Partner Issues

Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the conclusion 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. You can read the first part of the series here, and the second part here.

A TEMPORARY UNCERTAIN PROCESS (CONTINUED)

Résumés: In this digital age, some lawyers and recruiters don’t even bother with resumes — this is a big mistake. First, by taking the time to prepare a résumé, the candidate signals he or she is serious about actually moving. Second, a good résumé can highlight experience and clients in a way that a Web-based bio cannot: it can also be tailored to the specific needs of the recipient firms. I ask all of my candidates to have résumés — if need be, I even prepare the first draft for them.

Business Plans: Along with a potent résumé, partner candidates should also prepare a business plan, which presents an overview of the candidate’s practice, billings, collections, rates and hours worked over at least the last three years, key clients, and a discussion of how the practice would thrive at the prospective firm, should he or she join. If the initial meeting goes well, a firm usually wants to see these details before deciding whether to go forward. When I was a managing partner, I put a great deal of weight on these overviews; as a recruiter, I review them carefully to ensure that the candidate provides their information effectively, frequently going through several drafts to get it right.

Since Bill needed to move in a hurry, we combined the résumé and business plan in the initial submission to firms (going through a half dozen drafts in the process), which allowed them to evaluate Bill as quickly as possible….

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

Ed. note: This is the first in a new series, “Across the Desk,” from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital and related issues. Some of these pieces will have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

As noted in the American Lawyer recently, the lateral recruiting boom of recent years continues unabated. As the Am Law article points out, “At the same time [as they’re focused on hiring lateral partners], firms appear to be homing in on their poor performers. Nine out of 10 survey respondents said their firm has ‘unprofitable’ partners, and seven out of 10 said their firms have partners at risk of being deequitized or ‘put on performance plans.’ As one survey respondent put it: ‘There are too many partners without sufficient billable work.’”

Now, wouldn’t you think it would make sense — if firms are worried about underperformers — to pay some attention to associates as well as partners? After all, some of those associates should, speaking theoretically at least, be your future partners.

Yet there’s unrebutted evidence that firms look at the wrong criteria when hiring associates….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Best and the Brightest: Some Reflections on Entry-Level Law Firm Hiring”

Could we be looking at that rara avis, a genuinely suspenseful and surprising Biglaw bonus season?

We haven’t had one for a while. In the past few years, things have followed the usual pattern: the market leader, Cravath, announces bonuses, and everyone else follows.

The last truly interesting bonus season took place in 2008. That year, instead of waiting for Cravath, Skadden moved first and offered generous bonuses (regular year-end bonuses at 2007 levels, just no “special” or supplemental bonuses). The following day, Cravath announced bonuses that were essentially half of Skadden’s. This led my colleague, Elie Mystal, to develop and deploy the term “Half-Skadden” to refer to the bonuses offered by Cravath and its (many grateful) followers.

But this year raises an interesting question: Could Cravath get… Cravathed? Could this be the year of “Half-Cravath” bonuses?

UPDATE (11:00 AM): Or maybe not. Note the update at the end of this post about one leading firm that just matched Cravath.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Will Other Firms Refuse to Follow Cravath? (And Could That Be a Good Thing?)”

Maybe you’ll make partner next year.

Back when I was at the law firm, billing more hours than I knew were in a week, there were people who thought I was “gunning” for partnership. I billed a ton of hours, had basic social skills and a good mentor, and hey, I’d look pretty good in any “diversity” partner puff piece. Just add ten years of sustaining a maniacal pace, learning how to generate rain in a shrinking market, and navigating the political minefield of kissing the right people’s asses, and maybe I could have had a shot.

Suuuure I would have. Making partner at the Biglaw firm that you started with is functionally impossible. It happens so infrequently that setting it as a goal is about as realistic as children saying they want to walk on the Moon when they grow up. The odds were long before the economic crisis that caused partnerships to close their ranks and protect their profits like dragons hoarding treasure.

It’s not going to happen, but trying to get there ruins a lot of people. They can be having perfectly fine, perfectly serviceable Biglaw careers, but then somebody starts dangling the possibility of “partnership” in front of them, and suddenly they are trying to schmooze late into the night and kick their billable hours up into the 3,000-a-year range. And maybe if they’re lucky they’ll be able to get into a less prestigious firm, slog another couple of backbreaking years as “counsel,” and then get equity at some other shop.

Am Law Daily has the story of a man who finally got his shot at the brass ring, was fired over his alcoholism, and died a short while later. It’s a sad and extreme story, but many people fall in all sorts of ways on the path to partnership….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Road to Partner Is Long and Full of Danger”

Buying In: O What A Night…

Silly season is almost upon us. I am not a big fan of Biglaw holiday celebrations. As readers know, Above the Law loves holiday parties, which often lead to good stories. But what is good for ATL sometimes does not match up with what is good for Biglaw.

I have never had a good time at a firm holiday party. You end up seeing things you can’t unsee. Like the weird guy from tax trying to hit on one of the marketing girls. Or your managing partner dancing. Horrible sights. For no reason. Thankfully the Biglaw Breakdown has led to a scaling back of firm holiday parties. Mostly.

In some ways, the amount of money your firm spends acts as a sort of prestige barometer. A black-tie night, with plus-ones invited, at a ritzy hotel? Congratulations — your clients are not cheap and get into a lot of legal trouble. Some cheap champagne, beers, and low-grade sushi in the big conference room? Welcome to Biglaw 2012. If the party is going to be worse that a night at a restaurant, why bother? At least at the restaurant I get to choose my wine, my food, and my company….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: O What A Night…”

Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the second 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. Read the first part here.

HOW FIRMS EVALUATE CANDIDATES (CONTINUED)

Client Diversification and Conflicts: To diversify risk, firms prefer candidates who have spread their business among a number of clients, rather than concentrating it in just one or two large ones. While they generally like high-profile clients who can raise their profitability and status, the more dominant a company, the more likely it is to create conflicts with others in that industry, whether or not a firm has an immediate conflict; further, such high-profile clients often expect that firms will voluntarily forgo representing even potential competitors (sometimes referred to as the “Microsoft conundrum”). Thus, a candidate with such a client has no chance at any firm that currently represents a competitor.

Bill had worked with a marquee high-tech client over the last decade, which constituted about three-quarters of his portable business. The client had followed Bill through several moves, but its conflicts policies necessitated the moves. So while the heft of the marquee client and its loyalty to Bill mitigated the diversification issue, a number of firms would likely shy away from hiring him because of definite or potential conflicts with his showcase client….

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

Robert Barnett

I have no comment. Hope you will understand.

Robert Barnett, longtime Williams & Connolly partner and D.C. power broker, declining to comment to the New York Times about his representation of General David Petraeus, the former CIA Director who stepped down amid a sex scandal. Our jokey headline notwithstanding, “no comment” was probably the best comment here.

(Additional tidbits about who is representing whom in this messy affair, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Quote of the Day: Potted Plant?”

Last week I discussed the associate bonus process from your typical partner’s perspective. I want to talk a bit more about ways firms can take advantage of the glut of prospective associates out there, while increasing the odds of finding those rare jewels who will make partner — with each associate making less, but getting a better lifestyle (and a shot at a Biglaw career) in the bargain.

Some caveats. First, the ideas below are not intended for the Simpsons — this Simpson, not those Simpsons — of the world. They will continue to attract the very best, and should continue their current structure. Why? Because the Cravath model that the elite firms instituted makes for great partners and strong law firms. The problem is that almost every Biglaw firm adopted the Cravath model, and not all of them should have. Most firms do not have the institutional client base of the elite firms, and therefore don’t need the tremendous fixed costs and inflexibility with respect to associates that the Cravath model brings. As firms expand, contract, or just struggle to stay afloat post-Biglaw Breakdown, it seems like a great time to try some new approaches to talent structures and compensation. There is nothing wrong with some experimentation, as long as the protocols are transparent, and management is prepared to cut bait quickly if things are not working out.

Now over the years we have seen firms experiment with their junior associate hiring models. Most of these programs involved trying to turn junior associates into some form of quasi-apprentices. None seem to have taken root. And in my mind there is no sense in implementing a drastic, global overhaul of your associate model, before trying some more limited changes on the practice group level.

Here is what I would try….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: More Associates… Making Less”

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]

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