* Remember that part of American history when Texas was its own country? Wasn’t that cool? Couldn’t Texas and the rest of America just have an amicable, no-fault divorce? Texas can keep custody of Oklahoma while America gets to repossess everybody from Austin. [Legal Pad]
* An IP Blawg Review. Or: a Blawg Review for lawyers with jobs.
This weekend, the Times reported that the economic crisis is taking a toll on University endowments:
VC firms typically make “capital calls” to these investors whenever they need more money to pump into their startups. However now rumors are circulating that Columbia University’s endowment fund is illiquid — that is, it can’t raise the cash it needs to fund current commitments.? Harvard, meanwhile, is reportedly trying to sell a third of its private equity portfolio at a steep discount in a “secondary offering.”
One of my favorite pieces of useless information is that the largest “endowment” for a non-profit institution is the Catholic Church. The second largest? Harvard University. So I’m pretty sure that Harvard trying to sell off a 3rd of anything is the little known fifth horseman of the apocalypse:
When the Lamb opened the fifth seal I saw before me a Crimson horse. And its rider was named Deregulation, and Consumer Fear and Capital Retreat followed close behind. They were given power over the rich of the earth to kill by the crunch, the short-sell, and the capital call.
The point is that private universities, and therefore many top law schools, will have to start dealing with the after effects of the financial crisis very soon. Hiring freezes and financial aid restrictions could soon follow.
But public institutions could feel the pain immediately.
Read about how the economic crisis is effecting one public school after the jump.
On Friday, while much of the Thelen news was still focused on Nixon Peabody feasting on Thelen refugees, we heard an interesting tip from people at Morgan Lewis:
I hear we have acquired all or most of Thelen’s corporate practice? I haven’t seen any official announcements but I hear that a couple floors below me is total chaos.
Mmmm … chaos.
Today we’ve gotten a (sadly) less chaotic number of new hires:
Morgan Lewis’s New York office picked up 17 attorneys from Thelen. An email was sent Friday.
But are they heavy hitters?
I am aware of a larger group that consists of the really big hitters at Thelen in the construction group. Dekker, Buoncristiani, Heisse et al with huge books of business for core clients like Bechtel. Pillsbury has extended an offer to all these people, included Counsel and associates for a total of about 45 attorneys for mainly the SF Office [Some in DC and NY]
Strangely, MLB has rebuffed repeated requests to confirm or deny how many Thelen people they are bringing on (if any).
But once again, Thelen-East attorneys seem to be doing a lot better than their West Coast brethren. On the flip side, this weekend in NYC was cold and miserable while I’m sure the Sun once again bestowed its light and grace upon Californians. So they have that going for them.
We’ve been hearing reports all morning about some news leaking around the offices at Shearman & Sterling. One tipster collects the potentially bad news in a clear way:
[M]id and senior-level associates that would in normal economic conditions have left any way are being asked to leave. In addition, Shearman’s senior management has advised Partners to be strict in reviews in the upcoming review process (scheduled for the coming weeks) for all levels of associates (not only mid- and senior-levels).
Apparently, the firm is determined that any layoffs get reported as “performance based” attrition rather than full-on layoffs. Sources suggest that firm leadership is still smarting over the reputation hit they took when they laid off people, back in 2001.
The firm has not responded to a request for comment.
Whatever they want to call it, there seems to be good reason for Shearman associates to be worried over the next couple of weeks. We’ve also learned that Shearman’s Capital Markets practice is not doing well. A tipster reports:
Business in Capital Markets has slowed dramatically over the past several months. Junior associates from Capital Markets have been temporarily staffed on litigation matters.
We know that Capital Markets practice groups are slow all over. But staffing corporate attorneys on litigation work suggests that there are larger problems with Shearman’s corporate practices.
Stealth layoffs at Loeb & Loeb, and the firm’s response, after the jump.
The Baby Boomers (the generation that was dealt a resounding defeat last week) is also sometimes called the “Sandwich Generation.” Boomers like to claim that they are the first generation (in the history of “ever” apparently) to have to take care of both their parents and their children while they are still working.
Inter-generational aspersions aside, Goodwin Procter is actually doing something that should help Boomers out. They’ve instituted a very interesting new benefits package:
Free, round-the-clock access to a telephone support center that provides information on services for the elderly, the disabled, and the family members who care for them.
This is a program that could actually help attorneys. As anybody who has ever served as a part-time caretaker/full-time worker can attest to, getting the appropriate information is half the battle.
In 2007, Cravath kicked off bonus season early, on October 29th, but it’s much more common for firms to announce in December. Indeed, this year the first major announcement of October came from Morgan Lewis, who announced that they won’t be announcing bonus until January. (That said, though, Orrick announced their 2008 bonus structure back in June.)
But timing isn’t everything. There’s also the quantum of solace cash. On that front, comments in last month’s associate bonus open thread suggest some pretty diminished expectations. As one reader put it:
This year’s bonus in biglaw: you’re not fired. Let’s hope most of us can get it.
But a second reader posits that firms can leave last year’s bonus structures in place . . . because billable hours are actually low enough to avoid a cash crunch:
If firms keep the same bonus structure, they will still be spending *way* less on bonuses this year. That’s because so few people will make their hours. Most associates are way down compared to last year, and November and December are only going to be worse in terms of finding work to do. It wouldn’t surprise me if many firms will save 50% or more without making any adjustments to the bonus structure. That’s what gives me some hope that bonuses will remain the same. Of course, firms would be happy to use the remaining 50% of bonus money on other things. But they won’t want to chase away the few associates who are actually competent enough to make their hours.
Now, if I can just find a way to stay busy through November and December. . .
Sort of a “glass half full, so you don’t really have to tip” approach.
Do you agree? Are your billables really so low that you won’t get any bonus this year?
For that matter, would you actually give up your bonus this year if it would reduce the risk of layoffs?
Let’s find out.
Update: This survey is now closed. You can see results here, here, here, and here.
Today marks the start of two weeks of “Assassins” at Columbia Law School. The game will start internally, undoubtedly as a training exercise for CLS students before they start hunting the deadliest prey: NYU students.
The game, if you’ve never played it, is awesome. The rules are simple:
* You will be given a target. Find them and “assassinate” them by hitting them in the back with a sock.
* Get your next assignment from your “assassinated” target; his/her former target becomes yours.
* If you “swing & miss” your target, you must wait one hour before attempting another assassination.
* Once you are “assassinated,” you are out of the game.
* The last player standing is the winner.
As we understand it, over 200 students have signed up. An organizer tells us why:
If stereotypes are to believed, CLS students are familiar with watching their backs, eyeing their rivals with suspicion, viciously taking any means necessary to eliminate their competition, and gloating with vituperation at victories over colleagues.
In this job market, “Assassins” is much better training than M&A.
Read the full rules and regulations, after the jump.
[Ed Note: Due to technical difficulties, my super awesome Morning Docket picture could not be uploaded. I suggest you visualize the most awesome picture idea ever to go along with this column. Thanks.]
* Good Morning American taxpayers. Please enjoy the $40 billion in AIG shares you just purchased. [NYT]
* Circuit City: more knowledgeable staff than Best Buy, better prices than Best Buy, higher end equipment than Best Buy, and now much more bankrupt than Best Buy. [Dealbook]
* Strip club owners lost their trademark infringement claim against Grand Theft Auto. [Courthouse News]
* Is there an appropriate earthly penalty for kidnapping a nun? [CNN]
* The post-9/11 transfer of power in the Justice Department is a big deal. [Law.com]
We’ve previously reported that Nixon Peabody was acquiring 60 ex-Thelen attorneys, but only Thelen refugees located in Manhattan.
But now it is looking like Nixon is picking up 90 ex-Thelen lawyers (partners and associates), former Thelen support staff, and tripling its presence in Silicon Valley.
Yesterday’s press release from Nixon reported:
The new attorneys are joining all four of Nixon Peabody’s departments: business, intellectual property, litigation, and real estate. The firm also plans to hire a number of associates and staff from Thelen to help support the new partners. With the addition of these new attorneys from Thelen in Silicon Valley, which will triple in size, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Shanghai, it is anticipated Nixon Peabody will have more than 825 attorneys worldwide in 19 cities.
After the jump, remember when Nixon and Thelen were supposed to merge?
* The Governator seeks to terminate one day of wages a month for state workers. [Wage Law]
* Melissa Ethridge is threatening to not pay her taxes because of Prop 8. Anybody else think that this issue has been “settled?” [Popsquire]
* Let me get this straight. The Airline industry is suing the TSA for unfair and arbitrary fees. This would be the same Airline industry that now charges you a fee for looking out the window? And they’re suing the TSA over … fees? Only in America. [The BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]
In these uncertain economic times, lots of law firms are holding lots of meetings. Sometimes they bring good news, and sometimes not-so-good news. E.g., Covington & Burling (welcoming the Heller IP group); Jenner & Block (everything’s dandy); McKee Nelson (layoffs).
Earlier this week, Sutherland announced associate and counsel meetings would be held next week. What might they be about?
According to the email from managing partner Mark Wasserman that announced the meetings, they “are not planned to announce bad news of any sort.” One Sutherland source takes him at his word:
Ninety-nine percent sure it’s just a “calming fears” meeting, since we’ve already done our nasty round of layoffs six months ago. Wasserman’s a straight shooter (best I’ve ever seen), so if he says there is not “bad news of any sort,” there won’t be.
We reached out to Wasserman, who explained:
We are having a series of roundtable discussions next week with our associates and counsel to share information, answer questions and seek input on topics relating to the economy, our clients and our strategy for the firm. Sharing information and obtaining input from our lawyers is important and valuable to us.
And, as we noted in the email announcing the meetings, there will be no announcement of any bad news, including announcement of any layoffs.
Kudos to Sutherland for being proactive and involving associates and counsel in such discussions. Some firms have taken a decidedly top-down approach to dealing with the economic climate, but they might have been better served by soliciting input from their associates first.
Read more, including the full Sutherland memo, after the jump.
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.