Partner Issues

Ed. note: The following piece was authored by The Legal Tease, of Sweet Hot Justice fame. Check out her other musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.

Has your soul winced at all today? The kind of wince that feels like your junk has retreated deep into your abdomen in a way that makes you mostly nauseous… but also a little excited? No? Well, YOU’RE WELCOME, because here’s your chance. Actually, though, don’t thank me — thank a partner at one of Biglaw’s biggest and baddest firms, whose departure memo will leave track marks in your brain for at least the next three days.

Our partner, Garrett Waltzer, started off with the usual sentiments: After 24 years practicing at Skadden, in both Los Angeles and Palo Alto, he’s grateful for the professional opportunities, the terrific mentoring, the millions of dollars friendships he’s made, yada yada yada. Then he starts to tease us:

I have decided to start a new phase of my life. I do not plan to practice law.

Hm. OK. Well, Waltzer, what do you plan to do then? The answers await you after the jump, in what will likely heretofore be known as Chapter 1 of the Mid-Life Crisis Manual handed out to all new associates at Skadden and beyond….

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Ed. note: This is the second installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give a notable law firm partner an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Theodore Boutrous, Jr. is co-chair of Gibson Dunn‘s appellate and constitutional law groups. He is also a member of the firm’s executive and management committees.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next five years?

For law firms to maintain strong, lasting bonds with clients and distinctive brands and cultures rather than transforming into large, largely fungible, faceless, bottom-line business enterprises.

2. What has been the biggest positive change to the legal profession since the start of your career?

Technology has revolutionized the legal profession, enhancing productivity, and improving the quality of work, life and client-service capabilities.

3. What has been the biggest negative change to the legal profession since the start of your career?

The demise of law libraries as special sanctuaries for thinking and contemplating and generating ideas.

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Our friend Bruce MacEwen has written a trenchant analysis of the predicament currently facing the large law firm business model: Growth is Dead: Now What? In the words of Paul Weiss chair Brad Karp, the book “is an extraordinary body of work that reflects enormous insight and ought be required reading by managing partners of law firms,” as well as “a much-needed wake up call for our profession.”

Originally a twelve-part series on Adam Smith Esq., Growth is Dead will soon be released as a paperback. Next Tuesday, February 26, ATL will host a salon-type event for law firm partners in celebration of this release, at a sleek new venue in a convenient area of Manhattan. Peter Kalis, global managing partner of K&L Gates and author of the foreword for Growth is Dead, will introduce Bruce, who will then (briefly) discuss his book and take a few questions. This will be followed by a free evening of cocktails and thought-provoking conversation. We’ve had a robust response so far, but limited spaces are still available. Law firm partners, please join us; you can RSVP here.

By way of preview, we spoke with Bruce about his book. How did it come about? What did he find out in the course of writing it that was most surprising? Encouraging? Discouraging?

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Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Even Biglaw attorneys. But Biglaw firms are not the kind of place to find it. No matter what level you are on. The higher up you are on the food chain, the lonelier it can be. And with the good ship Biglaw puttering around listlessly like the Triumph “cruising” through the Gulf, it is no wonder that everyone wants whatever edge they can get. Forget about glamorous trans-Atlantic voyages, most Biglaw captains just want to keep their ships pointed in the right direction nowadays.

And so we have entered a bit of a “coach moment” in Biglaw. As in everyone recognizing that coaches are good. They help you develop a “practice” (otherwise known as finding clients able to swallow your hourly rate), or teach you how to “manage” people and things, or even help you “balance” your life. (By the way, “balance” keeps away “chair sores” from too many hours reviewing term sheets.)

And “Coach” can remind you that an hour in the gym a couple of days a week is a pretty solid idea for someone whose other regular exercise mainly consists of the following: (1) open desk drawer with right hand, (2) reach into box of processed sugar-based item, (3) grab said item, and (4) place in mouth. (Interchange hands for best results. A Biglaw gut or jiggle to be proud of is literally within reach.) Since most people can’t get break such wonderful habits on their own, coaching can help….

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I have to make a public confession:

Ten years ago, I co-authored a book that analyzed in all 50 states the existing analogues to the federal multidistrict litigation process. (Some states have analogues; some do not; some have procedures that serve the same purpose through very different mechanisms.)

Don’t scoff! That book served a public purpose, because the information was not then available anywhere else. And it served a business development purpose: If you work at a large firm, you don’t want to defend one-off product liability cases, because the fees won’t bear the big-firm freight. But you do want to defend those silly products cases the instant they transmogrify into mass torts. What’s the point at which the client knows that it is confronting a truly big and bad mass tort? When it’s defending not only a federal MDL, but statewide coordinated proceedings, too. Presto! Time to retain yours truly, the expert in that untrodden field!

Having written the book, my co-authors and I naturally publicized it. We published articles summarizing the substance of the book; explaining how to draft mini-MDL statutes; and, for publication in specific state bar journals, analyses of the mini-MDL processes available in certain populous states. Although I can’t find an online link to the piece, we wrote in a Ohio bar journal that Ohio was the most populous state not to have a formal procedure for coordinating related lawsuits filed in many counties.

Naturally, this triggered some thought in the Ohio bench and bar about whether the state should catch up with the rest of the world. In 2004, more or less, some judicial committee called to solicit my help (and that of my co-authors) in creating a mini-MDL procedure in Ohio.

That’s when I sinned . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Forgive Me, Readers, For I Have Sinned”

‘They stole [accreditation] from us. Sneaky little ABA. Wicked, tricksy, false!’ — FAMU Law

Ed. note: Due to the Presidents’ Day holiday, we will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full swing tomorrow. We hope you enjoy your day off (or feel free to lament your lack thereof in the comments).

* “[T]hey don’t want to hear nothing.” Vedel Browne, the man accused of robbing Stephen Breyer at machete-point while the justice was vacationing in his home in the Caribbean, now claims that he’s innocent, mon. [St. Kitts-Nevis Observer]

* You know what, the farmer in the Super Bowl commercial probably didn’t have to deal with bullsh*t like Monsanto’s seed patents, but today’s farmers do, and they’ll argue their case before the Supreme Court this week. [New York Times]

* “I’m a betting man. And I would bet and give odds that Sullivan & Cromwell has never said that publicly.” Who dares question S&C’s stance in the hot mess that is Herbalife? None other than Carl Icahn. [Am Law Daily]

* Here’s an important Biglaw math lesson that’s been provided to us via California-based firms like Irell & Manella, Munger Tolles, and Orrick: a little revenue minus a lot of partners equals profitability. [Recorder]

* Amid a flurry of filings on Valentine’s Day, love must’ve been a battlefield for the embattled Dewey & LeBoeuf refugees who were in desperate search of their once promised 2011 bonuses. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* From the department of things that suck: having to defend your office’s alleged “underhanded tactics” in a $150 million wrongful conviction case while you’re trying to get re-elected as district attorney. [New York Times]

* We got bitches in the office lawyerin’ on, and they ain’t leavin’ till six in the mornin’ — unless they want to be fired. An ex-Travers Smith trainee claims she was canned for leaving the firm “early”… at 6:30 a.m. [Telegraph]

* If it weren’t for Cosmo, this woman wouldn’t have known her landlord was an alleged creeper. A Maryland lawyer now faces criminal charges for allegedly filming his female tenants in the nude. [Washington Post]

* “We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious!” The ABA officially put Florida A&M on notice that its law school accreditation may be in jeopardy if they don’t shape up in terms of bar passage. [Orlando Sentinel]

* What do you do the second you step off a cruise ship that’s been described as “a floating toilet, a floating petri dish, a floating hell”? You grab the very first lawyers you see, and sue! [Nation Now / Los Angeles Times]

* She loves me, she loves me not: media darling Sonia Sotomayor used to be in favor of the use of cameras during Supreme Court arguments, but she’s done a complete about-face on the issue, just like Justice Elena Kagan before her. [National Law Journal]

* Everyone and their mother knows what Antonin Scalia thinks of the State of the Union address, but let’s find out what my colleague Elie Mystal thinks about the good justice’s antics — namely, Scalia’s non-attendance for the past sixteen years. [HuffPost Live]

* American Airlines and US Airways will be merging to create the largest (and most awful) airline in the country. Perhaps the DOJ’s antitrust division can save us from this parade of horribles. [DealBook / New York Times]

* It looks like Team Togut is going to have a crappy Valentine’s Day. They thought that their partner problems were all wrapped up, but according to these filings, it seems that they’ve only just begun. [Am Law Daily]

* If Irving Picard, the trustee in charge of the Bernie Madoff bankruptcy case, is able to get his way, money will soon be raining upon the victims of the massive Ponzi scheme at warp speed. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This probably isn’t just a “distraction” or “silly sideshow” anymore, because Apple now says it will be fighting Greenlight’s attempt to block the tech company from restricting its issuance of preferred stock. [Bloomberg]

* Instragram has asked a federal court to toss a lawsuit over changes to the photo-sharing app’s terms of service because it contests that users still own the rights to all of their fugly Walden-filtered pictures. [Reuters]

* Remember Kenneth Kratz, the former Wisconsin prosecutor who referred to himself as “the prize”? He’s settled his sexting suit with Stephanie Van Groll, also known as the “hot nymph.” [Twin Cities Pioneer Press]

* Go to grad school at Lehigh for free: check. Sue for $1.3M over your C+: check. Get chastised by a judge over your ridiculous lawsuit: check. Whatever, we still beat Duke, and that’s really all that matters. [Morning Call]

We’ve been hearing a fair amount of happy news out of Morrison & Foerster lately. Last month, for example, the firm announced 15 new partners — a sizable class.

“We recently made a whole slew of people partner,” said a source. “Looks like our biggest class in a few years and includes several home-grown talents.”

One happy camper even wrote in to rave about the D.C.’s office celebration of Black History Month this past Monday, which featured a conversation between Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), an icon of the civil rights movement, and Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Minority Whip.

“The event was fantastic,” this tipster told us. “Congressman Lewis stayed to chat with MoFo attorneys and staff until 9 p.m.”

But happiness is not universal at Morrison & Foerster. On the subject of associate bonuses, we’ve heard from a few angry MoFos….

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Mary Jo White

Mary Jo White? More like Mary Jo Green. President Obama’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission is deliciously rich, as revealed in her financial disclosures.

Although she’s barely five feet tall, making her a little litigatrix, Mary Jo White wears big shoes. In the words of my colleague Elie Mystal, a former Debevoise & Plimpton associate, she’s “one of those alpha dog partners…. the kind of partner that makes other partners stammer, shuffle papers, and try to look really busy and intelligent when she’s in the room.”

The sizable net worth of Mary Jo White shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not only is she a longtime Debevoise partner, but her husband, John W. White, has been a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for more than 25 years (interrupted from 2006 through 2008 by a stint at the SEC, actually, where he served as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance).

Let’s get a sense of Mary Jo White’s fortune….

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“Where do I sit?” seems like an important question. Especially for second-graders on the first day of school. Or for zit-spocked high schoolers angling to spend some class time in the proximity of their crushes. And just like second-graders or hormonal high schoolers, Biglaw partners are known to obsess about their office locations. For example, I have seen partners I used to work for studying the floor plan like a treasure map, for uncomfortably long periods of time.

Surely they were mentally imagining their names transposed over a corner office, or next door to the big conference room, or for the real aspirants, within touching distance of the managing partner’s office. While this behavior is strange when taken to the extreme, it highlights an important reality of Biglaw.

Where you sit, matters….

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