Partner Issues

Please come work for Kirkland.

Please come work for Kirkland.

When it comes to exciting lateral moves in the legal profession, Kirkland & Ellis is where it’s at right now. The #2 firm in the ATL Power 100 — and the #1 firm in Chicago, by a country mile — is picking up and shedding prominent partners at a breakneck pace.

Today we’ll tell you about K&E’s successful raid on Skadden Arps — and its unsuccessful attempt to pry a partner away from Simpson Thacher…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Kirkland Snags A Skadden Partner, But A Simpson Partner Stays Put”

Bruce Stachenfeld

Bruce Stachenfeld

Many years ago in college I was a math major. Today I remember absolutely none of it; however, I remember why I liked it. It is because, if you don’t mess up your calculations, math tells you the truth.

Today, much has been written about the concept of “making partner” for an associate. I believe there was an article (I don’t remember where) that talked about the fact that at some firms 100 first-year associates are hired and the long-term process of “making partner” is like the Hunger Games (affiliate link), where associates are winnowed out until only a very few actually make the cut at the end.

The thought that some of the most brilliant people in our country would work themselves incredibly hard in high school to get into a great college – then work themselves even harder to get into a top law school – then work themselves even harder still to land a job at a top law firm – only to play the Hunger Games against other people who are as brilliant as they are for nine years to “make partner” defies logic. Why would any super-smart person do that? It also defies logic why major law firms, which have achieved the holy grail of any industry (namely, the ability to attract the greatest talent in the world), would squander (winnow) that talent away.

I will put those questions aside for the moment (and maybe address them in later articles) and here just talk about the math of “making partner” — and how there is really no reason for either of the foregoing issues to exist….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reinventing The Law Business: Making Partner — Doing The Math”

thumbs-upWe are living in a feedback culture. Traveled lately? Uber wants to know how your ride to the airport was. Your airline? An emailed survey is waiting for you on arrival at your destination. Checking out of your hotel? Have a goodbye survey on the house. Had a meal? Make sure you take the opportunity to complain (on Google, Yelp, etc.) about the server who accidentally brushed your shoulder while pouring your overpriced Malbec. Or rave about the innovative creme brulee and brioche hybrid that is the heir apparent to the cronut as a worthy “queue them up” for hours artery-clogger. It’s easy. Just a few clicks, and the world will be enlightened with your opinion. And your service provider can “improve the experience” for the legions of satisfied customers to follow.

In fact, service providers in multiple industries are quite busy turning your technological toys into “review generation machines” — because they can. Purchase an item online, and be prepared to answer questions about the item, the purchasing experience, and even the process of returning “crappier in real life than it looked on my Retina Display iMac/iPhone/iPad” item as well. While you are at it, maybe you have some thoughts on the packaging too. If so, the good folks who supply online retailers with corrugated cartons of all shapes and sizes would sure appreciate hearing about it.

There is no doubt that technology has fostered this “connectivity” between consumer and service provider in a quite mind-boggling way. And that those service providers are not shy about exploiting it. Many times, we do not even realize just how much our thinking has changed on this issue….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Beyond Biglaw: Feedback Culture”


dartboard pen on target inside straightGimme a break: I mean this hoo-ha, not the other one.

I’m thinking about the usual happy talk. At law firms, the happy talk sounds like this: “We’re landing big deals and new cases left and right; we just received the firm-of-the-year award from some outfit that hosts a dinner to celebrate this stuff; we’re launching great new business development initiatives.”

And only then, later, and maybe never spoken aloud at all: But we’re not paying associate bonuses, and we just moved a half-dozen guys out of the equity partner ranks.

Trust me! Times are great!

At corporations, the happy talk sounds like this: “We’re landing big customers left and right; we just received firm-of-the-year-award; etc.”

And only then, later, and maybe not spoken aloud at all: But the stock price is down, and we can’t afford to give raises this year.

Trust me! Times are great!

Riddle me this: Why do the institutions bother with this stuff? And, more than that, why do some employees seem to lap it up?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Happy Hoo-Ha”

Bingham new logoOver the past few months, we’ve offered extensive coverage of Bingham McCutchen, the once high-flying law firm that’s now struggling to survive. Bingham has remained mainly mum during these trying times.

This week, however, managing partner Steven Browne — who took over earlier this year from Bingham’s longtime leader, Jay Zimmerman — has been on a charm offensive. He gave interviews to the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal, which along with the American Lawyer ran long pieces on the state of affairs at the firm. We’ll share with you the new and most notable material from all three stories.

Before we get to the substantive stuff, though, let’s check out the Wall Street Journal’s interesting choice of a photo for its Bingham piece….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Bingham McCutchen: Is The Patient Stabilizing?”

kirkland RFEarlier this year, we noted a number of departures of private-equity partners from Kirkland & Ellis, a traditional leader in the PE space (and the #2 firm in our new law firm rankings). But K&E has also picked up partners in this practice area as well, including Sean Rodgers and Rick Madden, plus Andrew Calder and Anthony Speier in Houston.

This week the revolving door spins again at Kirkland, with the departure of a lawyer who has served in leadership roles at K&E. Who is he, and where is he going?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Kirkland & Ellis Loses Another Prominent Private-Equity Partner”

goodbye farewell Ill miss you“Beware the serial lateral partner.” That’s conventional wisdom in some circles of the legal profession. Here’s a pattern you often see: someone who gets poached by one firm, presumably lured by a big pay package, then laterals to another firm after the period of guaranteed compensation runs out, to enjoy another few years of guaranteed comp.

Today’s lateral partner story is a bit different. This high-profile partner is leaving his new firm after less than a year there (surely to the great disappointment of any recruiter who might have been involved in his original move).

It’s a strange story. What could be going on here?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: A Recent Lateral Partner’s Mysterious Departure”

Now that Bingham McCutchen appears to have found a savior, talk is turning to other firms that have experienced a lot of recent partner attrition. One such firm is Dickstein Shapiro, which lost the most partners to lateral moves in 2013 and has continued to shrink over the course of 2014.

Today brings word of more Dickstein departures. Who are the latest lawyers to leave?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Defections From Dickstein Shapiro”

Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the past three articles I published in ATL over the past month or so. My first article argued that Profits Per Partner is a great servant for a law firm but a bad master. In my second article, I set forth our Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as an alternative. In my third article, I set forth what I believe is the highest level in law firm profitability analysis, which is to “embrace” the volatility inherent in the practice of law. In this final article, I will give some thoughts on how a law firm could indeed Embrace Volatility.

Before getting to that, I will mention as an aside that I wrote a few weeks ago in this column an article entitled “Are Lawyers Only Happy When They’re Miserable?” That article largely dealt with how an individual might in fact Embrace Volatility. This article is directed not at individuals but at law firms.

If you have been reading my past articles, you may be open to at least considering how Embracing Volatility might be a good thing for a law firm. But is this whole concept just a fantasy, like it would be nice to not be afraid of snakes but you can’t help it and just reciting “I am not afraid of snakes” isn’t going to work? I don’t think so. I think the following simple steps would do it quite nicely:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reinventing The Law Business: Embracing Volatility For A Law Firm”

John Grisham

* Dickstein Shapiro’s IP practice was raided by Manatt Phelps & Phillips, and now the struggling firm is down one practice group coleader thanks to its partner defections. [Am Law Daily]

* Contrary to popular belief, O’Melveny & Myers is not opening a Portland office. Instead, the firm is setting up a temporary shop to work on a local patent trial. [Portland Business Journal]

* You can turn an IPO into a gold mine for your firm using this one weird trick. Discover how you can turn that one deal into your future. Prepare to be shocked. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Now isn’t the best time to enroll in law school. It’s also not the best time to rank law schools as “top” schools based on enrollment alone. Seriously, have you even heard of all of these law schools? [Birmingham Business Journal]

* Thanks to this Georgia appellate ruling, parents may now be held responsible for what their silly little children who weren’t supposed to be on Facebook are posting on Facebook. Dislike. [WSJ Law Blog]

* John Grisham says not all consumers of child pornography are pedophiles. Here’s a story about one of his law school pals: “He shouldn’t ‘a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.” [The Telegraph]

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