Partner Issues

This week marks the second anniversary of my “Inside Straight” column at Above the Law.

Two years. Two hundred columns. One book. And 1.5 million clicks through the “jumps” to “continue reading” my silly little ditties. Your favorite columns were here (but it was a fraud, and I admitted as much), here, and here (and the kid landed a great job within weeks after the post went up!). I’ll lift my exhausted typing fingers to crank out these words: Thank you!

But back to business.

Oooh, oooh, oooh.

I wrote back in September that clients don’t prompt law firms to open new offices by insisting on one-stop shopping, and I suddenly became a popular guy. The letter carrier was exhausted, schlepping all those e-mails to my e-mailbox.

Remarkably, few people fundamentally disagreed with my thesis. I wrote that clients don’t insist on one-stop shopping, and I expected to hear that my experience was limited, my evidence anecdotal, and my position ridiculous. Instead, I heard largely that law firms open new offices for many and varied reasons, but client insistence on one-stop shopping is far down the list.

So why do firms launch new offices?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: If Not For Clients, Then Why Do Firms Open New Offices?”

I’ll miss you the most, my little cupcake.

* Billable hours in Biglaw are down 1.5 percent, and 15 percent of U.S. firms are planning to reduce their partnership ranks in early 2013. Thanks to Wells Fargo for bringing us the news of all this holiday cheer! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Hostess may be winding down its business and liquidating its assets, but Biglaw will always be there to clean up the crumbs. Jones Day, Venable, and Stinson Morrison Hecker obviously think money tastes better than Twinkies. [Am Law Daily]

* How’s that “don’t be evil” thing working out for you? Google’s $22.5M proposed privacy settlement with the FTC over tracking cookies planted on Safari browsers was accepted by a federal judge. [Bloomberg]

* Greenberg Traurig and Hunton & Williams face a $7.2B suit from Allen Stanford’s receiver over a former attorney of both firms’ alleged involvement in the ex-knight’s Ponzi scheme. [Houston Business Journal]

* Perhaps the third time will be the charm: ex-Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins was convicted, again, for helping Refco steal more than $2B from investors by concealing the company’s fraud. [New York Law Journal]

* H. Warren Knight, founder of alternative dispute resolution company JAMS, RIP. [National Law Journal]

Time to start practicing the Cravath walk? (Google it if you’re not familiar.)

In an excellent essay reflecting on his time at Cravath, lawyer turned author James B. Stewart had this to say about the associates who made partner: “They weren’t necessarily the brightest…. They weren’t, as I had expected, the hardest-working…. They weren’t the most personable…. Finally it came to me: The one thing nearly all the partners had in common was they loved their work.”

Move over, Virginia. Cravath is for lovers — of work.

The firm just named its latest class of lovers. How many new partners did CSM just make, and what might this suggest about the firm’s market-setting bonuses?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New Partner Watch: Does Cravath’s Bumper Crop Bode Well for Biglaw Bonuses?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the first of a three-part narrative detailing the make up of a lateral move, and is written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link.

The call came on a cool, clear Thursday morning in April: “Bill” was in trouble. He had joined a midsize firm as a partner nine months earlier. Now, despite assurances to the contrary, the firm had accepted a representation that would be adverse to Bill’s main client. He needed to move, and he needed to move fast.

We met for more than an hour that afternoon covering all the critical issues: his professional history; his expertise; his clients and potential conflicts; his billings, collections, and rates; whether he would be bringing anyone with him; the kind of firm and culture that he was looking for, including additional support he would need; how much longer he wanted to practice; and the level of compensation he could expect.

Each year, about one in 20 partners faces a lateral move. The process can seem irrational and daunting, especially to first-timers. Having gone through a lateral move myself, and overseen the hiring of numerous laterals as a managing partner, I’m more familiar with this arcane ritual than most. Now, after 10 years as a recruiter guiding dozens of candidates through the process, I offer an “anatomy” of a lateral move, using Bill’s experience to demystify the journey and explain how firms evaluate candidates, which materials candidates should typically produce, the normal sequence of events, and how candidates can best prepare for them….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Partners in Practice: Anatomy of a Lateral Move (Part I)”

Hello associates. It is almost bonus season. For most of you, your main hopes this time of year are (1) to get a bonus and (2) no surprises. What kind of surprises are you looking to avoid? Unwelcome ones. Like your firm going from lockstep associate compensation to a “merit-based” system. Or the firm implementing a different bonus hours target at the last minute. That two-week-long summer trip to Barcelona and Ibiza? The one that cost you about a hundred billable hours? Congratulations. That one hundred hours is now costing you twenty grand in bonus money. Thanks for playing the Biglaw associate game.

So Lat asked me to give some insight into what partners think about associate bonuses. From what I can tell, the overwhelmingly majority of partners don’t think at all about associate bonuses. The reality is that nearly all Biglaw decisions are made by a very small group of partners (increasingly with the help of professional non-lawyer administrators). The ones on the Executive Committee. With an assist (on this issue) by the Associate or Compensation Committees.

Here is how it happens….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: New York to 50!”

Megyn Kelly

* Barack Obama will not be invited to party with the Supreme Court justices to celebrate his reelection — which is too bad, because from what we hear, they really know how to get down. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Here’s a protip that essentially comes straight from David Petraeus. You can add these to the list of crazy things that your jealous mistress will say to any other woman who so much as looks in your direction. [Althouse]

* “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” Career alternative for this attorney: bludgeoning Karl Rove with witty election night insults for his failure to admit Obama won Ohio. [Daily Beast]

* Here’s a list of the five kinds of partners you’ll typically find in Biglaw. All you’ve got to do is find their weaknesses, and use them to your advantage. [Greedy Associates / FindLaw]

* In the days ahead, should law schools cut tuition or cut class size? Obviously the solution is to do a little from column A and a little from column B, but you know they’ll never budge on tuition. [PrawfsBlawg]

Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Quote of the Day: And Then They Came for the Partners”

‘Should I stay or should I go now?’

* Since Obamacare’s here to stay, states are scurrying to meet the health care law’s deadlines. Better hurry up, they’ve only got a week left to make a decision on insurance exchanges. [New York Times]

* “It’s been an interesting and tough four years. I just really don’t know. I don’t know at this point.” Two days after the election, it looks like Barack Obama may have to replace Eric Holder after all. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Managing partners at midsize firms are feeling good about about business in the coming fiscal year, and they’re even projecting higher profits per partner. And unicorns, too! [National Law Journal (reg. req.)]

* Where did a portion of the money behind Harvard Law professor and Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren’s Massachusetts race come from? Biglaw firms like Nixon Peabody and Mintz Levin. [Corporate Counsel]

* Apparently a convicted abortion doctor killer is trying to intervene in Paul Ceglia’s ownership case against Facebook via kooky letter. Sorry pal, but there can be only one Jonathan Lee Riches. [Wall Street Journal]

* Now that Barack Obama has secured his seat as a two-term president, in-house counsel in the financial sector can kiss their dreams of Dodd-Frank being repealed goodbye. Here are some issues to think about in light of its new footing. [Corporate Counsel]

* “We’re in the early innings of adjusting what value means.” And these days, it looks like “value” is synonymous with “making less money.” Given the results of this third quarter analysis, it’s quite clear that flat is still the new up for Biglaw. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Blow my whistle, baby? A DLA Piper partner filed a $4M suit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on claims he was maliciously prosecuted as revenge for whistleblowing. [Daily Business Review]

* After being arrested on domestic violence charges, it seems that Steven Guynn of King & Spalding has left the firm. He doesn’t need to sweat his unemployment, because his house is for sale for $3.3M. [Am Law Daily]

* From Biglaw to Midlaw: Morrison Cohen, a midsize firm, managed to poach a partner from Willkie Farr. But how? Apparently this guy was no longer interested in billing “$900-plus” per hour. [New York Law Journal]

* Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will be present at Jared Lee Loughner’s sentencing hearing today, though it is unknown if she herself will speak. His expected sentence is life without parole. [ABC News]

Now is the time on ATL when we dance — around the subject of money. With just two months left in the year, law firms are focused on collections, associates are focused on bonuses, and partners are focused on profits. Even though money is not the be-all and end-all of law practice, as we have emphasized in these pages before, it’s a topic that people follow — and a topic that we will therefore be covering closely in what remains of 2012.

Earlier this week, the American Lawyer magazine touched upon a topic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should in the world of Biglaw: compensation for non-equity partners. Let’s take a look at Am Law’s findings….

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