Partner Issues

If you plan to work in Biglaw, you know it’s likely you’ll be able to command a very high hourly rate. Just how high we’re talking, though, depends on the area of law in which you choose to practice.

We already knew that litigators handling bet-the-company cases collected nice fees — in some instances up to $1,500 per hour — but there are other practice groups that rake in crazy cash, too.

Keep reading to find out where you’ll be able to make the most bank in Biglaw…

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Fighting over the Lawyerly Lair.

Law firms are relatively secretive institutions. Since they’re not public companies — at least not here in the United States, in the year 2014 — they aren’t required to reveal that much about their internal workings. Here at Above the Law, we do what we can to shed light on how law firms work, but there’s only so much we can do.

Every now and then, public filings disclose information about law firm operations — including information about one of the most sensitive subjects, partner pay. Sometimes we learn about partner compensation when a partner files for bankruptcy. Sometimes we hear about it when a partner goes through an ugly divorce.

That’s once again the case today. A complicated divorce, complicated enough to spawn ancillary litigation in the form of contempt proceedings, sheds light on how one white-shoe law firm pays its partners….

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Today, the American Lawyer released its Am Law 200 law firm rankings — a closely watched list of the law firms that are rich and prestigious, but not quite rich and prestigious enough to become a member of the elite and influential Am Law 100. If this were law school rankings, you could think of the “Second Hundred” as the institutions that came in just a step below the lauded T14.

As we noted when the Am Law 100 rankings came out in late April, the key takeaway was that the super rich were continuing to get richer. When it comes to the Am Law 200, flat performance is still very much the new up. There were some outstanding performances, though, and 20 firms out of the Second Hundred were designated as “super rich,” just like their Am Law 100 cousins.

While some firms came out on top, others were merely surviving. How did the Am Law 200 stack up?

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Mindy Kaling

* Barnes & Thornburg’s managing partner is planning to step down after almost two decades in the firm’s top leadership role. His tenure ends on a high note: 2013′s gross revenue was up by 12% and PPP was up by 8.2%. [Am Law Daily]

* “To terminate Jones Day at that point is an incredibly bad idea. I hope the mayor hears me.” Judge Steven Rhodes politely called Detroit’s mayor a moron after the city official declared he’d fire Jones Day in September. [Detroit Free Press]

* “When you’re giving anything to a judge, you try to be careful about it.” In 2012, law schools paid federal judges almost $2M to teach and lecture. A useful way to spend tuition dollars? [National Law Journal]

* San Diego Law School, a branch of San Francisco Law School, is open for business. It’s being marketed as a “fresh start” — if you failed out at another law school, come join the party here! [Daily Transcript]

* If you weren’t aware, Mindy Kaling gave a commencement speech at Harvard Law this week. She praised the graduates’ dedication to tedium, and kindly reminded some that they were truly evil. [Boston.com]

Astute Biglaw associates, and their fellow associates at boutiques and smaller firms, share an understanding with Tyrion Lannister. For those who don’t watch Game of Thrones, nor read the books upon which the popular series is based, Tyrion (played by the Emmy-winning actor Peter Dinklage) is the proverbial “second son,” whose father serves as the de facto ruler of the kingdom. His sister is the Queen Regent whose taste for wine matches only her disdain for her younger brother.

At this point in the series (spoiler alert — skip down two paragraphs if you are not up to date with the show), Tyrion stands on trial for alleged regicide. Rightfully skeptical of his chances of exoneration by the tribunal standing in judgment of him, Tyrion elects for “trial by combat” as a means of proving his innocence. While a smart choice, Tyrion is far from capable of physically defeating the literal “Mountain” man that his sister and accuser has selected to represent the “State” in Westeros v. Lannister. He needs a champion.

And he finds one, in the form of a visiting Prince who nurses a longstanding grudge against both Tyrion’s family members, and the man who will be his co-combatant — lucky for Tyrion, as his previous attempts to recruit others to stand as his champion had failed. When we see him at his moment of salvation, he is a desperate man, jailed, facing capital punishment at the hands of a blood-starved beast who disembowels malnourished slaves for sport. The appearance of a champion may not improve his situation all that much. But it gives him hope, and with hope comes the will to carry on.

Law firm associates may not have it quite as bad as Tyrion, but they share in common with him the need for a champion to secure their future….

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Usually Friday afternoon news dumps before holiday weekends are reserved for embarrassing news — a disgraced government official resigning to “spend more time with his family,” for example. But this latest news is happy rather than embarrassing (for the most part).

After a brief suspension of the voting, the partnership of Squire Sanders voted today to approve the proposed merger with troubled Patton Boggs. Not surprisingly, the Patton Boggs partnership had approved the merger days ago, on Monday. When a lifeboat pulls up, you don’t play hard to get.

So what’s the embarrassing part of this deal?

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* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]

* We already know that state prosecutors are very poorly paid, but let’s go one step further and see if women are paid less than men. Shockingly enough, women are getting the shaft in Texas. [Texas Tribune]

* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]

* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]

When we last checked in on Patton Boggs, the long-suffering law firm was on the brink of a bankruptcy breakthrough. Its partners, and the partners of Squire Sanders, were in the middle of voting on a merger that would save Patton Boggs.

Alas, sadly for Patton Boggs, Squire Sanders has suspended the merger vote. What happened? Did Squire come to its senses get second thoughts about that hideous proposed firm name, Squire Patton Boggs?

Actually, no; the issue is more substantial than that. Here’s a hint: Patton Boggs might have saved itself by June, if it weren’t for those meddling… Ecuadorian villagers!

(The vote is back on. Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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Partners think that they have all the power in the world, and when they want something, they try to get it — no matter what the cost. From new toys, to new clients, to new women, their voracious appetites for more are simply insatiable. If these playthings are unattainable, partners will become acutely aggressive in their pursuit, especially when it comes to potential sexual conquests.

Take, for example, the case of a prominent partner who recently found himself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment lawsuit. He allegedly sent a first-year associate videos about sexual techniques and engaged her in discussions about that literary classic, Fifty Shades of Grey (affiliate link).

Did we mention this alleged tour de force of sexual harassment culminated with the partner purportedly sending the associate emails describing his workplace sexual fantasies in great detail?

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Bruce Stachenfeld

In my article of two weeks ago, I threw out the proposition that if you are running a law firm — or a department or practice group in a law firm — the critical mission is to “attract, train, retain and inspire talent.” If you can do this, you are probably going to accomplish great things — and the converse. So the question now is, how do you do it?

Below is the best I have been able to come up with. It is (mostly) from a speech I gave at an IMN conference in 2011. (You can read the original speech here.)

First — and foremost — Talent wants to be with other talented people. They crave it in their souls. They will put up with major “not nice people” and even poor working conditions, if they are convinced that other very talented people are doing it with them in the trenches. Consider Apple and Steve Jobs. He wasn’t thought of as a nice guy; indeed, quite the opposite. But when people looked around the room, they were awed at the skill sets of those in the room with them, and boy did they want to stay in that room, in the worst way. So they put up with Jobs’s not–niceness. (Of course, I do not advocate being this way as a boss — far from it.)

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