Ted Frank tweeted something brilliant at us this weekend. A law professor and blogger, Kyle Graham, was digging through documents at the Reagan Presidential Library. (Side note: if you’ve never been to a presidential library, go; all the ones I’ve been to are excellent.) Professor Graham came across a great find: the vetting form that O’Melveny & Myers chairman A.B. Culvahouse used to vet Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The document is fascinating. Vetting somebody for a lifetime appointment is serious business, but it’s hard to imagine having your private life invaded to this magnitude.
It’s particularly interesting in light of Chief Justice John Roberts’s vote in the Obamacare case. Lots of people have asked why conservatives seem to have problems nominating justices who will doggedly toe the ideological line. Perhaps some answers can be found in the vetting document?
Has OMM turned a corner under the new leadership? Butwin and the other new leaders at the firm have started implementing a new strategic vision for the firm, and thus far, things seem to be going well. The firm’s latest financial results were healthy, with the key metrics of profits per partner and revenue per lawyer hitting record highs in 2011 (reaching $1.73 million and $1.02 million, respectively).
What have these financial results meant for O’Melveny associates? The firm recently announced its 2011 bonuses….
Congratulations to Bradley Butwin, firm-wide chair of litigation at O’Melveny & Myers. The firm just announced that Butwin, a 51-year-old, New York-based partner, will take over from A.B. Culvahouse Jr. as chairman of the firm. The timing of the handover remains to be determined.
The news from earlier this week continues that trend. Allen & Overy is opening a second U.S. office with, you guessed it, O’Melveny partners (specifically, financial regulatory partners Barbara Stettner and Chris Salter, and counsel Charles Borden).
Up until now we’ve been reporting that there has at least been stability in OMM’s firm leadership. But that may no longer be the case. Today’s report suggests that firm chairman A.B. Culvahouse Jr. may be forced out sooner rather than later….
UPDATE (7/2/11): Additional comment from the firm, after the jump.
We have recentlycovered a number of notable partner departures from O’Melveny & Myers. While some of the losses were “not undesired,” as one source put it, others were bad news for OMM.
But, in fairness to the firm, there is good news coming out of O’Melveny these days as well. Let’s discuss some of it.
First, OMM has responded to some of the partner departures with fresh leadership. Firm chairman A.B. Culvahouse remains at the helm of the ship, but several practice groups now have new heads. As recently reported by Am Law Daily, Steven Tonsfeldt is the new leader of the M&A practice group, C. Brophy Christensen and Eric Reimer will take over the corporate finance/capital markets group, and Robert Rizzi will head the tax group. Congratulations to all of them on their new posts.
Second, OMM is busy — so busy that it is calling up some of its incoming associates and asking them to come in earlier. These associates were originally given start dates in December 2011 but are now wanted in the early fall.
(By the way, we are working on a story for next week about start dates at major law firms. Feel free to send us info about your firm if you have any.)
So what specific start dates are O’Melveny’s incoming associates being offered now, and how do they feel about the change?
Earlier this week, two more partners announced their imminent departures from OMM: Ilan Nissan, former firmwide co-chair of the firm’s M&A and private equity practice, and Christian Nugent, also an M&A partner. Like several of the other O’Melveny defectors, Nissan and Nugent arrived at OMM’s New York office via O’Sullivan Graev & Karabell, the highly regarded corporate boutique that O’Melveny absorbed in 2002, in an effort to build its NYC transactional practice.
Nissan and Nugent will be joining the New York office of Dewey & LeBoeuf. A spokesperson for Dewey confirmed the news to ATL. (A spokesperson for O’Melveny declined to comment.)
In addition, readers brought to our attention two O’Melveny partner departures from this year that didn’t appear in our earlier list. Let’s take a look….
Of course, partners come and partners go at large law firms — but some of these nine were major rainmakers and practice group heads. Paul Weiss snagged Gregory Ezring, who chaired O’Melveny’s corporate finance and capital markets practice, and Brad Okun, who headed O’Melveny’s tax practice. Meanwhile, Weil scored Harvey Eisenberg, a leading private-equity adviser, and M&A partner Douglas Ryder.
Could something more be going on at OMM?
“You guys are missing a huge story about O’Melveny,” a tipster recently told us. “In the last two years or so, around 60 partners have disappeared.”
“The pace is now quickening,” this source added. “Since January 1, around 10% of the OMM partners, including many practice group leaders and other key rainmakers, have departed.”
These numbers sound significant — but, in fairness to O’Melveny, they should be viewed in context. Let’s hear what the firm had to say about them….
A firm-wide email just went out announcing that 200 people would be let go. The cuts amount to about ten percent of attorneys and ten percent of staff:
It is against this backdrop that I am writing to inform you about some very difficult and unprecedented decisions we have made affecting lawyers and staff. We will be reducing approximately 90 legal and 110 staff positions from our Firm. The majority of the positions are in the US, with some in Asia and a smaller number in London. Altogether the reduction will impact roughly 10% of our lawyer workforce and roughly 10% of our staff workforce.
Is ten percent the magic number that firms are now trying to get rid of?
As we understand it, O’Melveny will be giving a three-month severance package. Latham wins the severance wars again. On the other hand, Latham laid off 440 people, which is just a little less than O’Melveny and Orrick combined.
While many of the O’Melveny people do not yet know if they will be part of the layoffs, the firm did send a message to all of its incoming summer associates. The future summers were informed of the bad news at the firm and told that summer program would be scaled back to a ten-week experience.
For those keeping score at home today, we’re looking at 60 people from Shearman & Sterling, 130 people from Dewey, and now 200 people from O’Melveny that are being let go today. Black Wednesday? Humped Day?
UPDATE (12:57): O’Melveny has released some additional news about its severance package to Above the Law. For some people, the package could be better than what is being offered by Latham. A firm spokesperson tells us:
Departing associates and counsel will receive a payment that is equal to 3 months as a minimum and 7 months as a maximum, based upon completed years of service, with two weeks for each full year of service, with no cap on the dollar amount. More importantly, our Firm provided meaningful bonuses in December of 2008, and significant salary increases in January of this year, which was not the case at all firms. We want to be fair and generous with those who remain, as well as those who depart.
These are both good points. As we’ve pointed out in the past, O’Melveny matched the Skadden bonus (except for NYC) for people who billed 1950 hours. And while Latham froze salaries, O’Melveny did not.
We’ll keep you posted. Read the full memo, after the jump.
Arthur Culvahouse, chairman of O’Melveny & Myers, was in charge of vetting Sarah Palin and has been taking some heat.
But Culvahouse has more to worry about than the National Enquirer. Culvahouse is locked in a high-stakes political battle to keep his chairmanship at O’Melveny. O’Melveny’s policy committee, which recommends the chairperson subject to ratification by the full partnership, failed to select a clear winner over the past few weeks.
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.
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…