* 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.”
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.