Partner Issues

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

Of the roughly 36,000 partners in Biglaw, roughly 6,800 (18.8%) of them are within a few years of or have surpassed (and then some) the mandatory retirement age. Lawyers 55 or older make up about 1/3 of the practicing partners in the Am Law 200, a figure that will likely hold steady as the tail end of the baby boomer generation ages. Am Law 200 law firms have on average about 34 chairs, executive members, and senior partners whose 35-plus years of experience, client relationships, and leadership must be transferred to a new generation of rising stars. The process is hardly ever smooth and often involuntary.

Most partners in senior vintages begrudge the practice of mandatory retirement; some bemoan that it is an overcautious safeguard or the epitome of ageism. Some claim the practice is supported by scientific studies that link cognitive decline with advancing age — especially after 65, which is about the average for mandatory retirement. However, with advancing medical standards the idea of being forced to retire at 65 may soon seem ludicrous, but for now, how many law firms are prepared to deal with the void left by these partners?

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Bruce Stachenfeld

“Low overhead is great!” That is one of our sayings. We recite it all the time — yes, even out loud at meetings — as it is a powerful competitive advantage for a law firm. It seems pretty obvious, but if so, why doesn’t everyone get with this concept?

There is a term informally used to describe how overhead impacts a law firm called “Implied Overhead.” The “Implied Overhead” of a law firm is the cost of everything except the lawyers divided by the number of lawyers. So if you have 50 lawyers and the cost of “everything” except the lawyers is $10,000,000, then you have implied overhead of $200,000 per lawyer.

Our Implied Overhead for last year was about $165,000. Anecdotally I believe that Implied Overhead for major law firms averages about $300,000. (I admit I don’t really have this data for sure; it is just what I have heard.) If your firm has 100 lawyers and implied overhead of $200,000 and the average for major law firms is $300,000, then you have a $100,000 per lawyer competitive advantage over your major law firm competition. Multiply that by 100 lawyers and you just made $10,000,000! And this flows right to the bottom line! If there are, say, 30 partners at this firm, then each partner just got a check for $333,333!

Yikes — did I do that math right? Was that $333,333 per partner merely by reducing the implied overhead?  I just double checked and $10,000,000 divided by 30 partners does indeed equal $333,333. That’s a sizable number, so maybe you should read the rest of my article….

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Joe Francis

* The day after the Supreme Court lifted a stay on Joseph Wood’s execution, it took nearly two hours for Arizona authorities to kill him using the very drug cocktail he contested on appeal. [New York Times]

* So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu: Spencer Barasch, the lawyer at the center of some blowback due to his dealings with Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford, is now leaving Andrews Kurth. [Am Law Daily]

* A dead body was found inside of this West Texas law firm, and the man who was pegged as a suspect claimed he lived at the firm, along with his recently deceased friend. This seems sketchy. [KCBD 11]

* Suffolk Law is hosting a contest where students, coders, and entrepreneurs will try to figure out a way to hack the justice gap. Start by creating an app to help new lawyers earn a living wage. [BostInno]

* Donald Sterling isn’t going to let the fact that he’s already involved in one contentious lawsuit about the L.A. Clippers stop him from filing another contentious lawsuit about the L.A. Clippers. [Bloomberg]

* Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild infamy is in some trouble with the law. He just got hit with a $5,000 per day fine until he returns two luxury cars to the pornography company’s bankruptcy estate. [WSJ Law Blog]

Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi, the high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Alexandra Marchuk against her former firm and one of its most prominent partners, Juan Monteverde, rolls on. Back in January, we covered some of the salacious revelations contained in the summary judgment papers.

You know what would be even more juicy? A trial.

And that’s what we might be getting, in the wake of two blows just dealt to the defendants in this matter….

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I’ve never met you, but I assume that you’re incompetent.

I realize that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s time someone told you the truth.

Some people assume that strangers are competent. One of my colleagues in our Law Department said to me recently: “Outside counsel says we won’t have much liability in that case.”

I naturally asked, “Is he right?”

She was shocked: “He’s a partner at a well-respected firm. We hired him. I assume he’s competent.”

That got us to talking. My colleague gives strangers the benefit of the doubt; she assumes that people are competent until they prove otherwise. I’m exactly the opposite: When I meet you, my working assumption is that you’re inept. Over time, there’s a chance you’ll convince me that I’m wrong. (But probably not.)

Why do I assume that all new people I meet are incompetent?

No, that’s too easy. Here’s the better question: Why am I right to assume that everyone’s incompetent, and why is that a helpful way to go through life?

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We posed this question earlier today. The answer, according to a recent news report, is yes.

The past few months have been bumpy for Bingham. In February, we reported on falling profits, partner defections, and staff layoffs. In June, we covered additional partner departures. (By the way, the two “unidentified partners” who went to Skadden turned out to be tax partners Rajiv Madan and Christopher Bowers; they left Bingham due to a client conflict.)

In recent weeks, Bingham conducted a management shake-up. And now comes word that it might be looking for a merger partner.

Keep reading for our review of the reports, plus an internal email that just went around the firm commenting on the speculation….

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

In our two most recent Flashback Friday posts, we looked at associate compensation in the 1990s. Today we’ll take a break from that topic and mix it up a bit. (We’ll return to cover associate comp in the remaining batch of legal markets at some point in the future.)

Last week we looked at associate pay in New York in the 1990s. Let’s stay in that city and that decade and examine another subject: NYC’s top law firms, circa 1991.

Some of these firms remain on top today. And some of them are six feet under….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

As long as it has been around, the Am Law 200 list has been seen as what separates the best from the rest. It seems simple, transparent, and concise with each firm ranked in ascending order. However, many misconstrue Am Law ranks to mean overall value and assume that the firms at the top of the list are indubitably the best.

Some partners with books of business larger than War & Peace assume that the biggest firm will be the one with the best platform and financial flexibility to absorb their practice. In reality, many firms towards the middle of the Am Law 200 can better accommodate these lawyers (although many just as likely cannot).

When looking at the compensation average for partners, the gross profits of a firm are a relatively poor predictor compared to the other available metrics. Among the best indicators of firm health and the compensation is the profitability index…

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Danica McKellar

If you watched The Wonder Years when you were younger, Winnie Cooper was probably one of your first crushes. If you’re too young to remember that much about this television show, think of Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World. If you’re too young to remember that television show, then we’re dating ourselves, but sorry, but we can’t help you. Google it!

It seems that Danica McKellar, the actress who played Winnie Cooper many moons ago, is still a heartbreaker. Yesterday afternoon, she announced to the world that she was engaged to a very handsome Biglaw partner.

Who is he? Let’s find out…

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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