Partner Issues

The current CEO of Greenberg Traurig, Richard Rosenbaum, recently gave an interview to the Daily Business Review in which he discussed the firm’s recent capital call (among other subjects). We mentioned the interview in Morning Docket, but because it contains a lot of grist for the mill, it merits a second look.

The subtext of the interview — and, at one point, the explicit text of the interview — could be summarized as, “Look, we are not like Dewey!” The bad news is that such statements should even be necessary. The good news is that they seem to be true (at least based on the information currently available).

Let’s hear what Richard Rosenbaum had to say….

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Ed. note: This is the first column in a series by Anonymous Partner focusing on the issues facing women in the legal profession.

35-22-30. Measurements of an old-school pinup girl, sure. But my point in raising those numbers is a different one. These numbers can actually be used to highlight the special challenges that most women, in particular those who have or want families, face in Biglaw. I think it is still safe to assume that such women are the majority.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the progress of women in Biglaw, as measured by the amount of equity women partners at Biglaw firms and the like. First things first. Biglaw is no longer a man’s club in terms of opportunity. Female associates get hired, and fired, and choose to leave, just like male associates. They get made partner, included on pitches, and in some cases lead their firms. All great — no reason not to tap into the entirety of the human gene pool in order to make more money. Biglaw is a business after all. And there is no dispute that women, at all levels, can contribute to the success of Biglaw — and do.

But in over a decade in Biglaw, I have heard, and seen, horror stories of never-married, very successful professional women, who are desperate to start families, but attract only a parade of gold-diggers, social retards, or other undesirables….

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The fable of the ant and the grasshopper may have lessons for the world of large law firms.

As regular readers of Above the Law well know, most major law firms — with a few notable exceptions — did not pay spring or mid-year bonuses in 2012. Our associate readers generally viewed this news with disappointment, while our partner readers had less of a problem with it.

But perhaps even associates should have been supportive of their firms’ decisions not to pay spring bonuses. Storm clouds are gathering over the law firm world. So says a recent report by Biglaw’s biggest bankers, over at Citigroup….

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I recently participated in a podcast for the ABA Journal on the subject of what drives partners nuts. (Here’s a link to where previous podcasts can be found. The session in which I participated won’t be posted until September 10.)

Because the podcast was supposed to analyze “what drives partners nuts,” I naturally prepared a list of things that drive partners nuts. But when we taped this session, the conversation veered away from its original focus and covered other subjects instead. That leaves me with a list of the things that drive law firm partners nuts — perfect material for a blog post! And, because this column often focuses on life as an in-house lawyer, I’ll throw in an added bonus: the in-house analogues to the things that drive partners nuts.

How can an associate drive a law firm partner nuts? Let me count my top three ways . . .

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A Shirvell Photoshopportunity?

* “I don’t think I should have to pay anything back, because I wasn’t part of the management that drove the firm into the ground.” Dewey know when it’s time to stop complaining, pay up, shut up, and move on? [DealBook / New York Times]

* Good news, everyone! According to the Citi Midyear Report, based on the first half of 2012, Biglaw firms may have trouble matching last year’s single-digit profit growth. You thought the worst was over? How embarrassing for you. [Am Law Daily]

* Apparently Andrew Shirvell didn’t do a very good job questioning himself on the stand, because the former Michigan AAG now has to shell out $4.5M in damages for defaming Chris Armstrong. [Detroit Free Press]

* Six of one, half a dozen of the other: Barry Bonds’s lawyers filed a reply brief in their appeal of his obstruction conviction, arguing that his statements were truthful but nonresponsive, as opposed to being misleading. [AP]

* “We’re crazy about sex in the United States. I call it ‘sexophrenia.’” The Millionaire Madam’s attorney had a nutty yesterday after a judge refused to dismiss a prostitution charge against his client. [New York Daily News]

* The opposite of a fluffer? Los Angeles officials seeking to enforce the city’s new adult film condom law are beginning a search for medical professionals to inspect porn shoots for compliance. [Los Angeles Times]

I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy!

* A St. Louis plastic surgeon has been sued for allegedly posting topless photos of her breast augmentation patients online — with their names attached to the photos. It’s just more evidence that sooner or later everyone will be naked on the internet. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

* Dewey have enough partners to make the Partner Contribution Plan viable? It seems that we do! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Wow, the miracles of technology. Now if you have a paternity dispute that you need to clear up, you don’t need to go on Jerry Springer. All you need to do is visit your local taco truck DNA testing van. [Legal Blog Watch]

* You know that scary feeling when it seems you have forgotten something but you can’t figure out what it is? Well, you forgot your toddler — at the grocery store. There, fixed it for you. [Legal Juice]

* Oh boy, another misbehaving state judge. This one, from Georgia, allegedly pre-signed arrest warrants and hit on a woman who appeared before him in court. Sounds like quite the stand-up dude. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

* What are the top five movies all law students should watch? Let the arguing over this list begin… [Greedy Associates]

* I’m sure there must have been a legitimate reason for a federal judge to compare the civil liberties of Muslim Americans to a “hideous sea monster,” but c’mon, really? [Chicago Tribune]

Today at 5 p.m. is the deadline for former partners of the bankrupt Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm to sign up for the “Partner Contribution Plan.” Under the terms of the Plan, which in its latest iteration seeks $90.4 million in “clawbacks” from ex-partners, participating partners would contribute specified amounts to the Dewey bankruptcy estate in exchange for releases from future liability (to the Dewey estate, to other participating partners, and to Dewey lenders, thanks to recent revisions to the PCP).

When talk of the Plan first surfaced, I opined that “[s]uch a deal sounds reasonable in principle.” I later observed that even if the PCP might not be perfect, “[i]f you’re a productive partner, happily ensconced at a new and stable firm, and just want to forget the D&L debacle and return to serving your clients, this deal may Dewey the trick.”

But now, after numerous revisions to the Plan, seemingly endless extensions of the deadline to join, and a still-insufficient amount of participation, I’m beginning to think that maybe it just won’t fly — and Dewey should just be allowed to die, i.e., slip into a straight-up liquidation. Perhaps Dewey’s bankruptcy advisers should stop trying to flog a product that nobody seems interested in buying.

UPDATE (4:35 PM): It looks like the Dewey estate’s perseverance has paid off. The $50 million participation threshold has been reached.

Here’s one good thing about the Partner Contribution Plan: thanks to the PCP, we now have detailed information about how much each of Dewey’s partners received from the firm in 2011 and 2012. And yes, we’re willing to share the data for the top earners with you, in spreadsheet form.

Some people are big believers in the virtues of black-box compensation. But here at Above the Law, we’re all about transparency….

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Law firm consultants have endless advice about how best to compensate partners at firms. The consultants analyze the extremes: Lockstep compensation avoids quibbles about pay, but it may reward less productive older partners at the expense of the young turks. Eat-what-you-kill compensation rewards people who bring in business, but may cause bitter fights over client origination credit or cause partners to hoard their clients.

Various permutations on those extremes have their own advantages and disadvantages. But riddle me this: Why don’t we see consultants debating the pros and cons of pure black-box compensation? Under this system, the managing partner (or a small committee) sets compensation for each partner in the firm. There is no specific formula for allocating the spoils, and partners are forbidden from discussing their compensation with each other. Each partner is told what he’ll make in the coming year (either as an absolute number or as a projected draw assuming the firm hits 100 percent of budget), and the process is over.

At least a few large firms use black-box compensation systems, so this subject surely deserves a moment’s thought. What do you think of a black-box compensation system — good, bad, or indifferent?

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* Dewey have some false expectations of success for this partner settlement agreement? Only one in four affected partners have signed on the dotted line, but advisers think the plan will win bankruptcy court approval. [Am Law Daily]

* “There comes a point where the prospects of substantially increasing your income just outweigh everything else.” Even on his $168K salary, this appellate judge wasn’t rich in New York City, so he quit his job. [New York Law Journal]

* The middle class needs lawyers, and unemployed law school graduates need jobs. The solution for both problems seems pretty obvious, but starting a firm still costs money, no matter how “prudent” you are. [National Law Journal]

* “This is a time when law schools are trying to look carefully at their expenses and not add to them.” New York’s new pro bono initiative may come at a cost for law schools, too. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Much to Great Britain’s dismay, Ecuador has announced that it will grant political asylum to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame. Sucks for Ecuador, because Assange is known to not flush the toilet. [New York Times]

* A smooth criminal gets a break: Michael Jackson’s father dropped a wrongful death suit against Dr. Conrad Murray. It probably would’ve been helpful if his attorneys could actually practice in California. [Washington Post]

* Did Lindsay Lohan’s lawyers plagiarize documents from internet websites in their defamation filings against Pitbull? You can deny it all you want, but his lawyer is out for blood and sanctions. [New York Daily News]

David Bernick

As we just noted in Non-Sequiturs, the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner has managed to fill the — possibly peep toe? — shoes that were recently vacated by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Trading one famous name for another, the firm just hired celebrated litigator David Bernick (as reported earlier today by Thomson Reuters).

So it seems that there will be two David B’s in the building. Boies Schiller was founded, of course, by the legendary David Boies, one of the greatest litigators of our time — known for his work on such marquee cases as Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, the Perry / Prop 8 case (which could end up in the Supreme Court), and too many others to mention.

Let’s take a closer look at David Bernick’s résumé, and analyze what his arrival means for BSF….

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