We have extensively covered the law firms shaking and baking thanks to the market collapse over the past few weeks. But the M&A and bankruptcy lawyers are only half of the clusterf&^%. Which litigators will get work as old Wall Street business models die spectacular deaths?
LegalTimes reports that O’Melveny & Myers is set up to have a huge litigation year:
[L]itigators at O’Melveny & Myers must be doing cartwheels in the hallways. Since Bank of America–a loyal client of O’Melveny’s litigation department–took over Countrywide earlier this year, O’Melveny has already begun to pick up extra work generated by the beleaguered mortgage company. With Merrill about to become part of Bank of America, O’Melveny might just be the best bet for out-of-work securities litigators looking for someplace to send their résumés.
[Ed Note: Pls Hndle Thx is a new weekly advice column in which ATL tackles your toughest law firm problems and provides you with debatable advice. Got a question? Send it here, and we'll pick the best ones for future posts].
My secretary is an idiot. She means well but can’t do basic things like collate, input edits correctly or cover for me when I leave the office early. She’s in her late 40s and a single mom, and while she tries hard, she really sucks. The secretary supervisor has been pestering me to review her because that’s how they determine pay levels, but I know if I’m honest in my review she’ll get penalized and potentially be fired. What should I do?
Dear Secretary Purgatory,
Take heart: the good news is that your secretary doesn’t have to be a law firm charity case. The bad news is that you have to implement the following three step system before you give your damning review:
1. Um, try talking to her. If you’d like your secretary to edit more carefully, simply snatch the offending documents from her hands and snarl, “Next time can you try not making 10,000 mistakes so that I don’t have to do everything myself? Great, thanks.” Or, just casually mention that she is doing a horrendous job and needs to shape up or else.
2. Set traps in order to determine whether any improvement in your secretary’s work is real or a false positive. For instance, you might ask her if she sent that fax that you specifically asked her to send. If she replies in the affirmative, triumphantly reveal that there IS no such fax and that she’s a filthy liar. Proceed immediately to Step 4. If she doesn’t know what you’re talking about, grudgingly admit that you were testing her but that you’re nevertheless onto her dirty tricks.
3. Regale her with stories about assistants who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, like Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. Renee risked it all for her boss, you should mention ominously as you sit on the edge of her desk. Does she want to be a Renee? Don’t wait for her answer – walk toward your office and when you reach the doorway, pause, turn back and say, “I don’t know… I just don’t know.”
4. If you’ve implemented Steps 1-3 and your secretary still shows no signs of progress, give her an honest review. Frankly, if you suck at your job, the partnership won’t hesitate to give YOU a bad review (unless you work at Davis Polk, in which case you won’t be told anything until you’re fired). The hallowed pyramid structure of law firms can only be maintained if shit rolls down hill. Just as senior associates must throw you under the bus when you screw up, so too must you throw your underlings under the bus so that we may preserve this cycle of abuse for our children and our children’s children.
Back in July, we were the first to wonder about the mysterious departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of Carlos Spinelli-Noseda, a rising star at the über-prestigious (and profitable) law firm. Some commenters viewed our interest in his departure as unseemly, prying, or reflecting bias against S&C.
We don’t mean to gloat — okay, maybe just a little — but we’ve been vindicated by recent revelations. From a report by Anthony Lin in the New York Law Journal:
A former Sullivan & Cromwell partner has resigned from the bar for billing his clients and firm more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses.
Carlos J. Spinelli-Noseda, a banking and finance specialist who joined Sullivan & Cromwell straight out of Harvard Law School in 1994 and became a partner in 2003, was facing a disciplinary investigation over a pattern of improper billing dating from roughly July 1998 to February 2008.
In a June 3 affidavit of resignation he submitted to the disciplinary committee of the First Department, Mr. Spinelli-Noseda admitted he could not successfully defend himself against charges of professional misconduct. Such resignations are frequently tendered when further proceedings are almost certain to lead to disbarment.
* Can you enforce a relationship exclusivity contract? And what kind of loser couple would sign such a contract? [Overlawyered]
* Florida Law Review just discovered audio recordings. Next up for the tastefully named “FlaLaw Online,” the editors tackle the mysterious telephone that doubles as a phonograph. [How Appealing]
* I wish somebody would have told me, back when I was a 1L, that three years later my law school would actually expect me to pay them money. In lieu of that, I suppose these three suggestions for 1Ls are pretty good. [Ms. J.D.]
* A woman was ordered to stop having children as a condition of her probation. No, it’s not Sarah Palin. [Volokh Conspiracy]
Here is yet another rumor — somewhat better sourced than the Thacher Proffitt / King & Spalding rumor, but a rumor nonetheless — about a possible law firm merger.
Word on the street is that Seyfarth Shaw is seeking a merger partner. This should not come as a shock, since Seyfarth has been stumbling a bit due to the downturn. As previously reported, the firm has pushed back start dates and trimmed its lawyer ranks.
The Seyfarth partnership recently returned from its retreat, where strategic opportunities were discussed. The scuttlebutt is that the firm is in “serious” merger talks with another firm of roughly equal size. Upon information and belief, that firm is Squire Sanders.
Both firms hover around the 800-attorney mark. The product of their merger — nicknamed “S4″ by one tipster, standing for either “Seyfarth Shaw Squire Sanders” or “Squire Sanders Seyfarth Shaw” — would be a 1600-lawyer behemoth. The combination would give Seyfarth a coveted foothold in Bratislava.
Associate meetings were held in all Seyfarth Shaw offices earlier this afternoon. Associates were briefed on the retreat and told about ongoing merger talks with another firm. Details are scarce; the confidential nature of the merger talks was stressed to the associates “about a dozen times.”
Whether these talks will bear fruit is anyone’s guess. Lately law-firm merger talks have been falling at a high rate.
We’ll keep you posted. If you have any info to share, please email us. Thanks.
We like the occasional poo-poo joke here at ATL, but we’re torn between amusement and disgust in the case of Cornell Tyler, 37, who is being tried for murder in Markham Courthouse in Illinois. His actions give new meaning to Freud’s anal-sadistic phase.
Tyler used sandwich bags from lunch to create excrement bombs on Thursday. He tried to use them on Circuit Judge Kathleen Panozzo, but her deputies took the hit. From the Chicago Tribune:
“The judge said, ‘Is your name Cornell Tyler?’ ” [Assistant State Atty. Ted] Lagerwall said. “He said, ‘My name is Self Destruction, but you can call me Smitty–well, I mean [expletive].'”
Tyler then quickly reached down the front of his pants and pulled out the baggie but the deputies beside him pounced on him.
“In that scuffle, he did throw the excrement toward the front of the courtroom,” Mateck said. “The judge was not injured, but unfortunately our deputies were . . . adversely affected.”
Poor deputies. The courtroom had to be cleared because it “stunk to high heavens.”
It seems likely that Tyler’s nickname will change from “Self Destruction” to “No More Fiber For Me.”
Remember that scene in Ferris Bueller where Ferris’s mom is home a little early and gently opens the door to his room? With the pulleys and the mannequin and the sound system Ferris is able to convince his mom that he is in his bed comfortably sleeping.
With a little ingenuity Perfect Plush could give associates the necessary cover for the long lunch. According to the company, this plush doll already has many of the skills of a successful associate:
He’s at your firm. He’s the guy who walks around late at night to make sure he’s the last one there, and will do the same an hour later if someone else is still working. He sends unimportant emails at 1 a.m., just to let everyone (especially the partners) know he’s still billing. He will corner the summer associates and tell them a war story about his latest deposition (even though he has only taken four in his six year career). He will be sure to let everyone know just how many hours he billed last month and where he stands for the year.
If it comes with a fake-laugh track, we’re pretty sure partners won’t know the difference.
Coming into this week, Harvard Law School had placed 58 federal clerks, leading all law schools. That is not altogether surprising, given the Cretaceous size of HLS classes. Yale is only clocking in with 14 (9th place) clerks. But it’s early yet. It’s just important that Eli-the-bulldog doesn’t drop his bone in the river trying to grab another one.
The real news from the Federal Appellate Judicial Clerks 2009 blog is that the University of Michigan Law School is currently tied for second (with Stanford).
Way to go, wolverines. We told you that stealing cell phones and sandwiches wasn’t going to adversely affect the school’s reputation when it came to anything important.
But look at how difficult it is to get a clerkship coming from a school outside of the top 14:
* T14: 71.3%
* Others: 28.7%
Those numbers are worst than last year for those outside the top 14.
At least if you are still in the top tier you have a fighting chance to get a clerkship. The path to clerking is all but blocked for those outside tier 1:
* T1: 94.2%
* T2: 3.6%
* T3: 1.4%
* T4: 0.8%
The lesson, as always, get into the best school you can and don’t look back.
Remember the Davis Polk “internal memo” from last week, touting the firm’s success at navigating the perilous waters of Wall Street? Other firms are following DPW’s lead, taking the opportunity to toot their own horns about how well they’re doing despite — or perhaps because of — the financial system meltdown.
[W]hile the turmoil in the marketplace has caused dislocation and real pain for many with whom we have worked over the years, it has also given rise to opportunities for us to provide advice and counsel to existing and new clients as they chart their way at this challenging juncture….
In addition to the work of the last two weeks, much of which is ongoing, we are seeing a surge in related work, involving M&A transactions that grow out of likely restructurings of these companies as well as Lehman-related bankruptcy work and financings and restructurings occasioned by the recent changes in the financial institutions landscape.
We have also been engaged in a wide range of litigation work relating to the credit crisis in the past year….
Moral of the story: 2Ls, Debevoise is the place to be. They’ll have more than enough work to keep you busy.
Grade inflation happens at lot of schools. Maybe even most of them. But when a prominent professor and alumna calls your grading system “such a fraud,” well that is a school we should all be lucky enough to attend.
Some highlights for people that cannot watch YouTube at work:
Van Susteren: Have you ever graded? It really is disturbing that it affects people’s lives the way it does when it is so … subjective.”
It is “disturbing” that you know how important it is, yet throw up your hands and just “give everybody A’s”
Not that anybody asked them, but Wachtell has decided to weigh in on the financial crisis. According to Am Law Daily, Wachtell wants short-selling to stop:
So say several memorandums penned during the past week by executive committee cochair and banking transactions rainmaker Edward Herlihy, 14-year SEC veteran and firm of counsel Theodore Levine, and associate Carmen Woo.
“In today’s markets, short sales continue to be at record levels, there are false rumors in the marketplace about the demise of financial firms, bear raids and abusive short selling are taking place, and there is significant disruption in the fair and orderly functioning of the securities markets,” said Herlihy and Levine in their first memo on September 16. “The markets are in crisis.”
Generally, we like our political power brokers to be elected or at least appointed by somebody who was elected. However, with everybody else in government waiting for Mr. Paulson to come and save America, maybe it is not a bad thing to have professional lawyers suggesting a strong course of action.
We don’t know if the SEC was listening. But we do know that Wachtell told them to ban short-selling on September 16th, and the SEC banned short-selling on September 19th. Post hoc ergo propter hoc …
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.