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baker-logo.gifThe holidays are over. Now it’s time to get back to business, and in Biglaw these days that means getting back laying people off.

Multiple tipsters report that there were layoffs at Baker & McKenzie this morning. The firm just confirmed the news:

Therefore, consistent with our strategy and discipline, and in response to the economic conditions we are currently witnessing, we are taking proactive steps to ensure that we remain financially strong. In particular, we are proactively focusing on helping our clients manage through these turbulent times, and we are acting to reduce our own operating costs. These actions include, but are not limited to, slowing or deferring some long-term projects, travel and hiring restrictions, and some limited workforce reductions, including six associates in our New York office this week.

The laid off associates were given a 3 month severance package.

One tipster reports:

No one was safe from first years to senior associates to support staff which were terminated. … Those who are left are worried about more cuts.

Another tipster, who also claims that some first years were let go, adds this:

The reasons given were that not enough work was available.

Read Baker & McKenzie’s full statement after the jump.

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UofC Law School logo.JPGThings just seem to be getting more and more draconian over that the University of Chicago Law School. Yesterday we reminded you of the school’s attempts to shut down internet access in class. The day before that we mentioned that some student was calling for an end to video games on personal laptops during lectures.

Today, the UofC Dean of Students has piped up with thoughts about the appropriate use for a law school listserv:

It has come to my attention that there may be some confusion among our student body about the proper use of our student listservs, and now is an ideal time to clarify this information. For your review, I have attached the guidelines for the use of the LawAnnounce listserv. You will notice that the LawAnnounce listserv is meant for informal announcements that may be of general interest to the law school community, and serves as an electronic bulletin board of sorts. While the list is monitored by our administrative staff, the Law School generally does not restrict content on this site with few exceptions. For example, while students are not permitted to use the listserv for “political commentary,” students may be permitted to invite others to a political rally. (*See restrictions below.) The listserv is not meant to be a discussion board, however, on any political issue. Therefore, rebuttals or commentary about a posting should be directed to the poster and/or to the administration, but not to the listserv. This kind of back and forth discussion is more appropriate for a blog and not for this forum. Similarly, any offensive language, including the use of racial slurs, is strictly prohibited on LawAnnounce.

ATL would love to take credit for the “ideal” timing of this letter. But sadly, it appears that politics made this message necessary.

After the jump, more stern warnings from the Dean of Students that are promptly disregarded.

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kindey long island lawsuit.jpgGetting a divorce is never a quick fix, even for a surgeon. You have to divide up the money, the property, the kids, the kidneys.

A Long Island surgeon embroiled in a nearly four-year divorce proceeding wants his estranged wife to return the kidney he donated to her, although he says he’ll settle for $1.5 million in compensation.

If you grew up on Long Island, home of Lorena Bobbit, this story makes perfect sense.

If you grew up on Earth, it gets a little weird:

He said he gave his kidney to Dawnell Batista, now 44, in June 2001. She filed for divorce in July 2005, although he claims she began having an extramarital affair 18 months to two years after receiving the kidney transplant, his attorney, Dominick Barbara, said.

I’m not sure I agree with the good doctor’s tactic. See, if my wife had an affair, I’d want the other guy’s kidney … or liver. Or severed head on a pike that I’d display on my balcony.

But I guess I can understand the desire to send a (former) loved one into toxic shock and/or have $1.5 million.

Sadly, basic human decency the law is not on his side:

Manhattan attorney Susan Moss said, “The good doctor is out of luck and out a kidney. This is similar to cases where a husband wants to be repaid for the cost of breast implants and the such. Our judges are not willing to value such assets, so to speak.”

Good thing that kidneys are internal organs, because you know how they roll on “Strong Island.”

Surgeon Sues Estranged Wife for Return of Kidney [Law.com]


Parker Poe.jpgParker Poe, a Charlotte-based law firm, laid off 13 attorneys and an undisclosed number of support staffers yesterday.

A firm spokesperson confirmed the news last night:

Parker Poe did, today, separate 13 attorneys from our firm.

The attorneys had less-than-one to 3 years of experience with our firm.

Depending upon their years of service with the Firm they received up to 3 months severance.

At least they waited until after the holidays before they “separated” people from gainful employment.

Read what our tipsters are saying after the jump.

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Dickstein Shaprio still basically relevant logo.JPGDickstein Shapiro sent a memo around the firm yesterday that was the bearer of much bad news. Not only did it announce a salary freeze for 2009, it officially announced layoffs that were conducted on Tuesday. Full e-mail after the jump, but here’s an excerpt:

First, we have made a limited number of reductions in our associate/counsel ranks. Those affected by this decision were informed yesterday afternoon. These are purely economic decisions — this is a group of talented attorneys who have made valued contributions to our Firm.

Spokespeople at Dickstein have not yet confirmed the number laid off, but sources say it was 10 associates and counsel, all in the D.C. office. [Update:The firm now tells us the ten came from both the D.C. and New York offices.] One source says those laid off were told it was “economic-based” — as opposed to layoffs in 2008 that were ostensibly performance-based — but that the firm did take a look at their hours. The corporate group was hardest hit.

One source says Dickstein associates were “pissed.” The email went around at noon yesterday and “glibly” announced layoffs and the salary freeze. Associates would have preferred a firm-wide meeting to announce the news. They were also annoyed to get the news of the freeze 36 hours before their first 2009 paycheck was to arrive (at 12:01 a.m. tonight).

Additional news about Dickstein is pouring into our inbox. One tipster reports overhearing a partner voice concern about Bernard Madoff paying his legal fees and the firm’s ability to take on new associates in 2009.

More after the jump.

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sweet hot justice logo.jpg[Ed. Note: The following piece was authored by "The Legal Tease" of Sweet Hot Justice fame. You can check out all of Legal Tease's other evocative musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.]

You know this guy, you do. Every Big Firm has at least one. You started hearing the lore about him your first week at the firm and you admit that you were part intrigued, part terrified. You’ve seen him in passing in the halls, usually after most of the firm has emptied out after dark. Perhaps you’ve even tried to speak to him, only to be met with a distinct lack of eye contact and a half-snort as he scuttled away. He’s more socially awkward than any mental patient, not fit for human–no less client–interaction. But, word on the street–and that word’s always mentioned in hushed, reverential tones–is that he’s brilllliant. Like, crazy genius smart. That’s why the firm keeps him around. The brilliance. He’s the resident Big Firm Savant. And I’m here to tell you first-hand, the whole “genius” thing is a complete and total fraud.

How do I know this? Because I’ve spent the last two weeks holed up on an idiot fire drill deal that’s never going to materialize with not one, but two of my firm’s rumored Big Firm Savants.

One, of course, is our old friend, Glenn, who has the twin distinctions of having billed more hours than any other associate four years running and not having made eye contact since 1993. The other is Russ. Russ, a corporate equity partner whose book of business is rivaled in magnitude only by his lack of a personality. Or emotional range. Or ability to speak in a voice that doesn’t sound like he was recently plugged back into the Matrix.

Still, when I found out I’d be working with Russ, I figured it wasn’t necessarily all bad. Sure, I’d have to spend part of the holidays working on a dead-end deal led by a robot with lip chap the size of glaciers and a leadership style that rivals Ted Kaczynski’s. But on the upside, I’d finally get an inside look at how true legal genius works. I’d be working side-by-side two infamous Big Firm Savants. I’d experience the brilliance.

And most intriguing of all, I’d witness firsthand the rumored way that Russ supposedly “comes alive” in front of clients–because that’s part of the legend of Russ, of all Big Firm Savants: They’re corporate mole people around the office, but stick ‘em in front of a client and bam, they “come alive.” They shed their awkwardness and stun anyone within billing distance with artfully delivered soliloquies of razor-sharp legal analysis worthy of the whitest shoe. They shine. They must, right?

Wrong.

Read more about Big Russ and Glen after the jump.

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clifford_chance.gif* Global Layoff Watch: Clifford Chance to cut as many as 80 attorneys in its London office. [Bloomberg]

* Deloitte partner and tax attorney Steven Klig tried to blackmail the woman with whom he was having an affair. He wanted nude photos of her and threatened to send their sex videos to her family, blurring his own face, of course. She went to the FBI, and now he’s the one getting all the publicity, as well as being charged with extortion and harassment. [New York Post via Gothamist]

*What to do with Roland Burris? The Wall Street Journal’s political editors provide an excellent round-up of Burris options and the Senate Democrats’ missteps. [Political Perceptions/Wall Street Journal]

* Potential Lawsuit of the Day: A skier in Vail has quite a case based on these photos. [Smoking Gun]

* Courthouse News Service has Norm Coleman’s complaint [PDF] in the Minnesota Senate race against Al Franken. If Coleman wins by one vote, he can thank convicted felon Eric Willems. [Minnesota Star Tribune]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgThe new year is shaping up to be a cold one. As we noted in our 2008 Year in Review series, one of the biggest stories heading into 2009 has been that of the salary freeze. Rather than instituting lock-step raises for associates entering a new class year, a number of firms have informed associates that their salaries will remain at 2008 levels.

There have been two types of freezes: the “Solid Ice freeze”–with salaries frozen through all of 2009–and the “Slurpee freeze”–where firms are sticking with 2008 levels for now, but promise to revisit the decision later in the year.

Many an ATL reader has requested a round-up, and we aim to please. So find your pleasure, after the jump. Some of the firms have been reported on before, and some are new.

If you know of other frozen firms, send us an e-mail at tips@abovethelaw.com with the subject, “Salary Freeze: FIRM NAME.” Also, if your firm has raised salaries as expected, feel free to send us the news, with the subject “Salary Raise: FIRM NAME.” While freezes are news, raises as expected aren’t, so we will not be covering firm by firm, but we may do a round-up.

Find the list of the sixteen firms that have frozen, after the jump.

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blawg100_2008_winner_news.JPG* Thanks to all the readers who chose Above the Law as their favorite law blawg for news & politics for the second year in a row! [ABA Journal]

* Let’s keep the good times rolling. It’s time to vote in the 2008 Weblog Awards. [Weblog Awards]

* It was only a matter of time before firms took freezing to the next level. [Litination]

* Career opportunities in media law and legal journalism. Trust me, it’s great work if you can get it. [Law & Journalism]

* Just to be clear, it is possible to be an attorney, a congressperson, and an African-American, all at the same time, without being appointed by Governor Helmet Hair. [On Being A Black Lawyer]

kirkland ellis logo.JPGKirkland & Ellis has asked a number of non-equity partners to leave, multiple sources report. The timing is unclear, but they may have up to six months to pack their things.

The number of laid-off non-equity partners — or “non-share partners,” in K&E parlance — is believed to hover somewhere between 15 and 25. Some are in litigation and some in corporate, but we understand that all of those let go are in Kirkland’s Chicago office.

A tipster points out:

All were told it’s because [of] performance, but most were considered fine lawyers and rated with or above their class each year.

Kirkland & Ellis spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment by the time of this posting.

It’s important to remember that Kirkland & Ellis has a fairly large class of non-equity or income partners. Kirkland uses the “non-share partner” classification liberally, and they tend to make more lawyers “partners,” at earlier stages in their careers. Some K&E “partners” would be senior associates at other firms.

Kirkland also paid out Cravath-level bonuses. When Kirkland announced their bonuses, many commenters opined that bonuses were better than layoffs and that K&E would not do layoffs.

But it looks like Kirkland has had to do some more belt-tightening as the economy continues to tumble. While laying off partners is unusual, it’s not unheard of; last fall, Jenner & Block axed 10 partners (both equity and non-equity).

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Kirkland & Ellis Pays Cravath Scale

Prior ATL coverage of layoffs

Clifford Chance LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgClifford Chance leadership to the rank-and-file partnership: “Partners, spread the wallets, so we can smell the juicy insides.”

Associates, we feel your pain: slashed bonuses and salary freezes are bad news. But things could be worse: imagine having to pay your firm for the privilege of working there:

[A]s a Christmas “bonus” this year, partners at Clifford Chance were each required to make a capital contribution of £100,000 (roughly $150,000). Ouch.

Through a spokesperson, Clifford Chance declined to comment. But, if true, the news would not be completely shocking. The firm has done at least two rounds of layoffs, and they paid bonuses that were down sharply from prior years (although, in fairness to CC, at market levels for 2008).

If true, Clifford wouldn’t be the only firm looking to its partners for financing. As previously discussed, because of super-tight credit markets and the high cost of borrowing, more firms are financing their operations by tapping partner wallets. See, e.g., DLA Piper (letting some income partners become equity partners, if they can cough up capital contributions of up to $150,000).

Associates: next time you complain about greedy partners slashing your pay, consider the possibility that they’re suffering too in this economy. They’re trying to safely navigate the recessionary shoals, just like the rest of us. Some of the measures they’ve been taking, like pay freezes and reduced bonuses, may just be prudent planning. Better to have a smaller paycheck than no paycheck at all.

Are you aware of other firms that are hitting up their partners for cash in these dire times? Drop us a line, by email (subject line: “[Firm Name]: Capital Contribution”). Thanks.

Earlier: Biglaw: Welcome to the Credit Crunch

Prior ATL coverage of Clifford Chance

War on Laptops

laptops war class indiana.JPGA study conducted by Indiana University found that law students are more likely than other students to use their laptops in class. The study confirms our own internal data that shows that most law students enjoy having internet access on par with what can be achieved in Ghana.

The ABA Journal smartly put the study in the context of the University of Chicago Law School’s attempts to shut down internet access in most classes, a move no doubt applauded by this guy:

Distractions posed by laptops with Internet access have prompted some law professors to ban the computers and one law school–the University of Chicago–to shut down Internet access in most classrooms.

A very wise tenured professor once said to me:

The way I see it, if my presentations are not interesting enough to capture your attendance and attention to a lecture you’ve already paid for, the fault is on me.

Needless to say, his lectures were always well attended, and I know more about the English Revolution than I could possibly need. But I digress.

Other IU laptop nuggets after the jump.

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