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Back to the Future 2 DeLorean time machine.jpgWelcome to BACK TO THE FUTURE. In this occasional ATL feature, we’ll step into a time machine and take a look at what the legal profession looked like at some point in the past.

In a post about staff layoffs at Fried Frank, a commenter drew our attention to this fascinating 1990 article from the New York Times. It seems that the commenter was trying to challenge the recent claim by firm chair Valerie Ford Jacob that the firm has never laid off attorneys. The NYT piece — by David Margolick, former national legal correspondent for the Times, now at Portfolio (and also one of Kash’s journalism professors at NYU) — mentions Fried Frank as a firm that may have engaged in “stealth layoffs.”

Margolick’s article doesn’t use the term “stealth layoffs,” but the phenomenon it describes is essentially identical to what we’ve been reporting in the pages of ATL lately. The article begins:

They were the legal profession’s gilded generation, an army of lawyers without limits. As law students, they were wined and dined and wooed by the most prestigious law firms in New York. Once hired, they began settling into a frantic but fantastically lucrative life. It was a life of glamour, prestige and, they assumed, stability.

Now, only a few years later, dozens of these lawyers have had a crash course in the realities of modern Wall Street practice. For the first time in their lives – lives of success atop success – they find themselves in an unusual position. They have been fired.

As the sour corporate climate reaches large law firms in New York and to a lesser degree cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, a bubble has burst. With business down, particularly in corporate work, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions, several of the most famous law firms have dismissed substantial numbers of lawyers, particularly those in the early years of their careers.

This article could have been written yesterday. But it was actually written over 18 years ago; the dateline is August 12, 1990. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

More excerpts and discussion — including a brief comment from Margolick, plus information about what junior associates earned back in 1990 — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back to the Future: Stealth Layoffs in 1990″

flipphone.jpg* The bailout is not on. Talks imploded at 10:30 p.m. last night. Congress is back at it today. [New York Times]

* Two-time ATL Lawyer of the Day Jack Thompson, the crazy controversial video game crusader, has been permanently disbarred. [Crave / CNET News]

* Words to live by: Don’t make sex videos. And don’t store said sex videos on your cell phone. [Courthouse News Service]

* A whistleblower suit against Medtronic for perks paid to doctors was filed by the company’s own lawyer. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

* The young Indiana Jones has a crushed hand, but no misdemeanor. No DUI charges for Shia LaBeouf after all. [People]

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGAt a firm-wide meeting held at 1 p.m. Pacific time, Heller associates were informed that there would be an “orderly dissolution” of the firm, starting on Monday.

Associates have been given 60 days’ notice, with pay.

But it’s not a severance payment. Associates are expected to show up and participate in the “orderly dissolution.” As one tipster puts it:

[O]ver the next 60 days the focus will be collections, finding employment for associates and shareholders, ethically transitioning client matters from Heller to other firms when associates and shareholders take their clients with them, and general administrative clean-up. There will be a small core staff that remains after the 60 days in order to deal with finance matters, etc.

Another Heller insider tells us:

Everything is contingent on the vote tomorrow which needs 2/3 of the Shareholders to approve dissolution. And banks control all cash.

Individual meetings are still taking place. We’ll bring you updates as we have them.

We hope that everybody lands on their feet.

Update (7:45 PM): More Heller information appears here. It looks like getting paid for accrued vacation time will be the next battleground.

man begs for sex.JPG* If you lie to get sex — and succeed — is that rape? [Volokh Conspiracy]

* What are the best case names ever? [Supreme Dicta]

* I’m still waiting for somebody to give me one good reason for the third year of law school. Anyone? All of my loan repayment checks say, “For 1L year only.” (Yes. The vast majority of them bounce). [The Shark]

* What to watch for during today’s associate video conference at Heller Ehrman. [Heller Highwater]

citi field skadden.JPGYou’d think Skadden attorneys would have better things to bill Citigroup for than running around after small-time advertisers. But, then again, there are an awful lot of Skadden attorneys.

Citi-Mobile is an advertising company that utilizes trucks as mobile billboards. Citigroup is a large commercial bank that is trying to ride out the current economic downturn. Skadden wants you to know the difference:

The much bigger Citi, which Skadden rather optimistically describes in court docs as “one of the largest and most renowned” banks in the world, is a little bit concerned that the public will think the financial giant decided to buy a bunch of trucks, paint them crazy colors, and make money by marketing roast beef subs and cameras to innocent pedestrians. So they’re asking a court to prohibit Citi-Mobile (and its parent company Citi-Advertising) from using the hallowed “Citi” name.

For those playing along at home, that means Citi wants no part of a mildly annoying advertising campaign, yet they are willing to pay $20M/year for 20 years to lord their name over the New York Mets? How long before Skadden sues Mets owner Fred Wilpon for non-performance based on the theory that Citi contracted to name a “baseball field,” instead of a cute park where little boys go to choke themselves to death?

Or maybe they’ll just sue City Wok?

Read the full complaint here.

Citi’s Lawyers Never Sleep [Citylife]

recession california associate pay raises.jpgNo real legal angle here since Paulson, Dodd & Co. stopped talking to the lawyers long ago.

But in case you haven’t heard, the $700 billion bailout is going to happen.

Boy, aren’t you glad you elected a Democratic Congress that could stand up to Bush when he goes on television, terrifies millions of Americans, and then intimidates the opposition party into giving him a blank check?

Feel free to defend/slam the bailout in the comments.

Lawmakers Agree on Outline of Bailout [New York Times]

Hughes Hubbard Reed LLP HHR logo.jpgWe mentioned that litigation boutiques would likely be big winners from the market collapse. Some small firms are already cashing in. The bankruptcy boutique of Luskin, Stern & Eisler has merged with Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

There was enough room on the Hughes Hubbard bandwagon for everybody at Luskin. All eight lawyers will be joining Hughes Hubbard’s bankruptcy practice, with name partner Richard Stern becoming the co-chair of the group.

The merger makes perfect sense if Hughes Hubbard is trying to position itself to capitalize on creditor actions coming out of the Wall Street meltdown. Of course, that is not what Hughes Hubbard says they are doing:

Hughes Hubbard says it is merely a coincidence that the deal was finalized after a week of heavy financial turmoil.

“We had wanted to do this for a while,” James Modlin, co-chair of the firm’s lateral hiring committee, tells The Am Law Daily. “Starting last summer, we realized the time was right to bolster our bankruptcy practice. Bankruptcy goes in cycles, and we were thinking this might be a boom time.”

Maybe Hughes Hubbard does own the world’s best Magic 8 Ball. However they planned this acquisition, they got the execution exactly right.

Hughes Hubbard Makes Timely Acquisition of Bankruptcy Boutique [Law.com]

republican not gop.jpgI think we can all agree that this is not the best year to be running as a Republican. When your party’s leader is a lame duck — clocking in with a sub-thirty percent approval rating — it’s only prudent to keep your distance.

But did Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi go too far in trying to escape the Republican brand? On ballots that have already gone to the printer for the November election, Rossi listed his party affiliation as “GOP Party.” As we’ve previously mentioned, Democrats sued Rossi to force him to use the more common “Republican” label on the November ballots.

Democrats didn’t sue because calling yourself a member of the “Grand Old Party Party” is redundant and annoying. They have actual polling data that shows:

[M]any people don’t know that GOP and Republican mean the same thing. One recent [Stuart] Elway poll indicated Rossi did better among voters if he used the “GOP” label instead of “Republican.”

“There’s no question we were shocked by the Elway poll,” state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said, adding that an internal poll by the party had a similar finding.

While the Democrats have an interesting political argument, their legal argument … does not exist:

A new state law allows candidates to identify their party on ballots as they please (up to 16 characters long), but Sam Reed, Washington’s secretary of state, said he had encouraged candidates “not to do silly things.”

Mr. Reed, a Republican and the defendant in the Democrats’ lawsuit, said G.O.P. — for Grand Old Party — had been used for years and was acceptable.

Game, set, match.

But how “off-message” are Democrats in Washington State? If you are an incumbent Democratic governor, and you think that the GOP is going to take you down in a year where even the Republicans are calling their brand no better than “dog food,” you have serious problems — problems that a naming convention isn’t going to fix.

Leave the courts out of your campaign. It’ll be better for everybody.

Democrats Sue Over ‘G.O.P.’ on the Ballot [New York Times]

Smith v. Reed (pdf) [Ballot Access]

hungry thinking lawyer.jpgWe know you legal folk struggle with your weight. Nearly 70 percent of respondents to Justin’s weighty April survey admitted to putting on the pounds since embarking on the legal track. Maybe it’s because you’re such deep thinkers!

Thinking makes you hungry, says Science Daily. A Canadian research team has found that intellectual work, that stuff lawyers do so much of, causes a substantial increase in caloric intake:

The research team, supervised by Dr. Angelo Tremblay, measured the spontaneous food intake of 14 students after each of three tasks: relaxing in a sitting position, reading and summarizing a text, and completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer. After 45 minutes at each activity, participants were invited to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet.

The researchers had already shown that each session of intellectual work requires only three calories more than the rest period. However, despite the low energy cost of mental work, the students spontaneously consumed 203 more calories after summarizing a text and 253 more calories after the computer tests. This represents a 23.6% and 29.4 % increase, respectively, compared with the rest period.

Perhaps you can fight the bulge by thinking less hard. Another option is to get an in-work work-out with a treadmill desk — Quinn Emanuel’s Aaron Craig logs five to six miles a day at the office.

If resolved to keep the paunch, the intellectual fatties can at least take comfort in knowing that the thin lawyers are the dumb ones. [Ed. note: There was no substantial increase in caloric intake as a result of coming up with that bit of logic.]

Thinking People Eat Too Much: Intellectual Work Found To Induce Excessive Calorie Intake [Science Daily]

michigan law school strikes back.jpgHonestly, we are not trying to pile on Michigan. We know how obsessed some of their students are with their U.S. News law school ranking. But perhaps the law school administration has taken things too far in their attempt to make Michigan the “champions of the west.”

From TaxProf Blog:

Michigan’s new Wolverine Scholars Program — in which [University of] Michigan undergrads with a minimum 3.80 GPA are admitted to Michigan Law School if they agree to not take the LSAT. The rankings benefit is that there is no LSAT score to report to U.S. News, while the minimum 3.80 GPA will boost Michigan’s median 3.64 GPA, which counts 10% in U.S. News’ methodology.

Look Michigan, if you are going to try to rig something, at least have the decency to do it under the cover of darkness.

To a UM college student with a 3.8, the Wolverine Scholars Program looks like an interesting example of game theory. But to the rest of us, it looks a straight bribe. It’s like Michigan Law School is saying: “Please, please, please don’t take the LSAT. Because if you get a 167 we probably have to accept you anyway. And if you get a 175 you will better deal us for a lobster dinner.”

The Big Ten strikes back, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “University Of Michigan Law School: Please Stop The Insanity”

vacation memo from a turkey.jpgWe here at ATL are big believers in push-back. Tell the partners and your colleagues about your personal needs and desires, and try your best to take some control over your work schedule. The firm can survive without you.

But the theory behind successful push back is that you are not the most important person at the firm. It seems that one first-year associate didn’t learn that lesson. He sent out the following “vacation memo,” after just three days at the firm:

1. I will depart for vacation on Wednesday, November 26th (the Wednesday before thanksgiving). I plan to return to the office on Tuesday, December 2nd (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).

2. In case of emergency, I will be staying at [redacted]. I can best be reached on my cell phone at [redacted]. I will be visiting my parents, and their house has a landline [redacted].

3. The secretaries in my pool will open my mail. These are [redacted].

4. I will be answering my own phone at the numbers listed above.

5. I currently have received no matters, though this will undoubtedly change by Thanksgiving.

6. I will send out an update and official vacation memorandum with this information a week before Thanksgiving.

Some helpful advice, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Does A Turkey Write A Vacation Memo?”

randy yellow hat.jpg[Ed Note: This is the third and final installment in the Curious Case of Randy, a rather eccentric law firm partner. You can read Part 1 over here and Part 2 over here.]

Weeks pass, and Randy continues to be randy. Stopping by my office no less than three times a day. Gawking at the summer associates as they get their lunches downstairs. I kind of just check out.

I decide to ignore him, figuring that eventually he’ll go away. I do, however, find myself staring at his chest each time he comes in and interrupts me. I’m looking for milk. Or the emergence of breasts. But I don’t recall seeing anything. I think the pills must have gotten that problem under control — but not the other thing. He’s so antsy and manic — sometimes I thought he might start touching himself in my office. Anyway, here it comes, and I’m not lying.

Several weeks later, as February approached — the month that I have always contended is the cruelest month (not April, as T.S. Eliot alleges) — Valentine’s season begins. I tend to ignore all this heart/love crap because I think it’s stupid. I was never one to send out Valentine’s Day cards, even in elementary school. I rejected it. I mean, I can barely say I love you to my parents or my boyfriend; I’m certainly not going to say it to some random person. And I doubt my meatball (non-lawyer, a big plus) boyfriend will do anything anyway.

So I walk into my office at 9:00 a.m., maybe 9:30 actually, on February 14th. There is a large, blood orange, inter-office envelope on top of my desk. I figure it’s my expense report or the report of my billable hours, which I haven’t met for two months. As I open it, however, a pink something falls out. I turn it over. It is a homemade Valentine, constructed out of pale pink construction paper, topped with an old-school white doily, and on it, there is a poem written by a dark purple crayon. My first thought is, how cute; it must be from my partner’s daughter, Rose.

Find out what the poem is about, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Curious Case Of Randy: Part 3″

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