We’ve previously written about Sullivan & Cromwell’s so-called mailroom of death. To make a long story short (see our previous coverage here, here, and here for the full background), a Biglaw mailroom mixup caused Cory Maples, a Alabama death-row inmate, to miss a deadline for filing an appeal. The Supreme Court intervened, and ruled that in light of a “perfect storm of misfortune,” Maples would not be barred from appealing his conviction because of S&C’s epic screw-up.
Of particular note, however, is the fact that this pro bono debacle came about thanks to the apparent forgetfulness of Jaasi Munanka and Clara Ingen-Housz, two former SullCrom associates. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed this out in her majority opinion (PDF), stating that “[w]hen the associates left Sullivan & Cromwell, they never notified Maples and didn’t seek leave to withdraw.” Because when you effectively abandon a client, SCOTUS is sure to call you out for doing so.
Both Munanka and Ingen-Housz have since moved onwards and upwards. Munanka is now a partner at Hogan Lovells in Denver, and last we heard of Ingen-Housz, she was an associate at Baker & McKenzie. But as always, our tipsters have been keeping a watchful eye on the situation, and now we’ve got some news about Ingen-Housz’s employment situation….
Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, check them out here and here.
I really enjoy the writing of Dr. Atul Gawande, the New Yorker contributor who is also a practicing surgeon. For one thing, surgeons are very interesting creatures — in many ways, they are the trial lawyers of the medical field. Just like trial lawyers (and generally litigators who do more than just brief writing), surgeons need to acquire certain basic technical skills, but the true measure of their value lies in their ability to achieve, through the exercise of leadership and artistry, a favorable result for the client or patient. And just as it takes years of residency and fellowship for surgeons to transition from technical proficiency to artistry, so too must the aspiring Biglaw first-chair trial lawyer undergo a seemingly interminable apprenticeship on the road to courtroom glory. (At least surgeons never lack, due to the frailty of the human body, practice subjects. Biglaw trials are harder to come by — but that is an issue for future exploration.)
Back to Dr. Gawande — something he recently prepared caught my eye. In early June, Dr. Gawande was invited to give the commencement address at Williams College, and his remarks were posted on the New Yorker’s website shortly afterwards. In his talk, Dr. Gawande argued that avoiding catastrophic outcomes — e.g. a stalled career, a Dewey, etc. — is possible, but only if the decision-makers are capable of recognizing the risks of their current paths and able to practice the “art of rescue”….
Happy Fourth of July week. If you’re like me and didn’t take vacation this week, I hope you enjoy not being hassled and shopping online. If you live in D.C., I hope you are appreciating your nice, employer-provided air conditioning.
Seeing as it’s almost America’s birthday, I’m saddened to have to tell you that our president has had to withdraw his nominee to be the next ambassador to the Netherlands. I know, it’s a terrible blow, please consult with a grief counselor if you are having trouble dealing with this news.
President Obama’s nominee for this distinguished post withdrew from consideration after he was charged that most American of crimes: getting liquored up, driving around, and allegedly resisting arrest.
That’s a party in the U.S.A. It’s definitely not a Netherlands party.
And I did I mention that our guy is a Biglaw partner?
Contrary to popular belief, many lawyers who toil in Biglaw actually enjoy what they do. This is especially true of partners (as opposed to associates who just pass through on their way to in-house or government opportunities). Some partners enjoy their work so much that they’d do it for free — or at least for much less than the millions they typically receive.
Of course, even if you find fulfillment in the work you do as a law firm partner, you can’t deny that the other benefits are nice. Being a Biglaw partner certainly allows you to provide an upscale lifestyle for your family. And it might permit you to enjoy an early retirement for yourself.
When you earn millions of dollars a year in partner profits, with lucrative retirement benefits on top of that (assuming your firm doesn’t do a Dewey), you don’t need to work until you’re 65 or 70. Instead, you can get an early start on your golden years, pursuing all of the hobbies and interests that you never had the chance to explore while billing 2000-plus hours a year.
That’s exactly what a retired Skadden corporate partner, James Freund, has been doing. Freund, who is now 77, retired from SASMF back in 1996, around the age of 61 (a little early, but not hugely so).
A few years ago, Freund scaled back his lifestyle. He traded in his $5 million townhouse for an apartment — one that cost a mere $3 million. Being a retired Skadden M&A partner is a tough life, but somebody’s got to live it….
* Pay up or shut up: Dewey former partners need to worry about getting our kneecaps busted by the banks that loaned us money to fulfill our capital contributions? [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]
* Senate leaders reached a tentative deal to keep student-loan interest rates at 3.4%. Too bad this only applies to undergrads — law students are still left holding the bag. [Wall Street Journal]
* Your mom probably told you not to be a tattletale, but evidently that kind of behavior really pays off in court. Adam Smith, formerly of Galleon, was sentenced to only two years’ probation for his “very substantial” aid in Raj Rajaratnam’s insider trading trial. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Forty-six CEOs on the 2012 Fortune 500 list went to law school, but only four hold degrees from schools outside the U.S. News Top 100, and just one went to an RNP school. Yikes. [U.S. News & World Report]
* Was this Nova Law professor “mentally deranged enough to engage in a campus shooting rampage”? That’s apparently what members of the administration thought when they fired him. [National Law Journal]
* Anna Gristina, the accused “Millionaire Madam,” was released last night on $250K bond after spending four months behind bars. Looks like it’s back to the world’s oldest profession for this soccer mom. [Reuters]
Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, check them out here and here.
Devotees of international soccer, and I have come across quite a number of them in my Biglaw career (from foreign-born colleagues to more recent converts like myself), are currently enjoying one of the world’s foremost tournaments, the European Championship or the “Euros.” Because the tournament is played in Europe, the games have been on during lunchtime and the early-afternoon hours here on the East Coast, perfect for sneaking out to a local bar for a slightly longer than usual lunch break to watch. I would imagine that most Biglaw Euro watching is being done via Espn3.com, on the “second screen” that most IT departments insist on hooking up in order to enhance the lawyer’s “productivity.” Truth is that when it comes to work, the second screen is fantastic — but it is more fun when it acts as a substitute television.
Now, ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of this year’s Poland/Ukraine-based tournament has definitely raised the Euros’ profile in the USA — but for those unaware or uninterested in the proceedings, realize that each match draws as much interest and television viewership as the Super Bowl. And the level of play on display is absolutely top-notch, as each team is composed of hardened veterans of the top European leagues, those renowned for attracting the top soccer talent worldwide with the allure of riches and fame.
As an aside, knowing something about soccer, just like speaking a foreign language, is a great normalizer when dealing with clients and colleagues in overseas offices. Sports and business are intertwined, and as professional services providers in increasingly international businesses serving an increasingly global clientele, it behooves firms to ensure that both partners and associates have some familiarity with the world’s most popular game (in both amount of fans and corporate support).
In what way is soccer like Biglaw, and what lessons might it have for those of us who toil in law firms?
As we continue to expand our coverage of law firm partners and in-house counsel here at Above the Law, we are looking for talented individuals who have experience with these constituencies in a marketing capacity and who wish to join a fast-paced, growing media company. The marketing managers will work closely with the ATL editorial, research, and business teams to develop new products and services targeting in-house lawyers and partners at large law firms.
If you are interested, please send your résumé and a cover letter explaining how you are perfect for this job to [email protected]. We welcome your ideas on how we can engage with these audiences even more, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Two years ago, my company had to hire a lawyer to serve as our head of litigation for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa). We weren’t using a recruiter, so we had to locate candidates the old-fashioned way — by putting the word out. I called one of my former partners (a 60-ish corporate partner, who did a lot of work with European clients) and asked if he could spread the word in Europe that we had a position open. He startled me:
“You don’t have to do a job search. I’ll do that job for you.”
“Excuse me,” I stammered. “You do M&A work. You speak only English. You’ve never litigated in a common law country, let alone a civil law one. How could that job possibly make any sense for you?”
“Managing litigation isn’t very hard. It’s really a matter of knowing how to handle the outside lawyers. And given all the time I’ve spent doing deals in Europe, I have that skill down cold. Let me be your head of litigation for EMEA.”
I had forgotten entirely about that conversation until I had lunch last week with a 40-ish litigator at a different Vault 20 firm. He, too, didn’t understand that corporations are different from law firms; at corporations, the specifics of your work experience matter . . .
Clean-up efforts are underway at Dewey & LeBoeuf — and we’re not talking about the work of the janitors (at least not the ones who were allegedly stiffed on $300,000). Rather, we’re talking about the work being done by Dewey as debtor, aided by its high-priced advisory team, to put its affairs in order and to maximize the recovery for its creditors.
One of the biggest messes: how to deal with the firm’s hundreds of former partners. Dewey’s lead lawyer, Albert Togut of Togut Segal & Segal, has already made clear his plans to seek some funds from them.
In a conference call yesterday afternoon, Dewey’s bankruptcy advisers informed ex-partners about the contours of a possible global settlement….
Parenting can be an extremely difficult task, but an even more difficult task is proper helicopter parenting. It’s got to be an intense job to keep an eye on your child’s every move, day and night, wherever he may roam. In fact, some people have started to call these people lawnmower parents — after all, why choose to hover overhead when you can destructively mow down all obstacles that you perceive to be in your child’s way on the road to success?
Today, we’ve got a story about an attractive California couple who stand accused of being textbook examples of the worst kind of lawnmower parents, and they just so happen to both be lawyers. Daddy is (or was) a securities litigation partner at a midsize firm, and Mommy is a graduate of top law school. Trust us when we say that you do not want to mess with their kid, because you may wind up facing drug charges….
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.