paid yet. I want my money, I want my money.
WINNER: And you’re gonna get it. Trust me. But right now let’s relax and have a good time.
LOSER: I want my money Sidley.
After the jump, we have a couple of reports on how Sidley chose its winners and losers.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Sidley Austin Open Thread”

Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgWith the holidays approaching, associates find themselves facing a quandary. Since work is still slow at many firms, associates may be tempted to take vacation before the economy bounces back and brings 70 hour work weeks with it.
On the other hand, does taking vacation in a recession send the wrong message?  This week, our ATL / Lateral Link survey asks what you think about using vacation time while the chips are still down.  We’ll use the information to update the ATL Career Center and bring you the results next week.

If you have information about your firm that you want to share with other career center users, please email us at [email protected]. Thanks!

the outlook for holiday parties.jpgLast month, we wondered if law firm holiday parties would be happening this year, in light of the Great Recession and the difficulties it has created for Biglaw. Sure, the economic situation seems to be improving — but is there really that much to celebrate as 2009 draws to a close?
Based on our informal survey of a few leading law firms here in New York, it seems that Christmas / holiday parties are happening, but have been scaled back from prior years. For example, take Weil Gotshal. The firm weathered 2009 better than most other top shops, thanks to its booming bankruptcy practice, but didn’t go all out in the party department. From Am Law Daily:

[Weil] held its holiday party [last] Thursday night on a semi-abandoned floor in its Manhattan headquarters. Instead of a live band, someone brought an iPod for background music. And the firm turned to its regular cafeteria catering service — Sodexo — for the food, though the menu (which included sushi and other goodies) was high-quality, says Barry Wolf, the firm’s newly elected executive partner.

“It was appropriately scaled down and it was fantastic,” says Wolf, who confirms descriptions of the party we heard from several Weil sources earlier today. “And it was convenient. Attendance was better.”

Weil isn’t alone in toning down the holiday glitz. Let’s look at what other New York firms are up to this season.

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Seyfarth Shaw logo.jpgSeyfarth Shaw held its firm wide meeting on Monday, and we (finally) know what went down. The top line news is that Seyfarth will be moving to a pure competency based associate compensation system. But it won’t be fully up and running until 2011. Seyfarth’s managing partner, Steve Poor, issued this statement to the firm after the meeting:

We all recognize that the profession of law is changing in some profound and fundamental ways. Our Firm is making strong strides to align our services with changing client needs through initiatives like Seyfarth Lean, which are gaining strong recognition and support from many of our clients. We discussed another key change that we will introduce more formally in January — one that will change the way we train, develop, recognize, reward and promote our associates. We will be moving to a full competency-based talent system that will be phased in over the course of 2010. We believe this effort will benefit our clients, our Firm and each of you individually. Promotions and compensation will no longer be tied to class years, so that you will be able to excel and be recognized based on your individual skills and accomplishments. Enhanced training will help you develop broad-based skills to add greater value and meet changing client needs, like those being evaluated in the ACC Value Index. More information will be coming to you next month and throughout the year.

So, like Sonnenschein and WilmerHale, Seyfarth will be changing associate compensation, but it’s not yet prepared to tell its associates (or its recruits) how much they’ll be making under the new model.
Despite not being ready to roll out its new program, Seyfarth will still be taking a look at associate costs for 2010. Details on Seyfarth’s 2010 structure after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Seyfarth Shaw Mystery Meeting Follow Up: Another Firm Moves to Kill Lockstep”

John OBrien John J OBrien headshot Sullcrom Sullivan Cromwell partner.jpgBack in April, we wondered about the departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of John O’Brien, a highly regarded and well-liked corporate partner who focused on M&A work. This development captured our interest because it’s unusual for lawyers to leave the (highly lucrative) partnership of a top firm like S&C.

When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure. E.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda (partner left S&C after billing clients and firm for more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).

In addition, word on the street was that O’Brien was escorted from the building by security personnel. Partners are being asked to leave their firms with increasing frequency during the recession — but they’re not usually walked out by muscle.

So we decided to do a little digging.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why Did John O’Brien Leave Sullivan & Cromwell?”

vampires lost boys.jpg* Mumbai high court upholds 1995 decision invalidating licenses for White & Case, Ashurst and Chadbourne & Park to open firms in India. Unless the government changes the law, that goes for any other non-Indian firm that wants to open an office there. Partnerships with Indian firms and offshore work still welcome, of course. [Bloomberg]

* An Indiana judge survives a vampire attack. [Associated Press]

* Will Obama be called to testify in Blago’s trial? [Chicago Tribune]

* Closing arguments in the other huge American criminal trial in Italy this year. [ComputerWorld]

* Bankruptcy judge James Peck okays $50 million in bonuses for Lehman bankers. [Bloomberg]

* Disturbing lawyer of the day Aaron Biber posts $500,000 bail. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

We mentioned the NYU Law awkward and silent dance parties earlier this month. Kash was very diplomatic in that post. I would have emphasized the extreme dorkiness on display.
I’m not sure the clip below from UNC Law is much better. But it’s certainly louder, and that counts for something.

See, you know what the problem is here? 10 minutes isn’t enough time for the ecstasy to kick in.
Rave takes over Davis [The Daily Tar Heel]
Earlier: Exam Stress Makes University of Maryland Law Students Catty

The Good Wife.JPG* Maybe I should check out some The Good Wife episodes over the holidays. People who watch it tell me it’s good, and it can’t possibly be worse than what The Deep End will offer. [Law and More]
* More people try to explain the value of work to (non-lawyer) Elizabeth Wurtzel. [Double X]
* Your depressed Biglaw salary is still better than what the J.D.s make at the Big 4 firms. Go check out the comments and feel good about yourselves. [Going Concern]
* Best of luck to Mr. Herrmann of Drug and Device Law in his future endeavors. [Drug and Device Law]
* If I was ever on Inside the Actor’s Studio and James Lipton asked me “what is your favorite sound,” I’d have to answer “the sound of my own voice.” [Litination]

Secretary.jpgIt’s that time of the year again, says one ATL reader:

now would be a good time for the old “how much are you giving your secretaries for the holidays?” story

It’s customary for associates at large law firms to give a cash gift to their administrative assistants, often along with a card or small gift. Not everyone opts for cold, hard cash — some do AmEx or Visa gift cards.

This year has been a tough one. Some associates have had their salaries frozen and have gotten “baby bonuses” in comparison with years past. Are you planning to let the economic pain trickle down?

Some discussion and advice from last year, after the jump.

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