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Alston Bird LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgJust to close the loop on this prior report, the talks between Alston & Bird and Los Angeles-based Weston Benshoof have borne fruit. Alston’s acquisition of Weston is official. From a firm-wide email just issued by A&B managing partner Richard Hays:

This morning, the partners voted overwhelmingly to expand the firm into California with the opening of two new offices. The Los Angeles-based Weston Benshoof firm and their 83 attorneys will become a part of Alston & Bird and, additionally, we will be opening an office in Silicon Valley with a group of eleven (11) intellectual property lawyers formerly with Akin Gump.

The complete memo appears after the jump. The official press release from Alston & Bird appears here (PDF).
Elsewhere on the A&B front, we’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors about goings-on over there — some of them in comments, and some by email. There may be nothing to them; but if there’s anything to report, you know where to reach us. Thanks.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Merger Mania: Alston & Bird Swoops In on Weston Benshoof”

avatar Arnie Becker goodbye ATL Idol.jpgLater today, and according to plan, we’ll bring you the head-to-head match-ups in ATL Idol. This will give you, and our judges, the opportunity to see how different bloggers tackle the same story.
But when we do, you’ll see just five write-ups. There is a long tradition in reality contests of competitors voluntarily departing, rather than being voted off — e.g., Jack Mackenroth of Project Runway (Season 4). In that tradition, ATL Idol ARNIE BECKER has decided to call it quits.
We offered Arnie the chance to issue a farewell message, like many reality shows, but he demurred. So the precise reasons for his departure — fear of the formidable competition? an inability to handle ATL’s exceedingly candid commenters? — will remain a mystery.
We wish Arnie the best of luck in his future endeavors. And now, back to the contest — head-to-head posts will appear shortly.

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFHistory repeats itself. We quote from our post of January 10:

Just half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.

Earlier this morning, we once again posed the question: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” And once again, the firm has confirmed — this time to the WSJ Law Blog — that it will be laying off 96 lawyers, from counsel on down to first-year associates. The intelligence in our post from earlier this morning, which estimated the carnage at “as many as 100 attorneys, ranging from special counsel down to the current first-year associate class,” was essentially correct.

90 of the 96 cuts will come out of the real estate finance and securitization practices, said the firm’s chairman, Chris White. Most of the affected lawyers, said White, are in the New York, Charlotte and London offices, with “one or two” in Washington. The 96 layoffs are in addition to the 35 lawyers the firm laid off in January.

Wow — that’s a ton of attorneys. Ninety-six lawyers would appear to be the biggest round of lawyer layoffs in the current economic cycle (see Bruce MacEwen’s layoffs table). Congratulations, Cadwalader!
Cadwalader chairman Chris White gives the WSJ Law Blog a spiel about how the firm got caught up in the mania surrounding commercial mortgage-backed securities:

“There was a frothiness that occurred as a result of the Blackstones and the Apollos using mortgage-backed securities to fund their buyouts. It was a lot like junk bonds becoming the instrument of choice in the late 80′s and early 90′s.”

White explained that, in 2004, there were only $98 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities issued. In 2008, he said, that number ballooned to $314 billion. “So we grew right along with client demand. And now that market has contracted severely. That $314 billion from last year will go to roughly $60 billion in 2008 — an 80% contraction.”

With his use of the passive — “[t]here was a frothiness” — and his “we grew right along with client demand” remark, White seems to be offering a “not our fault, everyone was doing it, nobody predicted this” sort of defense. But isn’t it the job of firm management to make sure that a firm is well-diversified among practice areas and adequately protected against downside risk?
(Perhaps the WSJ Law Blog should have pressed White a bit harder on this. Maybe they could have gotten White to throw former chairman Bob Link under the bus, since the firm’s disastrous overexpansion happened under Link’s watch. Link is the leader featured in the firm’s embarrassing-in-hindsight video advertisement.)
To be sure, other Biglaw shops have been hurt by the credit crunch and the economic downturn. But after this latest round of layoffs, involving close to 100 lawyers, it lies beyond dispute that no major firm has been hit as hard as Cadwalader. This obviously raises questions — or should, in the mind of anyone looking to work for or retain CWT — about whether the firm is well-managed.

As for offering the “affected” associates an opportunity to transfer into other groups, White said, “We can do that a little bit at the junior levels — the first and second years — but, at the third, fourth and fifth years, lawyers aren’t fungible.”…

Markel said that the 96 associates who are laid off will receive severance pay through the end of the year.

Five months’ severance — is this accurate? If so, it’s definitely on the generous side. So look on the bright side, CWT associates: you’re getting almost half a year of paid vacation.
We’ll have more on the Cadwalader situation as it unfolds. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: More about the Cadwalader layoffs appears here.
Cadwalader to Cut 96 Lawyers [WSJ Law Blog]you're fired lolcat.jpg

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgIf the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it should. We used it back in January, a few hours before major layoffs — amounting to about 35 attorneys — at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
In the months since then, we’ve heard all sorts of other rumors about Cadwalader. There have been whispers that the number of attorneys laid off last time may have been closer to 50 rather than 35. We’ve heard about possible staff layoffs. There has also been talk of quieter, smaller-scale reductions in attorney ranks at CWT — “strategic firings,” as one tipster put it. This source guessed that the firm has already shed around 100 attorneys since its peak.
But losing 100 lawyers, if true, may not have been enough. Word on the street is that Cadwalader is now bracing for another round of large-scale layoffs, which could be announced as early as today or tomorrow. In the words of one source, “Surprised you haven’t posted anything on Cadwalader. Major s**t going down…”
Here’s the most detailed account of several that we’ve received (after the jump):

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Is Today ‘Layoff Day’ at Cadwalader? (Redux)”

* Martindale-Hubbell goes 21st century with LinkedIn partnership. [Am Law Daily]
* 82-year old Jerry Lewis cited for concealed firearm in an airport.
* Karadzic extradited to the Hague. [Washington Post]
* At U. Chicago, law professor Obama tested ideas in the classroom. [New York Times]
* Stevens indictment a set-back for GOP. [Washington Post; New York Times]
* Orrick reaches $2.8 million settlement with San Diego over pension fund shortfall. [Am Law Daily]

avatar Exley ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by EXLEY, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Exley's avatar (at right).]
We apologize for the delay in bringing it to you; we received it later than the other submissions. Alas, the demands of Biglaw are not very conducive to covert participation in a legal blogging deathmatch.]
I saw this rather striking ad at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank this morning (pre-quake):
Lady Justice ad in airport.JPG
The text on the right says: “Justice may be blind but she still sees it our way 92.3% of the time.”
Call me a sick nut but at first I thought it was an ad for the United States of America, to make me feel good about all the rigmarole a person has to go through at airport security these days.
But it turns out that Lady Justice was posing for another almost-all-knowing entity.
Find out who it is after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Mascot of the Day: Lady J.”

BarBri bar bri bar exam review course prep course Above the Law Above the Law ATL.jpgOur apologies to those of you who sat for the bar exam today. We forgot to wish you good luck, unlike the QuizLaw kids:

It’s a special day for the country’s future lawyers — over the next two to three days, thousands of recent law graduates will take the bar exam. Most will pass, some will not. Somewhere, in some state, at least one person will freak the fuck out during the exam. That person will then become part of bar exam lore, an anecdote passed down from bar taker to bar taker to make them feel better about their chances.

Could ATL’s failure to wish you good luck be responsible for the earthquake that hit California in the middle of today’s test? We hope not. Talk about “bar exam lore” — an earthquake certainly qualifies.
Anyway, we won’t make the same mistake twice. To everyone taking the bar exam this week, GOOD LUCK!!!
If you’re one of the poor souls going through the ordeal of the bar exam, and checking ATL between day 1 and day 2 — or maybe on the eve of day 1, for those of you in Wednesday – Thursday jurisdictions — feel free to tell us how you’re feeling, in the comments.
Earlier: Breaking: Earthquake Hits California on Day 1 of the Bar Exam!

avatar Arnie Becker ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by ARNIE BECKER, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Arnie Becker's avatar (at right).]
Fremont County judge Timothy O’Grady has been called on to determine the legal difference, in Iowa, between a strip club and a performing arts center. In Iowa strip clubs are illegal, however, there is a loophole which exempts performing art centers, theaters and concert halls from some state obscenity laws — including nude dancing.
As reported by the Associated Press:

The case pending before a Fremont County judge effects only one business in Hamburg, but if he agrees with the prosecutor, it could eventually threaten the legal standing of nude dancing clubs across the state.

Clarence Judy, owner of the establishment Shotgun Geniez Plaza “Hamburg Theater for the Performing Arts” (WARNING, art aside, the site is NFWS), is facing three charges of public indecent exposure involving a minor.
The facts of the case, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald, are as follows:

The charges were brought in connection with a July 21, 2007, incident. A 17-year-old Hamburg girl, the niece of Fremont County Sheriff Steve MacDonald, danced nude onstage at the club.

It was a typical summer night, the Hamburg High School graduate testified Thursday. She and four girlfriends were drinking at a friend’s house when they decided to meet up with three boys at Shotgun Geniez. She had already had six drinks when she got there. As the group of eight walked in, two of them proffered their driver’s licenses, but Judy, who was working the door, did not ask for the identification of the underage girl, several people testified Thursday.

Once inside, the girl said she drank another beer – given to her by a “stripper” – and then lay down on the stage with a dollar in her bra. The dancer pulled the girl’s shirt and her bra up, exposing her breasts, before taking the dollar.

Later, a dancer pulled the girl onstage, where she helped her disrobe. She danced to one song while fully nude.

She put her clothes back on and drank another beer given to her by a dancer, she said. Later, she took the stage and danced nude again.

Judy has argued that his establishment is not a strip club because it has posters and prints on the wall, offers its patrons sketch pads, and only charges for parking or entry onto the property.
Judge O’Grady is expected to make his ruling on the “sketch pad defense” sometime this week.
Now would probably be a good time for Mr. Judy to take his establishment’s listing off of the Iowa Strip Clubs website (WARNING again, NFWS). Probably just an oversite – like letting a 17 year old inebriated girl walk into his “art center” on a typical summer night.

avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]
Why was ATL so fascinated by Shinyung Oh? Partly because it was juicy drama, and partly because she’s practically the only lawyer who’s given the world a straight story about a big-firm layoff. Partners and associates alike accept severance packages that keep them quiet, and while you can’t blame them for taking the cash, no one else can learn from their experience. We all figure that firms’ PR departments are feeding us BS when they claim that layoffs have always been part of the annual review process, but we haven’t had any eyewitness testimony on that point.
Today, ATL breaks the silence with an exclusive insider’s view of partner layoffs. Out of the dozens (hundreds?) of AmLaw 100 equity partners who’ve lost their jobs in this recession, we found a small number who were willing to talk to ATL about their experiences. According to their co-workers, our sources were well liked and doing good work when the axe dropped … they just didn’t have clients of their own. The picture they painted for ATL includes one piece of good news: well-informed young lawyers (i.e., ATL readers) have a pretty good understanding of how partners have become vulnerable to layoffs. On the other hand, it’s no cause for celebration that we were right about how dismal the picture has become.
Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Partnership: What’s in a Name?”

avatar Alex ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by ALEX, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Alex's avatar (at right).]
I heard once that people don’t like lawyers. Upon honest reflection, I’m inclined to agree with them. Hell, some people might not like me, even though I’m pathologically nice, fun at parties, and a member of the ABA.
Of course, hating lawyers is never justification for killing lawyers. Shakespeare be damned.
Earlier this month, the wife of a Tennessee lawyer became the avatar of lawyer-hate, strangling her husband and hiding his body in the bedroom closet with, presumably, all of the other unmentionables.
So reports WATE News Channel 6:

Nashville police arrested the estranged wife of an attorney in his strangulation killing. A housekeeper found the body of 44-year-old James Cannon in a bedroom closet on June 23. Police said Cannon had custody of the couple’s children, who are 9 years old, 7 years old and 18 months old. Cannon had filed for divorce from Kelly Cannon in February and obtained an order of protection to keep her away from him and the children.

Mrs. Cannon’s story seems, um, airtight:

Police said Kelly Cannon told them she went to her husband’s home the night of June 22, but said she couldn’t find him.

Kelly Cannon.jpgYou know, I would have never seen this coming from Mrs. Cannon. I’ve always trusted women with arty glasses. Never again.
It’s a shame, though; there are much more entertaining and lawful ways to seek revenge on a lawyer, like deleting the serial commas throughout the final draft of a brief or replacing all of his two-button suits with three-button suits.
In any event, this woman is clearly a threat to our people and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

earthquake California bar exam.jpgBecause the bar exam isn’t scary enough without the occasional act of God. This just in, from tipsters:

“Earthquake just hit LA and the epicenter was just next to Ontario, CA, where the CA bar exam is being administered!”

“I hope you are going to open a thread about those poor people taking the CA bar exam when the earthquake hit today. I’m curious to know how things were handled and if there were proctor freak outs!”

Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: Earthquake Hits California on Day 1 of the Bar Exam!”

avatar Marin ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by MARIN, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Marin's avatar (at right).]
If you’ve ever secretly read somebody else’s email 537 times, turns out you’re not alone. Larry Mendte, former CBS3 Philadelphia news anchor and Botox enthusiast, allegedly hacked into his former co-anchor Alycia Lane’s personal email accounts 537 times since January 2008 and leaked the contents of some of those emails to the press, according to the criminal information filed last Monday. What makes this case interesting is not the charge itself (one felony count of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization; Mendte is expected to plead guilty on August 22), but the fact that this case appears to confirm that there are real-life Ron Burgundys among us: vain, jealous and 100% ridiculous.
According to Lane’s attorneys, Mendte, insanely envious of Lane’s 8.7% higher salary (Lane supposedly made $780,000, Mendte about $100,000 less), embarked on a campaign to sabotage her career by installing keylogger programs to obtain Lane’s passwords, which he then used to compulsively check Lane’s emails from work. And home. And vacation. And his country club. Lane unwittingly assisted Mendte in his plot to undermine her by sending pictures of herself in a bikini to married NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen, which were intercepted by Eisen’s wife. It is believed that Mendte leaked the correspondence to the press, including the wife’s classic response:

Boy, do you look amazing in a bikini . . . congrats! Whatever you’re doing, (Pilates? yoga?) keep doing it – it’s working for you. Anyway, sorry but those seven e-mails you sent to my husband, Rich, well, oops, they came to the e-mail address we both use from time to time, but no worries, I’ll forward the beach shots as well as the ones of you dancing with your friends on to his main address. Do you have it?

Mendte also allegedly leaked certain privileged communications between Lane and her lawyer concerning that one time when she allegedly assaulted a police officer and accidentally called her a “dyke b*tch.” Stay classy, Philadelphia.

Evidently Mendte was so busy hacking into email, subverting attorney-client privilege and leaking private information to the press that he failed to consider that his lower salary was merited. It takes more than a Cheshire grin and a plastic face to succeed as a news anchor, and unfortunately for Mendte, his spray tan could not mask his complete ineptitude as an investigative journalist.

U.S. v. Lawrence Mendte [pdf]
Philly ex-TV anchor charged with e-mail snooping [Associated Press]
Bikini E-mails Rattle TV Wife; Alycia Lane Arrested, Punches Cop [NY Post]

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