The unannounced departure took place July 1, Link, 55, said Thursday. Link, the firm’s former chairman and managing partner, left Cadwalader after being replaced as chairman in 2008 and later being left off of the firm’s management committee.
Speaking from one of his homes in Vermont, Link said the retirement was his choice. He said he has no plans to return to the practice of law, though he may take a job in the public interest arena.
“I don’t have to work if I don’t want to,” Link said. “But I will.”
Link made enough money for Cadwalader that many of his former partners don’t have to work if they don’t want to. Remember his fabulous $6 million Hamptons house? Now he has more time to enjoy it.
But Link also leaves behind a legacy that put many associates out of work…
Former Cadwalader chairman Bob Link is being left off of the firm’s 2009 management committee. The news was told to the partnership during a meeting today. Link himself confirmed the news to AmLaw Daily:
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s former chairman and current managing partner Robert Link Jr. was not included on a recommended slate of candidates for the firm’s management committee given to partners today, a source at Cadwalader says.
The slate, recommended by the management committee, will not be acted on for another few weeks, the source says. Link, reached by phone, confirmed his name was not on the list.
“It really is part of our normal succession,” Link says. “It’s not something I’ve been part of planning for.”
Charlotte managing partner Jim Carroll is also out of the 2009 management loop.
The Lawyer, which first broke the news of Link’s ouster on Monday, reports that Cadwalader’s future is still very much up in the air:
But Link’s removal from power is far from the end of the story. Cadwalader has been reeling for months. Collapsed core markets, major lawyer layoffs and now a palace revolt, 2008 will go down as arguably the worst in Cadwalader’s 216-year history.
Inevitably, questions have been raised about the long-term future of the firm. How things play out later this week may offer some clues as to its shape, whatever that may be.
But one parting shot from CWT to the associates they laid off, after the jump.
History repeats itself. We quote from our post of January 10:
Just half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.
Earlier this morning, we once again posed the question: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” And once again, the firm has confirmed — this time to the WSJ Law Blog — that it will be laying off 96 lawyers, from counsel on down to first-year associates. The intelligence in our post from earlier this morning, which estimated the carnage at “as many as 100 attorneys, ranging from special counsel down to the current first-year associate class,” was essentially correct.
90 of the 96 cuts will come out of the real estate finance and securitization practices, said the firm’s chairman, Chris White. Most of the affected lawyers, said White, are in the New York, Charlotte and London offices, with “one or two” in Washington. The 96 layoffs are in addition to the 35 lawyers the firm laid off in January.
Wow — that’s a ton of attorneys. Ninety-six lawyers would appear to be the biggest round of lawyer layoffs in the current economic cycle (see Bruce MacEwen’s layoffs table). Congratulations, Cadwalader!
Cadwalader chairman Chris White gives the WSJ Law Blog a spiel about how the firm got caught up in the mania surrounding commercial mortgage-backed securities:
“There was a frothiness that occurred as a result of the Blackstones and the Apollos using mortgage-backed securities to fund their buyouts. It was a lot like junk bonds becoming the instrument of choice in the late 80′s and early 90′s.”
White explained that, in 2004, there were only $98 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities issued. In 2008, he said, that number ballooned to $314 billion. “So we grew right along with client demand. And now that market has contracted severely. That $314 billion from last year will go to roughly $60 billion in 2008 — an 80% contraction.”
With his use of the passive — “[t]here was a frothiness” — and his “we grew right along with client demand” remark, White seems to be offering a “not our fault, everyone was doing it, nobody predicted this” sort of defense. But isn’t it the job of firm management to make sure that a firm is well-diversified among practice areas and adequately protected against downside risk?
(Perhaps the WSJ Law Blog should have pressed White a bit harder on this. Maybe they could have gotten White to throw former chairman Bob Link under the bus, since the firm’s disastrous overexpansion happened under Link’s watch. Link is the leader featured in the firm’s embarrassing-in-hindsight video advertisement.)
To be sure, other Biglaw shops have been hurt by the credit crunch and the economic downturn. But after this latest round of layoffs, involving close to 100 lawyers, it lies beyond dispute that no major firm has been hit as hard as Cadwalader. This obviously raises questions — or should, in the mind of anyone looking to work for or retain CWT — about whether the firm is well-managed.
As for offering the “affected” associates an opportunity to transfer into other groups, White said, “We can do that a little bit at the junior levels — the first and second years — but, at the third, fourth and fifth years, lawyers aren’t fungible.”…
Markel said that the 96 associates who are laid off will receive severance pay through the end of the year.
Five months’ severance — is this accurate? If so, it’s definitely on the generous side. So look on the bright side, CWT associates: you’re getting almost half a year of paid vacation.
We’ll have more on the Cadwalader situation as it unfolds. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks. Update: More about the Cadwalader layoffs appears here. Cadwalader to Cut 96 Lawyers [WSJ Law Blog]
The New York-based law firm announced today that Robert O. Link, its longtime chairman and managing partner, would relinquish the position of chairman to W. Christopher White, effective March 1. Mr. Link will continue to serve as Cadwalader’s managing partner and remain a member of the firm’s six-partner management committee.
The firm minimizes the import of the change:
[Management committee member (and Cameron Diaz pal) Gregory] Markel said the elevation of Mr. White was “not in any way a criticism of Bob.” He said the firm would regard Messrs. White and Link as a team, with neither reporting to the other.
Additional discussion, which will probably interest only die-hard CWT groupies, after the jump.
Here’s an open thread request we’ve received from multiple sources. A representative message:
I’m trying to gather more info about firms / offices that pay NYC salary + NYC bonus in secondary markets. For example, I believe that Weil and Skadden both do in Dallas and Houston, but none of the other firms in Texas do. I don’t know if you’ve done a post about this before, but I think it might be interesting, because $205K goes really far in TX.
Skadden Wilmington is another possible example.
That’s correct about Skadden in Wilmington. Another well-paying secondary market: Charlotte. A CLT tipster tells us: “Mayer Brown, Dechert, Dewey, and Cadwalader have all increased salaries to $160K here in Charlotte.”
Hold on a sec — Cadwalader? Didn’t they just lay off 35 lawyers, including some in Charlotte?
Yes, they did — but they also raised salaries for the survivors. More after the jump.
We hear that Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is a tough place to work these days. Over the past few years, CTW’s profits per partner have skyrocketed — but such growth has come at a price.
Today the firm is much more of a business, and much less of a partnership. Collegiality is down, and billable hours — as well as associate dissatisfaction — are up.
But these aren’t the only problems plaguing Cadwalader. A source forwarded us an internal CWT email, with this introductory squib:
Just received this from a friend over there. As if the crushing leverage and abuse weren’t enough, CWT has BED BUGS….
Don’t believe us? The office-wide email, sent out about an hour and a half ago by firm chairman Robert O. Link Jr., appears after the jump.
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.
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