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good news bad news.jpgIt’s been a dark week on ATL. Layoff news has been pouring in: 21 attorneys cut at Katten, up to 60 at Sonnenschein, and 20 at Clifford Chance.

To prevent you from jumping out your windows, we’re revisiting a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this month on the silver lining for law firms during the economic crisis.

Firms with relatively strong balance sheets are hiring lawyers from competitors that are hurting from the dropoff in mergers, debt offerings and other staples of the legal business. Leaders of these firms figure that being bigger and more geographically diverse will help them weather downturns in particular market sectors and capitalize on complex business opportunities that require a variety of specialties. In most cases, they’re even giving the new hires raises.

Did you hear that, despondent ones? Raises!

Many firms have been feasting on the remains of Heller Ehrman (R.I.P.). Heller partners and attorneys have been snatched up by Hogan & Hartson; Orrick; Sheppard Mullin; Arnold & Porter; Covington & Burling; Jones Day; and Cooley Godward Kronish. Other firms have been poaching partners from struggling Thelen.

Some firms are buying on the cheap, while others are giving new attention to more resilient practice groups:

K&L Gates LLP has acquired medium-size firms in Texas and North Carolina this year and hired 45 partners from other firms. “We have no debt — no long-term debt, no short-term debt — and therefore have a balance sheet that allows us to grow aggressively into a downturn,” says Peter Kalis, chairman of the 1,700-lawyer firm…

But many law firms believe that they have no choice but to expand specialties, such as restructuring, intellectual property, securities litigation and antitrust, that are generally believed to remain steady — or even pick up — during down cycles. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York laid off 131 lawyers — nearly 20% of its staff — earlier this year because of the implosion in the mortgage-backed securities market, a key practice area for the firm. But it has hired lawyers in other practice areas, including financial restructuring.

Chins up.

Some Law Firms Hire in Slump [Wall Street Journal]

As Heller is sliced and diced, many associates are out in the cold [National Law Journal]

Earlier: ATL Layoff Coverage

fred baron.jpgMany people know Fred Baron as “The King of the Toxic Torts.” He, along with long time friend Sen. John Edwards, made a lot of money as plaintiff attorneys.

But his story now has nothing to do with the plaintiff’s bar. Fred Baron is in the final stage multiple myeloma, a kind of bone marrow cancer. His son believes that Baron’s only chance is the experimental drug Tysabri, but the company that manufactures the drug will not give it to him.

The WSJ Law Blog obtained this comment from Biogen, the makers of Tysabri:

We heard back from Naomi Aoki, a spokeswoman for Biogen. “The FDA notified us yesterday afternoon that they’re going to be working directly with the Mayo Clinic to address this situation,” she told the Law Blog. Aoki went on to explain that the Biogen drug, Tysabri, was approved for multiple sclerosis in 2004. But then Biogen, according to Aoki, voluntarily withdrew Tysabri from the market because it had caused a brain infection, known as PML, in three patients.

An internet campaign has sprung up on many legal blogs and throughout many law firms, spearheaded by Baron’s son Andrew. Lance Armstrong; Bill and Hillary Clinton; John Kerry; Edward Kennedy; and John Edwards have all added their voice. We’d like to do so as well.

Good luck Mr. Baron.

Update: Biogen has found a “legal basis” for giving Fred Baron Tysabri.

Read Andrew Baron’s message after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Fight To Save Fred Baron”

Thelen LLP new logo.jpgIf there are Thelen associates that are not actively trying to get another job, if there are “incoming” Thelen first years who are waiting for “concrete answers” from the firm: this is your last warning. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just remember that your closest exit might be behind you.

This morning the Recorder sounded the latest alarm bell:

While Thelen is looking for firms willing to pick up various pieces, a core group may choose to stick together, and Thelen partners are meeting on a weekly basis to discuss their options, said the partner, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Nixon Peabody merger is off. All the white knights Pollyanna sees on the horizon are actually scavengers looking to pick up useful pieces.

More alarmist rhetoric and mixed metaphors after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Thelen Associates:
English M*therF%$#*r Do You Speak It?”


[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com]

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL,

I am a newly minted federal law clerk stuck in a small city where I don’t know anyone. The 12 hour work days I have been recently putting in have made meeting new people rather difficult. During a recent jury selection, I noticed a rather attractive member of the jury venire. Said juror’s questionnaire just happened to be at the top of the stack on my desk. A quick glance showed that the potential juror was: single, my age, and lived nearby. The questionnaire also contained both a phone number and email address. So my question is, can I take the number off the questionnaire and give the juror a call?

Confused in Chambers

Dear Confused in Chambers,

I (luckily) don’t have access to Westlaw/Lexis anymore, so I can’t see if there are any ethical guidelines governing your predicament, but last time I checked, ignorance of the law was a pretty solid excuse. Personally, I can tell you that every unattached woman I know rolls up to ABA CLEs, Legal Aid Society fundraisers and jury duty with one intention, and one intention only: BAG A MAN. The law might “require” “jury service” but the nowhere is it written that makeup and Spanx are mandatory. If girlfriend was looking good enough for you to notice, she probably didn’t roll out of bed looking that way. The lady’s on the prowl, so take the hint and start looking for places with dim lighting.

That being said, I can see how it might be HIGHLY ALARMING for a woman to receive an email from a court official stating that while she thought was performing her civic duty, little did she know that another, more dastardly kind of “venire” was going on (elbow-elbow-wink-wink). You’d have to use the old “I never do this, but” line and carefully explain that her incredible beauty was so overpowering that you were compelled to subvert the mantle of your authority, use privileged information for personal purposes and put your job on the line just to see if maybe she wanted to grab a drink or get tapas. Her reaction to your email – flattery or restraining order – will mostly depend on whether she found YOU attractive. So if you’re a fat slob, you might want to think twice.

Some of the greatest love stories of our time are the product of ethically dubious liaisons. John McCain left his newly-crippled wife who had tirelessly sought his release as a POW and cared for their three children for Cindy’s money. And relationships with associates are practically a requirement for equity partnership at firms. Given your schedule, this juror might be your last chance to meet someone in real life and not Second Life. Worst case scenario, even if she files for a restraining order, you already have an in at the court.

Your friend,

Marin

Elie’s response after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx:
The Other Voire Dire”

refco appeal crazy.jpgThe 2005 collapse of Refco Inc. is best remembered around here for a former Mayer Brown partner being indicted along with the company. But the case has also lead to ongoing class action litigation.

That is pretty much all you need to know to appreciate the appeal filed in the Southern District this August.

The appellant claims to have secret audio tapes of Refco executives “calling gay 1-900 lines.” He claims to have surveillance videos of Refco CEO Phillip Bennett “cuming” out of a Super 8 Motel with Heidi Fleiss. And he claims to have “pictures of Mr. Bennett at Woodstock tripping on acid.”

And that is not even the funny part. Click on the link below, you’ll see.

Happy Thursday!

Best Appeal Ever.pdf

Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Joseph Collins

the price is wrong.jpg* “Barack Obama looked like a prosecutor delivering a polished summation in a long civil case, Joe the Plumber v. George W. Bush. John McCain was closer to a personal injury lawyer, staring into the camera to address ‘Joe the Plumber’ as if he were standing by with an 800 number.” [New York Times]

* This story gives us another welcome opportunity to quote from Happy Gilmore, “the price is wrong, b*tch!” Despondent after being rejected by the “Price is Right,” a California man threatened to blow up Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Another reason to avoid practicing law in Russia. A human rights attorney missed pretrial hearings on Wednesday after being poisoned by mercury pellets placed in her car. [New York Times]

* Foreign law students may have a tough time lining up loans next year. [Bloomberg]

* Yet another strip club lawsuit. A Florida man sues for $15,000 after a shoe and a broken mirror fell on him at Booby Trap. [Courthouse News Service]

Katten logo.JPGKatten Muchin Rosenman has officially announced that they have parted ways with a number of attorneys. According to partner and spokesperson Tasneem K. Goodman:

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP this week eliminated the positions of 21 associates and counsel across multiple offices and practices. This measure was taken to further improve the firm’s efficiency, to allow for the continued growth of its associates and to ensure the firm’s long-term success. No adjustments will be made to the new first-year associate class. The firm’s financial performance remains strong despite the current economic downturn.

You have to compare that statement with the one from Clifford Chance yesterday. After laying off 20 litigation associates, their statement said (in part):

Those attorneys in New York and Washington, D.C. affected by today’s decision are held in high regard by the firm. These layoffs were not performance-driven

From Katten we hear that their 21 associates were laid off “to improve efficiency.” Make of that what you will.

Check here to see how Katten’s layoffs unfolded throughout the day.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Is Katten Cutting Fat?

Nationwide Layoff Watch: Clifford Chance (Redux) Twenty Litigators Laid Off, in NY and DC

gay marriage skadden.jpgLegal analyst and pop-culture sycophant Russell Wetanson has been running a fairly aggressive campaign against California’s Proposition 8. The measure would ban gay marriages in California, as we have discussed before.

Wetanson sent around the following email to subscribers to his blog:

No On Prop 8. No On Prop 8. No On Prop 8.

If you think everyone agrees with this or understands the proposition, you are wrong. The evil Yes On 8 people have raised way too much money, so No On Prop 8 needs your help to keep running ads and make sure that civil rights guaranteed by the California Constitution are not stripped away by a vote.

Not surprisingly, the “evil” line produced some pretty angry responses to Wetanson, including one from a senior Proskauer Rose associate:

Russell: Easy on the “evil Yes on 8 people” – as you may or may not know I am one of them and my girlfriend [Redacted] – so unless you actually think we are evil I think it goes a little over the top to call people names (especially in support of a campaign that purports to fight against bigotry).

Though I am sure I will not change your mind I will remind you that Prop 8 will not take any substantive rights away from any individuals as California law already provides domestic partners all of the rights that can be provided under state law to same sex couples (and we both know Prop 8 does not impact federal law). On the other hand keeping the law as it was judicially modified by 4 judges who overturn 62% of Californian’s will impacts far more than those who wish to enter into a committed relationship as it impacts the requirements of educational system and potential the rights of religious organizations. This is not a doomsday prediction, it is already happening as state funds are being used to proselytize to 1st graders http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/11/MNFG13F1VG.DTL&type=politics&tsp=1.

All I am saying is adults can disagree (as you and I have responsibly for years) and while this can be an emotional issue for both sides, name calling is a little beyond you.

A reasonable response (though I disagree that taking a field trip to see a teacher get married is tantamount to “proselytizing first graders”).

After the jump, was the firm email account really the best way to communicate this message?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Gay Marriage Debate Comes To Proskauer Rose”

virginia bar exam results.JPGThe results of the July 2008 Virginia Bar Exam were supposed to be posted today. And when the site went dead today it looked like the results would be coming soon.

But that was at noon. And now everybody is freaking out.

But we’ve been through this before with the Illinois results. Everybody just needs to chill, wait it out, and threaten bodily harm to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners in the comments.

Things will get sorted, soon. But you can commiserate below. Be aware that the VBBE is no longer taking phone calls.

Whenever they fix this thing, you should be able to see results here.

lucy law student.JPG* Is there any doubt that Lucy grew up to be a lawyer? [Doyle Reports]

* Great. Now A.G. Cuomo is angry. If there was ever a man who needed his father to buy him a baseball team … [Dealbreaker]

* Additional Heller lifeboats. Only partners need apply. [Legal Pad]

* If you let children vote, it just rewards breeding. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Obama. McCain. New Tax Plans. Debate tonight moderated by Hofstra 2L! [TaxProf Blog]

GOD.jpgGiven the state of the world, we can understand some anger at the Big Guy Upstairs. And the best way to deal with anger is in the courtroom, right?

So thought former Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers. He sued God last year, “seeking a permanent injunction to prevent God from committing acts of violence such as earthquakes and tornadoes.”

Judge Marlon Polk threw out the suit, and all future suits against the Almighty. From the Omaha World-Herald:

You can’t sue God if you can’t serve the papers on him, a Douglas County District Court judge ruled in Omaha Tuesday.

Judge Marlon Polk threw out Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers’ lawsuit against the Almighty, saying there was no evidence that the defendant had been served. What’s more, Polk found “there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant.”

Ernie Chambers.jpgChambers, an avowed atheist and Creighton University School of Law grad, defended his suit, saying he was trying to make a point. He doesn’t think that the Nebraska legislature should prohibit certain lawsuits. We’re not sure we see the logic behind defending frivolous lawsuits by filing a frivolous lawsuit, but we are amused by his legal arguments:

In August, [Chambers] argued that Polk should take judicial notice of the existence of God. The senator cited the facts that U.S. currency says “In God We Trust,” God is invoked during oaths in court hearings, and chaplains offer prayers before legislative bodies.

“If God is omnipresent,” Chambers said in that August hearing, “then he is here in Douglas County and in this courtroom.”

Polk denied as moot the motion to take judicial notice of God.

Chambers’ suit against God tossed out [Omaha World-Herald]

Sonnenschein Nath Rosenthal Above the Law blog.jpgToday is not a good day to be Carlo Rizzi. We’re getting word that Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal is laying off a bunch of attorneys and staff today. The big number we are hearing is that 60 associates and staff are out of jobs.

According to one tipster, the layoffs are being carried out nationwide, with no input from local offices.

However you slice it, 60 is a huge number. Sonnenschein didn’t exactly deny these reports. A firm spokesperson told us:

We look at staffing levels around this time every year as part of our budget and practice planning processes, and it is not unusual for us to make adjustments. While we understand that rumors such as the one you are reporting about Sonnenschein and multiple other law firms are circulating, we have nothing to add at this time.

More on Sonnenchein’s layoffs after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: The Sun Is Not Shining At Sonnenschein”

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