Last week we started hearing rumors of imminent staff layoffs at Fried Frank. The rumors have now come true, as we’ve been hearing from multiple sources. Today appears to be the big day.
We submitted an inquiry to the firm. A spokesperson issued the following statement:
Over two years ago Fried Frank began a review of its administrative resources and staffing requirements. As part of this review process some departments were expanded and others consolidated.
Today’s administrative staff reductions are part of that business review process. Those affected are in the Firm’s NY and Washington DC offices. Severance and career counseling were offered to all of those affected.
We aren’t sure of the numbers (and the firm has not yet responded to our request for that data). One of the rumors from last week said the number could be as high as 10 percent of total staff headcount. We hear that in the D.C. office, at least eight or nine people have been laid off, as of the time of this posting. The numbers in New York are said to be significantly higher than in Washington.
The affected employees include secretaries, paralegals, and library personnel. Severance packages appear to vary, from as low as seven weeks to as high as three months.
People are being called in and given the bad news individually. But meetings are also being held at 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. in D.C. (It’s not clear what New York is doing.)
One staffer in New York was given 30 minutes to pack up all belongings and leave the premises. In Washington, however, that’s not happening; one source describes that office as “more humane.”
We will bring you more information as the story develops. If you have information to share, please email us.
[Ed. note: Ted Frank's posts analyzing presidential candidate Barack Obama's tax plan, available here and here, were some of the most popular in ATL history. They generated over 900 comments and thousands of pageviews. Because there have been some developments on this front since February, when Ted Frank first issued his analysis, we requested an update; he kindly obliged.]
Above the Law’s Fearless Leader David Lat asked me to update my earlier posts on Obama’s tax plan. As you recall, Obama made a series of promises of “fixing” the tax code, mostly on the backs of investors and the upper middle-class — like Biglaw associates.
I ran a spreadsheet that showed that, with reasonable assumptions, those tax increases would have the same effect on associate after-tax income as a New York law firm cutting salaries by $34,000, but permitted one to change the assumptions if you disagreed with the assumptions I made. I made no endorsements, noting that, Thomas “no relation” Frank notwithstanding, taxes and economic issues were not the only reason to vote for a presidential candidate. (Still, commenters’ reactions can best be described by Tyler Cowen’s description of “Obama insecurity“: “For some people no comment on Obama, other than the purely laudatory, is anything other than a hackish right-wing attempt to forge an alliance of lies with Karl Rove and his ilk.”)
Since then, Obama’s two top economic advisors have posted a Wall Street Journal editorial and a website giving somewhat more detail to the Obama tax plan. David asked me to update my post.
1. The most notable change is Obama’s social security tax plan. Recall that his original promise was to simply lift the cap, changing the system from a pay-in to income-redistribution — something that would have cost law firm associates thousands or tens of thousands and raised marginal tax rates to nearly 60%. When Hillary Clinton started hitting him hard about it, he backed off his original plan to make social security taxes uniform and said he might (but might not) add a “doughnut-hole” between $97,000 and $150,000 or $200,000 or $250,000.
Now that Obama has clinched the nomination and is pretending to be a centrist for the general election, after the Wall Street Journal hit him hard about it, Obama pushed everything he promised in the primaries overboard. First, he said he would raise taxes not the full 12.4%, but just “2 to 4%” — so much for making Warren Buffett pay the same rate as his secretary. The latest is that Obama will avoid any tax changes in social security until 2019, i.e., punting the problem into President Jindal’s lap. So zero out the social security tax increases, unless Obama changes his mind for a fourth time. (People at my high school backed off of plans for trillion-dollar tax increases when faced with outrage from Above the Law commenters all the time. It was no big deal.)
Read more, after the jump.
As reported last week, the Vault 2009 law firm rankings are out. You can find Vault’s ranking of the top 100 most prestigious firms here.
As observed by one astute commenter, “the prestige rankings will tell you nothing about the quality of your work experience.” In order to address this, we are relaunching a popular feature from last year: a series of open threads on the Vault 100 firms, organized in batches of five, to allow for comparative discussion (and gossip) about perks, hours, recruiting standards, firm life, etc.
We’re starting with the top five firms — and experiencing a bit of déjà vu, since the list is identical to last year’s (although the prestige scores, indicated parenthetically, have changed a little):
One of the more contentious issues in the legal profession this year is whether firms are conducting “stealth” layoffs, or simply culling non-performing associates after bad reviews.
Even among firms doling out these bad reviews, many say that performance standards have gotten tougher during the down market. Other firms, however, claim that their firms’ standards remain the same, and that the downsized departing associates simply didn’t measure up.
In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we’ll focus a bit more on the review side of the equation. How often does your firm give real feedback, and do you think it’s actually fair? Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.
– Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.
The embarrassing Google hit is one of the great new fears of the modern age. If the number-one Google hit for your name is your work bio, Corporate Challenge race-time results, or nothing at all, consider yourself lucky. You could have something worse, like, “Kashmir Hill. Is that her real name or her porn screen name?” Or something much worse, like the derogatory comments that spurred the Autoadmit lawsuit.
Seattle lawyer Shakespear Feyissa is in a Google predicament. He wants a ten-year-old article removed from his college newspaper’s archives. The school administrators say sure, but the college newspaper editors are adamantly opposed. We love principled undergrads. From the Seattle Times:
While a senior at [Seattle Pacific University] 10 years ago, Feyissa was arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual assault and suspended. He was never charged, but the suspension stuck — indefinitely.
Feyissa complained that his punishment was more severe because of his race, he told the student newspaper at the time, but an investigation dismissed his claim.
He’s a lawyer now, and that article — still among the first hits for Feyissa’s name on Google — continues to hurt him personally and professionally, he said. So Feyissa, at 33, has been pressuring SPU to help clear his name.
We question his tactics. By going after the school, he has succeeded in getting the original Falcon article knocked back a few pages when Google searching his name. But due to the media coverage of his crusade, he now has tons of hits with the paragraph intro, “A decade ago Shakespear Feyissa was arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual assault.”
Read more, after the jump.
* A California trial starting this week marks the first time the obscure Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act is used to prosecute a former soldier for actions taken during combat. Former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario will be tried as a civilian for voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of four Iraqi prisoners. [ San Francisco Chronicle]
* It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a “Super Lawyer.” The New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether attorneys can reveal their “Super Lawyer” identities. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
* Senator Max Baucus acts to make the phrase “The Last Best Place” exempt from trademark protection. Montanans everywhere rejoice? [New York Times]
* Note to teachers: please don’t tie the special ed kids to their chairs. [New York Post via Gothamist]
* The cold-fighting claims of Airborne are a joke, says the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC decision and the settlement of a related class-action lawsuit mean the company will be paying out $30 million to consumers. Echinacea retailers, listen up. [Washington Post]
* ATL idol draws to a close today at noon. Don’t forget to vote! [Above The Law]
* … Speaking of the contest to determine ATL’s new editor-in-chief, Kash appreciates the write-in votes, but… [Moving into the Fourth Estate]
If you’re in New York today (Sunday) and looking for something to do in the afternoon, consider checking out Thurgood. It’s a one-man show about the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), starring Laurence Fishburne (best known as Morpheus of The Matrix, but with a long list of other film and theater credits).
It’s an entertaining and educational production, and Laurence Fishburne turns in a superb performance. As one friend of ours, an ex-theater major, put it, “Fishburne was able to make the audience forget that this is a one-man show.”
As one might expect from a play based on the life of a heroic historical figure, Thurgood occasionally verges on the pedantic and preachy (“one person can make a difference”; “we know how far we’ve come — but we also know how far we still have to go”). Law nerds might find feel patronized by the more expository parts of the play, like the mini-reviews of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. You can often sense the “message” button being pushed.
But hey, everyone needs a refresher course every now and then. And there are enough interesting bits of biographical trivia — as well as ample entertainment, in the form of humorous anecdotes from Marshall’s life, well-told by Fishburne — to make you forgive the more didactic or heavy-handed elements.
If you’d like to see Thurgood, you need to act fast; it’s closing today. The 3 p.m. matinee is the final performance. You can probably get discounted tickets at the TKTS booth (since Thurgood was there last week, and there were definitely a few empty seats at the performance we attended yesterday).
Additional thoughts — if you’re planning on seeing the play, save these for later, so you can form your own opinions free of taint — after the jump.
In this video clip, Stephen Colbert observes that “you can’t blame all the problems of the past seven years on Monica Goodling.” But that won’t stop some people from trying.
To be sure, Monica Goodling has made mistakes — and she’s the first to admit them. She forthrightly acknowledged, when testifying before Congress, that she “crossed the line,” by taking political considerations into account when hiring career employees at the Department of Justice.
But has the Goodling Blame Game gone too far? Has she become the new Karl Rove, responsible for everything from DOJ politicization to childhood obesity to the war between Russia and Georgia?
Quite possibly. Read more, after the jump.
In the immortal words of Roxette, “It must have been love; but it’s over now.” Last month, we marveled at all the law firm merger rumors making the rounds. These days, however, merger talks are falling apart, left and right.
As we first reported, the contemplated merger between Heller Ehrman and Baker & McKenzie is officially dead. For the skinny on their breakup, see Legal Pad. Apparently client conflicts were the deal breaker (as they so often are; they’re the law-firm equivalent of serious religious differences, or really bad STDs). Baker & McKenzie will have to settle for being a firm with a measly $2.2 billion in annual global revenue.
And now this, from the National Law Journal:
In the days that followed the joint announcement by Wolf Block and Akerman Senterfitt that their merger talks hit a snag over a conflict, sources have pointed to deeper issues affecting the drawn-out discussions…
One source aware of the merger discussions said the combination would be a good thing for both firms but said Wolf Block leadership is unwilling to work out certain tax and pension concerns.
There is concern among some of Wolf Block’s partnership over having to pay a significant amount in taxes upon merging with a corporation, the source said. There is also concern over having to make up for Wolf Block’s unfunded pension liabilities. Both of the issues could cause partners to “take a real financial hit,” the source said, adding that a loan could solve those problems, but firm leadership seems unwilling to go that route.
Alabama state court judges: they love themselves some Ten Commandments.
Just like Roy Moore, former chief justice of Alabama, Judge Ashley McKathan thinks the “higher law” has a place in the courtroom. Four years ago, the county circuit court judge had the Ten Commandments embroidered on his judicial robe. Presumably it’s a silent reminder, to himself and to those in his courtroom, of the Really Big Judge upstairs.
Now he’s in trouble with the American Civil Liberties Union for invoking the Big Judge in the courtroom again — this time out loud. The ACLU has filed a complaint against him with the Judicial Inquiry Commission for violating ethics rules and the U.S. Constitution. From CNN:
The ACLU complaint said McKathan dropped to his knees and prayed aloud during a court hearing in February. He told the 100 people in the courtroom that he was not afraid to call on the name of Jesus Christ, witnesses said, and ordered all to join hands and pray, according to the complaint filed soon after the hearing….
In response to the complaint, McKathan told the Mobile Press-Register for a story Thursday: “Whatever comes of all that, I’ll continue to have peace.” Quoting Romans in the King James version of the Bible, the judge added: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.”
Amen. Complaint against judge praying in court [CNN]
As expected, bankruptcy attorneys are once again in demand. So we’re highlighting an opportunity for junior associates in this week’s Job of the Week, brought to you by Lateral Link. This position qualifies for Lateral Link’s $10,000 signing bonus. (Lateral Link has paid out over $200,000 in signing bonuses this summer.)
Lateral Link has junior bankruptcy positions at some of the more sought-after firms in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago (like the one below). For information on these other positions, please contact your personal search consultant. Position: Bankruptcy associate Location: Chicago, IL Description: A top Chicago-based law firm seeks junior bankruptcy associates. For more information about this position, or to apply, please see Position 9585 on Lateral Link.
If you are not already a Lateral Link Member, you can apply at www.laterallink.com. Also, because of the tremendous growth in Lateral Link’s membership, Lateral Link is actively looking to hire additional search consultants in Washington DC and Texas. If interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Just One Word: Bankruptcy! [New York Magazine]
The three weeks of guest blogging by the talented contestants of ATL Idol have all come down to this: a final showdown between SOPHIST and FROLIC AND DETOUR. The winner will become the next editor of Above the Law.
In case you’re curious, the ATL Idol contest has been awesome for ATL. July, the month in which it launched, was our best ever (in terms of traffic and revenue). And if the second half of this month is as strong as the first, August will surpass it. A few commenters haven’t been fans of the competition. But by all the standard metrics, it has been a smashing success — thanks to our contestants, our guest judges, and you, our readers.
Before we open the polls, a methodological note. Like the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims, we believe in the principle of “one person, one vote.” Please vote only once (and refrain from casting multiple votes using bots, scripts, and other things that aren’t human).
There have been allegations of multiple voting in prior rounds. Unlike the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, we’re not inclined to wade into electoral messes after the fact; what’s past is past.
But because the stakes are higher for this final round, we’re asking Vizu, host of the poll, to review the results for possible improprieties. We won’t announce the winner until after we receive the results of their analysis. Suspicious votes — including, but not limited to, hundreds of votes from the same IP address — will not be counted.
Enough lawyerly caveats; time to vote. Voting will end on MONDAY, AUGUST 18, at noon (Eastern time). GOOD LUCK!!!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
Ms. JD is hosting their 2nd annual cocktail benefit to raise money for the Global Education Fund. The event will be held on August 21, 2014 at 111 Minna in San Francisco. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to fund the legal educations of four dedicated law students in Uganda who count on our support to continue their studies at Makerere University during the 2014-15 academic year.
The Global Education Fund enable womens in developing countries to pursue legal educations who otherwise would not have access to further education. According to the World Bank, investment in education for girls has one of the highest rates of return to promote development. In Uganda, more than 45% of women over the age of 25 have no schooling at all, and men are more than twice as likely as women to have access to higher education. Together, we can work to end educational inequality. For more information about the program, please visit http://ms-jd.org/programs/global-education-fund/
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.