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economy freezes over.JPGWhile Southeastern United States Senators are busy making the world safe for Toyota, Southeastern law firms are busy just trying to survive.

The latest bad news comes the 132-year-old law firm Womble Carlyle. The North Carolina based firm has decided to freeze salary increases for all attorneys through the first half of 2009 at least:

In these times, prudent management requires that we minimize our expenses in order to retain the flexibility that is necessary to deal with unforeseen developments. Accordingly, in addition to a variety of expense cuts that are included in the budget, we have decided not to increase base salaries for salaried attorneys and staff at the beginning of 2009. As we approach the midpoint of the year, we will review the situation and decide whether to provide any increases for the balance of the year. The only exceptions are those attorneys who become salaried members or of counsel on January 1, 2009.

I imagine that if you are a lawyer that relies heavily on the disaster area of the Charlotte banking market, just having a job is reward enough. You don’t want to be laid off in North Carolina right now. Womble Carlyle hopes to avoid that worst case scenario after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Womble Carlyle Bows to Southeast Economy”

Duquesne law school building.JPGDuquesne Law Students are still waiting for a satisfactory reason for the dismissal of (former) Duquesne law dean Don Guter. We reported yesterday that the Dean was given 24 hours to resign, without explanation.

While there has been much speculation about why Guter was asked to leave, none of the rumors have been confirmed.

But rumors and innuendo are not enough for the law student’s association at Duquesne. With one unanimous voice, the Student Government Association asked the administration to explain themselves:

Tonight, during fall finals, upon the voices of about 200 law students pleading for support, the Duquesne Student Government Association (“SGA”), after nearly 3 hours of argument and deliberation, passed a resolution that (1) The SGA strongly objects to President Dougherty’s removal of Dean Guter from Dean of the School of Law, (2) The SGA has NO CONFIDENCE in Charles J. Dougherty’s continuance in the role of the President of Duquesne University.

I can almost see 200 Duquesne law students, all standing on their desks, shouting “Oh Captain my Captain” while an old guy in a tweed jacket shouts “Mr. Guter, leave. Leave at once!”

But to use another memorable movie quote: ATL asks Duquesne law students “Now, what are you prepared to do?” After the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Duquesne Law Dean Dismissal Follow Up”

Hiring anybody.JPGWith all of the carnage in the legal community, unemployed attorneys might have to look outside the box to find jobs right now. We suggest an “all of the above” strategy. Headhunters, personal connections, career counselors, or even Craigslist could produce the job you need to satisfy your landlord.

An interesting little ad appeared on Craigslist this week. The job is based in Long Island:

Small Congenial Litigation Office with an insurance defense, Plaintiff’s personal injury and commercial litigation practice seeks an entry level attorney who wants to learn how to practice law.

All of our attorneys have a big firm background. You don’t need one. You will however, learn from quality attorneys while showing us just how invaluable you are and why you should be paid more money.

Are there any Hofstra 3Ls out there whose Biglaw dreams crashed on the rocks of the shifting economy.

Remember, life isn’t all about prestige. This firm is offering something no Biglaw firm would dare say:

We are not looking to overwork the successful candidate. We have lives – he/she should too. Bill 35 to 40 hours a week legitimately and the rest of the week is yours. Show us that we can’t live without you, and we’ll increase your salary. Bring in clients or cases and get a piece of what you bring in. Bring in the right case, and make more than the partners.


I grew up on Long Island and have some knowledge about the environs around the Mineola courthouse. The ad’s kicker makes a lot of sense:

Trust me there are worse places to work – my partners and I have all worked there. Practicing law need not be a chore, but it is essential to get the right start.

Do you have information about other firms that are “hiring” in this market? Send them into tips.

Read the full ad after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Law Firm Hiring on Craigslist: Hofstra Students Welcome”

New Yorker.jpg* Legal Talk of the Town: A Virginia couple has sued the New Yorker and Greenberg Traurig for an illegal search and seizure of their home. They are represented by Ken Cuccinelli, who hopes to be Virginia’s next attorney general. [Courthouse News Service]

* Under this new Justice Department rule, Rod Blagojevich will have to give a sample to the National DNA Index System. [Washington Post]

* Jury deadlocked on death penalty for Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols. [New York Times]

* Celebration time for Rutgers and Seton Hall law school students and alumni. The New Jersey Supreme Court lifted a gag order to allow judges to participate in U.S. News & World Report’s law school rankings, in the hope that New Jersey schools start ranking higher. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* Human Rights Day, Bill of Rights Day, and Human Rights Week. Thoughts, reactions, diatribes, memoirs invited. [Blawg Review]

Weil.gifSo should Weil Gotshal associates be rooting against a government bailout of GM and the other big automakers?

GM bankruptcy –> more fees for Weil –> bigger bonuses (which WGM has not yet announced)?

UPDATE (1:00 AM): As of now, it looks like the auto industry bailout talks have failed. This makes a GM bankruptcy even more likely.

But even if GM does file for Chapter 11 (or even Chapter 7), thereby generating thousands of billable hours for Weil associates, it’s unlikely that Weil will pay out Skadden-sized bonuses (although the speculation sure is fun). As noted in the comments, Weil generally follows the market, and the market has settled around Cravath.

Paying above market could create problems for Weil. As one reader previously noted, “Weil will never be a bonus leader because there is concern at the firm that it would seem unsightly by the firm’s bankruptcy clients to lead the market with bonuses.”

That concern seems warranted. As GM director George Fisher told Bloomberg last week, “We are fearful, very fearful, of a prolonged [bankruptcy] proceeding that would just destroy our brand in the marketplace and therefore that is not considered a viable option…. These Wall Street geniuses and law firms are coming up with all these solutions that make them a lot of money.”

FURTHER UPDATE: As noted in the comments, as well as the original WSJ article, GM has also retained former Weil partner Martin Bienenstock, now at Dewey & LeBoeuf, to help it become a “futuristic” automaker for the 21st century. Good luck with that.

GM Hires Advisers to Weigh a Bankruptcy Filing [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
GM Hires Lawyer Bienenstock to Reconfigure Automaker [Bloomberg]

Earlier: If the Big Three Fall, Which Law Firms Rise?
Jones Day’s Chrysler Bankruptcy Coup
Chrysler Hires Jones Day As Bankruptcy Counsel [Dealbreaker]

pregnant old lady elderly woman having baby.jpg* The fertile octogenarian: could legal fiction become reality? [Concurring Opinions]

* The twenty most popular law reviews to submit to via ExpressO. A quirky list, to say the least. [The Conglomerate]

* Has Kentucky engaged in “celestial outsourcing” of its homeland security needs? [Supreme Dicta]

* Want to teach case law to patent examiners? You might have the next Einstein in your class. [Securing Innovation]

* We’re suckers for awards and recognition, so we’re pleased as punch by this shout-out. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please vote for ATL in the Blawg 100. [Law and More]

Rod Blagojevich illinois law above the law.JPGSome have wondered: Where was star litigator Dan Webb at Governor Rod Blagojevich’s bond hearing?

High-powered Winston & Strawn litigators Dan Webb and Bradley Lerman were not at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s side when he appeared at a bond hearing on Tuesday. Blagojevich instead tapped Sheldon Sorosky, a lawyer from two-partner Chicago litigation shop Kaplan & Sorosky. Whither Winston & Strawn?

Here’s a possible answer, from the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich owes more than $500,000 in unpaid bills to the law firm Winston & Strawn, his primary counsel since federal investigators began looking into various allegations of corruption five years ago. It is unclear whether the legal bills are for personal or campaign work, or for both. Campaign filings show Winston & Strawn had charged the governor’s campaign fund, Friends of Blagojevich, nearly $2 million in legal fees through the end of 2007.

“Friends of Blagojevich”: probably in short supply right now.

Update: As noted in the comments, if Winston & Strawn isn’t eager to rep Rod, it’s understandable. Recall how the firm blew $20 million defending Illinois’s last corrupt governor, George Ryan. It lost the trial, lost the appeal, and couldn’t even get pro bono credit for the thousands of hours spent on the case.

Blagojevich Has $500,000 in Unpaid Legal Bills [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]

Webb-less in Chicago: Where Was the Star Litigator At Blago’s Bond Hearing? [Am Law Daily]

Thacher.jpgTalks between Thacher Proffitt and King & Spalding, a story we broke here, remain ongoing. From the Legal Times:

Atlanta-based King & Spalding is in talks to acquire most, but not all of Thacher Proffitt & Wood’s lawyers, say two sources aware of the discussions. In order to avoid dissolution, New York-based Thacher hopes to find a partner to acquire it, these sources say.

One New York legal consultant says the discussions have been ongoing for the past three to four months, and that the firms hope to reach an agreement by year-end. The consultant says King & Spalding is considering taking on about 100 of Thacher’s 195 lawyers, but that it’s not yet clear which practices and offices the 100 lawyers would come from. “There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty about who’s going to be invited to the party,” says the consultant, who asked not to be named.

Not sure we’d call it a “party.” But the alternative to a K&S acquisition isn’t appealing:

[Thacher's] overall headcount is down more than 100 lawyers compared to last year — and so are its profits. Profits per partner fell more than 22 percent in 2007 to $1.02 million, according to the Am Law 200.

The firm has had a constant stream of high-profile departures, including its vice chairman Thomas Leslie, who decamped for Greenberg Traurig in October, and Washington managing partner Richard Schaberg, who left for Hogan & Hartson’s D.C. office last month. The New York consultant and another individual familiar with the discussions say that if the deal falls through, Thacher Proffitt will likely go under.

It’s worth noting that TPW has placed its New York headquarters up for sublease (as reported by Lindsay Fortado and David Levitt of Bloomberg). If TPW is seeking a subtenant for all five floors it leases at Two World Financial Center, then one has to wonder if the firm plans to continue operations (at least in its current form).

As for King & Spalding, it’s growing strategically, despite the downturn. The firm recently snagged three energy partners from Kirkland & Ellis. KS hopefully has room in the lifeboat for Thacherites seeking a new home.

To Avoid Dissolution, Thacher Proffitt Talks With King & Spalding [Legal Times via WSJ Law Blog]

Thacher Proffitt Puts Up New York Office Space for Sublease [Bloomberg]

King & Spalding Adds Three Energy Partners in Washington, D.C. [King & Spalding]

dolphin sex video.jpgA tipster asked us: “Did you catch this week’s Law & Order – SVU? The judge had to recuse himself because they found porn on his computer during the course of a porn-addiction case.”

Sound familiar? It may remind you of this recent case (although the L&O episode involved dolphins rather than donkeys).

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Truly Ripped from the Headlines”

Marc Dreier Marc S Dreier LLP.jpgMore bad news for Marc Dreier, the formerly high-flying, Maxim model-dating litigator. From Bloomberg News:

Marc Dreier, the jailed New York law firm founder, must remain in prison while he fights charges that he swindled hedge funds, a federal judge ruled after a prosecutor accused the lawyer of stealing $380 million.

“The evidence does appear to show an enormous risk of flight,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Eaton said at a bail hearing today in Manhattan federal court for Dreier, namesake of the New York law firm Dreier LLP.

Dreier, 58, was arrested on Dec. 7 on U.S. charges that he persuaded two unidentified hedge funds to give him more than $100 million by claiming, falsely, that he was selling at a discount notes issued by New York developer Sheldon Solow. He was arrested after returning to New York from Toronto, where he had been briefly jailed for impersonating a lawyer at the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

More links and discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Court to Marc Dreier: No Bail for You”

Cravath screws associates on bonus CSM.jpgLast year, we reported on a nice perk for Cravath associates abroad: a hefty cost of living allowance, which had junior associates in London making over $300,000.

It looks like the half-Skadden mentality has made its way across the Atlantic. From a tipster:

Cravath Swaine & Moore cuts its COLA in the London office from $110,000 to $60,000 as of January 1, 2009. [A]ll the associates, one after one, where called into the office of a partner, Philip Boeckman, to receive the news. The reason mentioned for the cut is the evolution of the dollar-pound exchange rate.

The COLA is the same for all associates in London regardless of the level of seniority. The COLA gets paid together with the base salary on a bi-weekly basis.

That’s a big cut for the 20 associates in the London office. Before the COLA was raised to $110,000 last year, it was at $85,000.

RollOnFriday is not overly sympathetic:

Clearly the firm’s partners have now got wise. This week associates were hauled in one by one and told that the COLA would be reduced by $50k from 1st January, in response to weakness of Sterling. One associate complained to RollOnFriday that this comes on top of bonuses being halved and the ski weekend being cancelled, and says that these measures “pretty badly affect associate morale”. OK, no one likes to get less wedge – but low morale because of only getting £40k to live in London, when everyone else is being made redundant? Bring out the violins.

The other side of the pond just got a lot less attractive.

Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Working Abroad

Cravath London associates lose £34k bonus [RollOnFriday]

wall street bull backside.jpgIt’s December, and the bills are due. But many firms are finding clients reluctant to pay up. The American Lawyer reports that firms are having a tough time recovering any money from the graveyard of busted 2008 deals:

Firms that were working on one of the many deals or financings that have been postponed or terminated may never get paid for the significant hours they did log. That’s because in most instances, law firms don’t get paid until a deal closes….

When a deal fails, the law firms generally don’t have a contractual right to any money. And that can make for messy negotiations. These days most firms don’t want to drive too hard a bargain with clients they want to hold on to.

“If it’s an ongoing client we may be a bit more generous,” says one partner. “We’ll ask them to pay us a fraction of the fees, but there’s an understanding that when the market turns around they owe us.”

While the broken-deal fee will always be subject the dance between rainmakers and their clients, fees for litigation and general corporate work should be freely flowing. Right?

For matters billed on a regular basis, like standard corporate work and litigation, firms stand on firmer ground, although payment isn’t assured this year. September was particularly scary, says Jay Zimmerman, the chairman of Bingham McCutchen.

“Even the best clients were holding payment,” he says. “Everybody was sitting on cash and we had a build-up in receivables.” Since then, he says, the money has been flowing in fairly normally. “The September bills did get paid. October turned out to be very good and November is looking very good.”

The “stuff” flows downhill. Clients stiff firms, management stiffs associates, associates stiff… law school loan officers? Why not? We can’t be that far away from the “Fight Club scenario,” in which everybody gets their credit rating set back to zero.

Whoops. I’m not supposed to talk about Project Mayhem.

Collecting, but Hardly Calm and Cool [American Lawyer via]

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