A.B. Culvahouse

The vetting of a Supreme Court Justice

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “So You Want To Be A Supreme Court Justice? Don’t Sniff Glue.”

There were a few rough patches last year for O’Melveny & Myers. The elite firm, founded in California but now international in its coverage, experienced a significant number of partner departures. It conducted some staff layoffs. And there was turnover at the top, with New York litigator Bradley Butwin picked to replace D.C. power broker A.B. Culvahouse as chair of the firm (ending Culvahouse’s leadership term about a year early.)

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….

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(And other OMM developments.)

The big news this morning is bad news for the staff at O’Melveny & Myers. News started leaking out last night that the firm would be laying off 75 support staff members.

The firm has confirmed the news that was first published in The Recorder.

Approximately half the of the laid-off O’Melveny staffers will be cut outright. The other half will have the opportunity to be relocated to scenic West Virginia….

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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.

We previously covered the leadership transition process at OMM. At the time, word on the street was that five candidates were vying for Culvahouse’s position as chair.

In the end, it came down to three partners. Let’s learn about the contenders, and see what else is going on at O’Melveny….

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It is getting hard to sugarcoat the situation at O’Melveny & Myers. We have been covering their extensive partner departures over the last few weeks.

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.

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We have recently covered 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?

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We recently reported that at least 22 partners have left O’Melveny & Myers in 2011 thus far. That number continues to grow.

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….

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Dewey get more talent? Yes.

Last month, we broke the news of seven key corporate partners leaving O’Melveny & Myers to join Paul Weiss. Shortly thereafter, we learned that two other prominent partners were leaving O’Melveny to join Weil Gotshal.

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….

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omelveny logo.JPGFirst Latham, then Orrick, now O’Melveny.

Yesterday, we mentioned that layoffs could be coming to O’Melveny & Myers. Today, the rains came.

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.

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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.

So now the sharks are circling….

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