Partner Issues

The “talent management” folks are so different from lawyers.

Lawyers (at big firms, anyway) ask junior lawyers to do things and, ten years later, look to see who survived.

Talent management people couldn’t be different. They assess individuals and groups to try to find ways to improve performance. “O brave new world that has such people in’t!”

But when the talent management folks turn their sights on me, I realize that I have a split personality.

I (and everyone on my compliance team) recently took the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument. This puppy repeatedly asks which of two ways you would choose to resolve a conflict. After you make 30 of those choices, a computer spits out the “conflict-handling mode” that you prefer. The five conflict-handling modes are “competing,” “collaborating,” “compromising,” “avoiding,” and “accommodating.”

This test revealed my underlying split personality before I even learned the results. As to virtually every one of the 30 choices I was asked to make, my answer depends on the circumstances. When representing a party in litigation, I’m often a “compromiser”: He demands 100; I offer 10. He drops to 90; I go to 20. He wants six months to trial; I offer 24. On most subjects, litigants have equal power, and no one wants to be blamed for bothering the judge, so we compromise. According to Thomas-Kilman, I’m a “compromiser.”

But that’s just one of my many personalities. Suppose I’m not representing a party in litigation, but rather “negotiating” with one of my own clients. Goodbye “compromiser,” and hello….

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The road to the courthouse is paved with bruised egos. And when the bruised egos belong to lawyers, it’s like hopping into the HOV lane on that road.

One lawyer has filed a suit against his former firm, alleging that they owe him compensation withheld after he let them know he was moving to a different firm.

It’s good to know that partners might get jerked around the same way as associates trying to leave before the bonuses are paid out….

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* Dewey was quick about getting its Chapter 11 plan confirmed, but all of these unfinished business claims are taking a little longer to resolve than previously hoped. But hey, at least Paul Hastings settled. [Am Law Daily]

* Because sometimes profit sharing isn’t enough: Theodore Freedman, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, pleaded guilty to tax fraud after underreporting his partnership income by more than $2M. [New York Law Journal]

* Here are some tips if you’re trying to get off a law school’s wait list. Apparently it’s wise to wait patiently instead of being a complete gunner from the get go. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Imagine a land filled with millions of little Honey Boo Boos. That’s what the great state of Arkansas is going to look like if the legislature passes the most restrictive abortion law in the country. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Not only do the Mavericks suck, but Mark Cuban’s luck in court does, too. His bid to toss an insider trading case was denied. He’d probably jump over the bench and have a fit if he could. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Dawn Clark Netsch, beloved Illinois pol and one of the nation’s first female law profs, RIP. [Chicago Tribune]

Lawyers are supposed to read. The best lawyers are usually the most voracious readers. One of the tragic consequences of life as an associate is the loss of time for leisure reading. Except for that hard-earned four-day vacation around Thanksgiving time. Or that quick beach jaunt in late August when you realize that not only are all the partners gone for their yearly family vacations, they are not even bothering to answer emails or calls. So you may as well take a long weekend yourself. Pretend you have a life. Endure your friends talking about how their corporate “Summer Fridays” are already tired out, and how they long to get back to a regular schedule after Labor Day. Admit it — you are not doing any serious reading on the beach, or in the airport, or sitting on someone’s pool deck with a homemade margarita. More likely, your brain is fried, and the appropriate level of reading material for you at that stage is a “men’s periodical” or some celebrity rag.

Partners have it a little better. The intellectual ones rekindle their loves for serious fiction, or Ulysses Grant biographies, or even high-priced gardening books so they can converse semi-intelligently with their illiterate (but highly skilled and inexpensive) landscaper. Other partners read junk, or choose not to read at all, only buying glossy magazines for the pictures of high-priced items they are thrilled they can now afford. Or for the cocktail recipes, now that the liquor on their “drink rack” is of better quality, all while their need for a nightly drink or two or three goes up. Leisure reading, or not, however you like.

But there is another kind of Biglaw reading. The type that all partners really should engage in. Daily if possible. It is accessible. Via browser. That’s right — legal blogs. Biglaw partners (and ambitious associates) need to be on top of what is going on in our industry. You know, the one that is changing rapidly. Where there is a battle for survival going on, even between firms that would normally be considered extremely successful, and that in and of themselves are many times larger and more successful than at any point in their own histories. Information is power on this battlefield. Get reading. Some suggestions….

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You and your partner are going separate ways. It sounded like a good idea — you left the same firm together, or quit the prosecutor’s office at the same time. You got a little corner of another firm’s space, a wood sign with silver letters, a nice desk, and those two chairs in front of it that would make the clients believe they were in the right place. You plugged in a new phone system and off you went.

But your partner isn’t bringing in business, or maybe it’s you. Maybe a small law firm isn’t for you and you’re headed back to Biglaw or in-house. Maybe your partner can’t seem to get in before 10 or your contingency cases are way too contingent.

Lawyers split up; they have issues like any other type of relationship. They fight about money, space, others (read: clients) in their lives, and who knows, maybe they even sleep together. Sometimes the split occurs over time, and sometimes it happens suddenly.

Let’s keep some things in mind….

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Ted Olson and David Boies: adversaries, then allies, then adversaries again.

After covering the Dewey & LeBoeuf bankruptcy hearing on Wednesday morning, I walked a few blocks uptown to the Second Circuit for another exciting event: oral argument in the closely watched Argentina bondholder litigation. It was a Biglaw battle royal, pitting Ted Olson, the former solicitor general and current Gibson Dunn partner, against a tag team of top lawyers that included David Boies, Olson’s adversary in Bush v. Gore (and ally in Hollingsworth v. Perry).

Here’s my account of the proceedings, including photos….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice with associates.

When you show up for work at a law firm, you realize pretty quickly that there’s a lot to learn. Some things people will tell you, but there’s a lot of stuff no one’s going to tell you. Having been on both sides of the equation (as the one screwing things up, and the one getting annoyed with more junior people making my life difficult), here are a few things I learned along the way.

Ten Rules of Thumb for Law Firm Success

1. Don’t bring cases from the wrong jurisdiction. You remember Erie, right? If not, it’s time to review. There is very little that’s more annoying than giving a junior lawyer an assignment to find some case law, and having them come back with a state case, when you need a federal case, or vice versa. It’s one of those situations where you, as the assigning attorney, feel really confused. Did they not understand the assignment? Did they sleep through Civ Pro? Or do they just not care? None of these thoughts make me like you, or want to work with you again. Be sure you understand what you’re looking for, and resist the temptation to bring an irrelevant case, because you can’t find a relevant one.

2. On that note, no one cares how much effort you exerted. If you can’t find a case on point, just say that! If I ask what steps you took to search, feel free to tell me — in detail — so I won’t replicate your work. But do not go on about how many hours you spent, or how hard you looked. I don’t care. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. But, if you can’t find what I need, I’ll have to find it myself, so it’s best just to give me the bad news, and get out of the way.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Law firm layoffs are back (assuming they ever left). This is not a complete shock, since we heard predictions of them in January, including predictions of partner layoffs.

Many of these layoffs are stealth layoffs — so some firms might argue that they’re not even layoffs, just performance-based dismissals made in the ordinary course of business. It’s hard for us to report on these unless we receive enough tips. If we hear from a single lawyer or staffer who has been asked to leave, that could be a performance-based dismissal; if we hear from multiple lawyers or staffers at the same firm, that starts to look more like layoffs. If you have layoff information you’d like to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).

Now, on to the layoffs at Patton Boggs, D.C.-based law firm and lobbying powerhouse. These reductions were too large to fly under the radar….

Please note the UPDATES below regarding the number of affected employees.

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Law school is a ‘debt wizard’ — it’ll make your money disappear like magic!

* In the nick of time, lawyers for the Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to strike down California’s ban on gay marriage. Let’s hope their views have evolved. [BuzzFeed]

* As the lawyers and administrative staff who just got laid off at Patton Boggs can attest to, it sucks to be on the wrong side of “rightsizing.” We’ll have more on this developing story later today. [Reuters]

* Lanny Breuer is leaving the DOJ today, and he’s doing it with a bit of “swagger.” He’s shrugging off rumors that he’ll retreat to Covington, insisting he’ll interview at many firms. [DealBook / New York Times]

* It’s time for the changing of the guard over at Milbank Tweed. Mel Immergut, the longest serving chair of any Am Law 100 firm in New York, is passing the reins to Scott Edelman. [New York Law Journal]

* Michigan Law has a new “Debt Wizard” program that’s extremely useful in that it will allow you to see what you’re getting yourself into. Or, in my case, how poor I’ll be for the rest of my life. Yay! [National Law Journal]

* All he wanted to do was “make the world a better place,” but that didn’t work out so well. In a plea deal, Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the charges against him in his WikiLeaks case. [Los Angeles Times]

* Of all of the words that are used to describe Cory Booker, one of them is now “matchmaker.” The Newark mayor assisted a young Seyfarth Shaw associate with his engagement proposal earlier this week. [TIME]

This morning I attended the confirmation hearing for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan of Dewey & LeBoeuf. As I mentioned on Twitter a few minutes after leaving the hearing, Judge Martin Glenn confirmed the plan.

Under the plan, secured creditors will recover between 47 to 77 cents on the dollar, while unsecured creditors will wind up with 5 to 14 cents on the dollar. Secured creditors hold about $262 million in claims; total creditor claims, secured and unsecured, amount to about $550 million.

So that’s the bottom line. But what was the hearing itself like? Here are my observations, including a few photos — because bankruptcy court coverage is totally WWOP….

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