* Dewey need to send them a wedding present? Because to be honest, we really can’t afford one. Fifty of the firm’s European lawyers jumped ship to tie the knot with Greenberg Traurig in Poland. [WSJ Law Blog]
* “I don’t think there’s enough space in the legal market to absorb all the Dewey lawyers that aren’t prepackaged in a group.” When Dewey get on the unemployment line in New York City? [New York Law Journal]
* Ropes & Gray is expanding its Chinese private equity practice with plans to double its Asian-based lawyers by the end of the year. For now, the firm’s just poaching partners from Norton Rose and Paul Weiss. [Bloomberg]
* John Edwards’s legal team began his defense, and they still don’t know if he’ll be taking the stand. Not to worry, because he’ll be torturing his daughter, Cate Edwards, instead. [CNN]
* Remember the Catholic school that fired someone for getting IVF? They’re asserting the “ministerial exception” against Emily Herx — an unordained woman who doesn’t teach religion. [Washington Post]
* Apparently this only matters when top-tier schools do it, but like UC Hastings, George Washington Law will be reducing its class size in the hope of keeping new student enrollment below 450. [National Law Journal]
* California is cutting prisons. That’s step one. Step two is to shuttle all the prisoners to Los Angeles. Step three involves a series of earthquakes… [McClatchy]
* Private equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman isn’t into 50 Shades of Grey (affiliate link). But David Lat apparently is. I dunno, if you are going to bother with that kind of stuff, you might as well hit Brazzers and get it over with. [Dealbreaker]
* I’m all for making sure that the Violence Against Women reauthorization prevents violence against women, not annoyances against women, or criticism against women. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* Speaking of violence against women, I never blame the victim, but dating gun-toting dumbasses rarely helps matters. [Legal Blog Watch]
Back in November, we told you that Thomson Reuters was looking to unload BAR/BRI, its bar exam preparation business. The news was huge, given BAR/BRI’s status as a de facto finishing school for would-be lawyers.
Today, it appears that BAR/BRI has found a home. According to various reports, BAR/BRI will be acquired by Leeds Equity Partners. Leeds is a private equity firm that specializes in educational products and services.
Above the Law just spoke with Jeffrey T. Leeds, the co-founder and president of Leeds. He called BAR/BRI a “jewel” for the firm. And since the man is a graduate of Harvard Law School (Class of ’83), he knows just how important BAR/BRI is to our system of legal education… .
A financing unit of Cerberus Capital Management L.P. has sued Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, claiming the law firm gave it bad advice in connection with a loan the private equity firm made last year to a company looking to bring retailer Steve & Barry’s out of bankruptcy.
Ableco Finance LLC, a unit of Cerberus with more than $6 billion under management, filed an amended complaint Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court against its former lawyers seeking more than $55 million it said it lost because of the $125 million loan. Ableco claims it would never have made the loan last year if the Paul Hastings team had advised it that the buyer would not have rights to all of Steve & Barry’s inventory, which Ableco understood would back the loan.
“No competent, diligent finance lawyer would have put his client in such a vulnerable position,” Ableco’s complaint reads in part.
Ouch. We agree with Ashby Jones of the WSJ Law Blog: “It’s never good for a law firm to get sued by one of its clients. But when the client is a deep-pocketed heavyweight like private-equity giant Cerberus, the news is probably especially unwelcome.”
But Paul Hastings is fighting back, with the help of high-powered counsel.
Gawker reports that Incisive Media — the legal media giant behind the American Lawyer magazine, Law.com, and many other excellent and influential print and online publications — is taking back its old name: American Lawyer Media (ALM).
ALM adopted the Incisive moniker back in 2007, after being acquired by Incisive Media for $630 million. Incisive itself was acquired in 2006 by Apax Partners, a private equity firm.
The full memo about the ALM rebranding appears after the jump. Here’s the most interesting part:
While we will continue to be majority-owned by funds advised by Apax Partners, our lender, Royal Bank of Scotland, will swap a portion of its existing ALM debt for a 49% equity stake in the company and become a minority owner of ALM.
Turning over almost half of the equity in the company to a lender — that doesn’t sound good, does it?
But there’s more to the story here.
As some of you have noticed, we have an article in today’s New York Times, in the DealBook Special Section. It’s about fee arrangements in the (highly lucrative) context of mergers-and-acquisitions work. Here’s a teaser:
For some firms, billable hours are just the beginning. As the boom rolled on, law firms specializing in mergers and acquisitions increasingly engaged in premium billing, charging fees in excess of their total hourly billings. Think of it as a tip for good work. Whether a client pays a premium depends upon its satisfaction with the result, the size and complexity of the transaction, and the nature and length of the attorney-client relationship.
But since the credit market began to tighten this summer, an event that brought new deals to a crawl and has upset several old ones, many lawyers have been wondering whether the premium party is over…
And here’s one of the more juicy portions:
One firm, though, has moved beyond billable hours to the flat fee preferred by bankers: Wachtell, Lipton. A former Wachtell lawyer described a typical bill as follows: “There’s a paragraph stating something like, ‘For legal services rendered in connection with Transaction X,’ then a dot leader, then a number followed by six zeros.” He said he worked on some deals where Wachtell was paid more than the bankers.
Wachtell charged a flat fee when it advised the Bancroft family, which controlled Dow Jones & Company, during the $5 billion bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation For its work on the deal, Wachtell first submitted a bill for $10 million.
That seems to be the theme of this very interesting article, by Ben Hallman and Aruna Viswanatha, in the current issue of the American Lawyer. It echoes the problems we discussed back in this post, concerning the $70 million malpractice suit filed against Cadwalader, in connection with the firm’s mortgage-backed securities practice.
Here’s an excerpt from the American Lawyer piece:
Even scarier for Debevoise, and for all firms with big private equity practices, was the fact that no new deals were popping up to take the place of those that were stuck. Those fears are shared by lawyers who work on mortgage-backed securities, a market that has completely shut down.
The fears are well justified for both groups, and for any lawyer whose business is linked to the availability of easy credit. In June there were nearly $100 billion worth of private-label mortgage securitization issuances. The next month, they were half that. “There’s always an element of cyclicality,” says Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison structured finance partner Jordan Yarett, “but the implosion of credit is somewhat shocking.”
Indeed. More depressing discussion, after the jump.
Title: Attorney In Charge Of Firmwide Private Equity Knowledge Management
Description: This position is a combination business and legal position at a top international law firm, with no billable hours and no client development expectations. The position is full-time, affording the attorney holding the position the ability to remain deeply involved in private equity law with a more regular and predictable schedule than most private equity attorneys experience.
The attorney would have responsibilities in a number of areas related to the firm’s highly regarded private equity practice — precedent, training, publications and knowledge development, among other things. This firm offers a highly competitive salary and bonus eligibility, which is expected to be comparable to the salary and bonus eligibility of an attorney at a similar level of experience. This position is ideal for a private equity attorney seeking to scale back their practice and increase their role in business development, marketing and management.
If you look up the term “private equity” in Black’s Law Dictionary, the entry reads: “Lucky bastards who make three times as much as you do, even though you graduated from college at the same time.”
But perhaps lawyers should think warm-and-fuzzy thoughts, as opposed to envious and resentful ones, about private equity types. Today’s DealBook has an interesting item about how private equity deals are keeping law firms busy — including a number of shops outside the private equity “Holy Trinity” of Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, and Ropes & Gray.
The DealBook item is based on an article in the current issue of the American Lawyer, which contains this tidbit about lateral moves from Simpson:
An unintended consequence of our level of market share in private equity is that as private equity firms have grown, they’ve all developed in-house legal staffs, starting from zero, five years ago,” says Simpson partner Alan Klein. “They’re trying to populate those staffs with our associates.”
Seven lawyers left Simpson for private equity shops last year, according to Corporate Counsel, a sibling publication of The American Lawyer. Partly to stem defections, Simpson raised associate salaries in January, prompting a raise-a-thon among its competitors.
“I don’t understand what causes a firm be the first to increase the salary of a brand-new lawyer from an already eye-popping $145,000 to $160,000. There is no competitive advantage in doing so. Other firms will surely follow suit, and the firm that led the market will quickly be indistinguishable from the rest of the pack.”
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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