Real Estate

Cate Edwards Georgetown mansion.jpgNo Gropius dorms for her, thank you very much. Harvard Law School student Cate Edwards, oldest daughter of prominent politician John Edwards, just purchased a million-dollar property in Washington’s tony Georgetown neighborhood.

From an item in Washingtonian:

Buyer: Harvard law student Cate Edwards.

Famous dad: Former presidential hopeful John Edwards.

Price: $1.3 million.

Amenities: Two bedrooms, five baths.

An NPR internship with Nina Totenberg doesn’t pay like a summer associate gig. Perhaps Cate was able to draw upon the fortune amassed by her father during his career as a top trial lawyer.

The property has two bedrooms and five bathrooms. A high bathroom-to-bedroom ratio is a token of a luxuriousness. But does Cate really need all those bathrooms? Does Papa Edwards — who might crash occasionally at Cate’s place, having sold his own mansion around the corner in 2006 (for $5.2 million) — really have that much ickiness to wash off?

The children of Senators Ted Kennedy and John Warner also snapped up some swank properties. Read about them over at Washingtonian.

Chips off the Old Blocks [Washingtonian]
No Conflict? NPR’s Nina Totenberg Takes on John Edwards Daughter As Summer Intern [NewsBusters.org]

Thacher.jpgTalks between Thacher Proffitt and King & Spalding, a story we broke here, remain ongoing. From the Legal Times:

Atlanta-based King & Spalding is in talks to acquire most, but not all of Thacher Proffitt & Wood’s lawyers, say two sources aware of the discussions. In order to avoid dissolution, New York-based Thacher hopes to find a partner to acquire it, these sources say.

One New York legal consultant says the discussions have been ongoing for the past three to four months, and that the firms hope to reach an agreement by year-end. The consultant says King & Spalding is considering taking on about 100 of Thacher’s 195 lawyers, but that it’s not yet clear which practices and offices the 100 lawyers would come from. “There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty about who’s going to be invited to the party,” says the consultant, who asked not to be named.

Not sure we’d call it a “party.” But the alternative to a K&S acquisition isn’t appealing:

[Thacher's] overall headcount is down more than 100 lawyers compared to last year — and so are its profits. Profits per partner fell more than 22 percent in 2007 to $1.02 million, according to the Am Law 200.

The firm has had a constant stream of high-profile departures, including its vice chairman Thomas Leslie, who decamped for Greenberg Traurig in October, and Washington managing partner Richard Schaberg, who left for Hogan & Hartson’s D.C. office last month. The New York consultant and another individual familiar with the discussions say that if the deal falls through, Thacher Proffitt will likely go under.

It’s worth noting that TPW has placed its New York headquarters up for sublease (as reported by Lindsay Fortado and David Levitt of Bloomberg). If TPW is seeking a subtenant for all five floors it leases at Two World Financial Center, then one has to wonder if the firm plans to continue operations (at least in its current form).

As for King & Spalding, it’s growing strategically, despite the downturn. The firm recently snagged three energy partners from Kirkland & Ellis. KS hopefully has room in the lifeboat for Thacherites seeking a new home.

To Avoid Dissolution, Thacher Proffitt Talks With King & Spalding [Legal Times via WSJ Law Blog]

Thacher Proffitt Puts Up New York Office Space for Sublease [Bloomberg]

King & Spalding Adds Three Energy Partners in Washington, D.C. [King & Spalding]

Philip Bobbitt law professor Columbia Texas.jpgWe have a soft spot for Columbia Law School, especially after our excellent visit there on Wednesday (“our” = Lat + Kash). Thanks to the CLS Federalist Society, the sponsor of our talk, for the warm welcome.

We also have a soft spot for celebrity professors. Meet Columbia law prof Philip Bobbitt — no relation to John and Lorena Bobbitt, presumably — who was recently profiled in the New York Observer:

Through some combination of gossip, online stalking, hounding their teaching assistants and perusing the Facebook group “Phillip [sic] Bobbitt is Our Hero,” students piece together the following:

Professor Bobbitt, who is 60, arrived at Columbia only 18 months ago, after three decades at the University of Texas. He is an eminent scholar of the Constitution and used to teach modern history at Oxford. He’s a former member of the Carter, Bush I and Clinton administrations and an adviser to foreign heads of state.

Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair blurbed his latest book on terrorism, which both current presidential candidates have reportedly read. He’s the nephew of Lyndon B. Johnson. He can blow smoke rings, and sponsors a national poetry prize in honor of his late mother. Also: He rotates seasonally among his homes, and can’t shake his habit of a nightly cigar and scotch-and-soda.

Read more, including words of wisdom from the worldly-wise professor, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The James Bond of Columbia Law School: Philip Bobbitt”

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHeller Ehrman continues to stave off involuntary bankruptcy, despite not being able to pay employees their accrued vacation time. But Heller’s breakup continues to take weird twists.

The latest bizarre news comes from Seattle, where some associates have wondered whether they are about to be evicted from their offices. Tension was so high that Heller management had to send around a clarification email:

TO ALL HANDS (SEATTLE):

I have heard various rumors in the hallways to the effect that the Seattle office will close imminently and therefore that everyone needs to move out pronto. To clarify, here is the status.

The landlord has not issued a notice to vacate. If such a notice were issued, the notice period would be ten days. For reasons too long to explain, we overpaid rent throughout 2008. When those overpayments came to our attention, the firm asked that they be applied to cover (completely) the October rent obligation. The landlord has since asserted that the overpayments instead should be applied toward a fee that was due in connection with our give-back of space on 58. The Dissolution Committee is working with our outside counsel and communicating with the landlord to hopefully resolve this issue, and to clarify with the landlord any issues relating to removal of property from our space. To the best of my knowledge, closure of this office is not imminent and the date of closure remains to be determined, based on the pace of collections versus ongoing costs and also based on the banks’ decisions about what spending they will approve.

A law firm on the edge of solvency “overpaid” their rent? We hope that the explanation for this oversight is too long and difficult to get into, but we wonder if it is just too embarrassing.

Meanwhile, the Heller refugees that ended up at Covington have officially started .

Associates that we are speaking to say that it is just starting to sink in that they will be out of a job soon. Hopefully the Seattle associates will get as much time as possible to come to grips with this reality, instead of showing up at the office one day only to find locks on the door.

Update: The Blog of the LegalTimes reports that Arnold & Porter has picked up the latest Heller refugees. The big fish is Kenneth Chernof, Heller’s managing partner in the D.C. office. Any associates coming along for the ride?

Homeless In Seattle? [Heller Highwater]

Heller partners join Covington & Burling [Business Journal]

Arnold & Porter Picks Up Heller Partners [The BLT: Blog of the LegalTimes]

Earlier: Anatomy of a Dissolution: BoA & Citi Tell Heller Ehrman There’s No Money For Vacation Time

Here’s an idea for how Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft — America’s Firingest Law Firm™, which laid off 35 lawyers in January, and then 96 more last month — can keep its surviving attorneys (plus all those incoming first-years) gainfully employed.

Have them work on the litigation over managing partner Robert Link’s Hamptons house.

Cadwalader Managing Partner In Hamptons Real Estate Squabble [Am Law Daily]
Robert O. Link, Jr. v. Richard Sarcona: Complaint (PDF) [Am Law Daily]
3 Halsey Path, Southampton, NY [Zillow]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Robert Link (scroll down)
Prior ATL coverage of CWT (scroll down)

605 Third Avenue.jpgIf you’ll be interviewing at law firms this fall, make sure you double check the address of the place you’re headed to. Law firms are constantly on the move and trading spaces. From the New York Observer (which follows commercial real estate as obsessively as we follow law firm layoffs):

Entertainment law powerhouse Pryor Cashman, whose clients include Penthouse founder Bob Guccione and numerous American Idol contestants, is in negotiations for 100,000 square feet at 605 Third Avenue, the 44-story glass box of a building owned by Fisher Brothers….

[T]he firm right now occupies about 100,000 square feet of contiguous space in three buildings, which means three leases–all of which expire at the end of next year–and three landlords.

That sounds rather inefficient — and annoying. But there are other firms that occupy multiple buildings in the same city. E.g., Skadden and Mayer Brown, in D.C.
Pryor Cashman isn’t the only law firm in search of new digs. The Observer reports that Paul Weiss and Fitzpatrick Cella are also in search of over 100,000 square feet apiece.
Favored American Idol Lawyers Negotiating Lease at 605 Third [New York Observer]

Russian nesting dolls Matryoshka doll.jpg* Why does Wall Street get all the juicy scandals? We’re jealous of our DealBreaker colleagues. [Dealbreaker]
* Larry Ribstein’s take: “it’s hard not to think that it’s really all about dispute a few weeks ago between [the NYT's Andrew Ross] Sorkin and Dealbreaker’s John Carney.” [Ideoblog]
* Are you in the top one percent of U.S. taxpayers ranked by adjusted gross income? And which states are home to the richest of rich taxpayers? [TaxProf Blog]
* “Would you trust a law professor to be President?” [Althouse]
* Speaking of law profs, they may boycott the annual AALS meeting, due to the hotel owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. [National Law Journal via TaxProf Blog]
* An interesting interview of Fried Frank partner Jonathan Mechanic, a superstar of the real estate bar. [New York Observer]
* Russian judge: “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children.” [Telegraph (U.K.)]

avatar Alex ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by ALEX, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Alex's avatar (at right).]
Biglaw lawyers:
Every single one of your non-lawyer friends and family members think that you know “the law” because you’re lawyers. You don’t. You work in biglaw. Don’t worry, ATL will give you some small-building law to use when the inevitable email arrives or you need some lawyerly advice yourself.
Today’s topic: landlord-tenant law.
August is almost upon us. Lots of people are moving. Summers, law-school grads, Cadwalader attorneys. Maybe there’s still time to knock some dollars off of your last rent check. I spoke to an attorney who handles landlord-tenant issues in New York. He works in a really small building and likes to golf on Thursday afternoons.
Nutshell after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small-Building Law for Tall-Building Lawyers: Landlord-Tenant”

Holland Knight staff layoffs secretary secretarial firings.jpgThe bad news continues to roll in. Becker & Poliakoff, which just announced across-the-board pay cuts for its lawyers, isn’t the only Florida firm that’s hurting.
From a report by Julie Kay, for the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal:

In another sign of the hard times facing the legal industry, particularly in real-estate heavy South Florida, two local law firms — Holland & Knight and Shutts & Bowen — have laid off non-lawyer staffers.

On a day that could be dubbed Black Friday in South Florida legal circles, Tampa-based Holland & Knight, one of Florida’s largest and most venerable firms with 1,150 lawyers, laid off 70 staffers Friday, including legal secretaries, IT and accounting staff. No lawyers were laid off.

The layoffs of about four employees in each of Holland’s 17 offices represented 5% of Holland’s non-lawyer workforce.

Shutts & Bowen, a 200-lawyer, Miami-based firm, Friday laid off nine people, all entry level file clerks or paralegal clerks. No lawyers or legal secretaries were affected.

Holland & Knight spokeswoman Susan Bass told the Daily Business Review that the firm “had some redundancies and inefficiencies.” Seventy staffers is a whole lot of redundancies.
Read more — about prior layoffs at H&K, and the situation over at Greenberg Traurig — below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: More South Florida Suffering”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGEarlier this month, there was some discussion in the comments about law firms possibly cutting associate salaries to cope with the economic downturn. The scenario sounded far-fetched — but maybe it’s not as far-fetched as some might have hoped.
Look, we aren’t saying that the sky is falling. There’s a world of difference between a law firm based in Fort Lauderdale, with 128 lawyers and extensive exposure to Florida real estate, and the giants of Biglaw, with hundreds of millions (or even billions) in revenue, profits per partner well into the seven figures, and diversified practices.
But still, nobody would call this good news. From the Daily Business Review:

Attorneys at Becker & Poliakoff are being hit with a 12 percent pay cut for the foreseeable future to help the real estate-dominated firm deal with a drop in profitability and delays in collections.

Becker & Poliakoff is the first major South Florida firm to turn to its lawyers to make cuts to help it deal with the economic slowdown and real estate downturn. Other firms have trimmed staff jobs, including paralegals and secretaries, and cut back on other expenses to help cope with the economic landscape.

Alan Becker, the firm’s managing shareholder, informed attorneys and support staff about the pay deferment plan via podcast Wednesday. The cut took effect Thursday and affects only lawyers. No layoffs are expected.

So that’s the silver lining to the proverbial cloud. You’ve suffered a 12 percent haircut on your salary, but at least your job is secure.
We don’t know what the Becker & Poliakoff pay scale is, but we’re guessing it’s well below the $160K scale. Back in 2003, it looks like their starting salaries were in the $63K-$70K range.
But just out of curiosity, what would Biglaw salaries look like if they were trimmed in this manner? If a 12 percent reduction were applied to the first three steps of the standard New York pay scale, salaries would go from 160-170-185 to 141-150-163.
More discussion, after the jump.

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