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.
Above the Law has launched a brand new eDiscovery Resource Center in partnership with Recommind. Stay on top of the ever-changing eDiscovery and predictive coding landscape with our practical tips, insightful white papers, and webinars.
The past few months have been a blur as I have traveled the country visiting law firms. With summer winding down (as well as ILTA14 now in the rearview mirror), it seemed like a good time to see what lessons could be distilled from firms that are having real success in discovery practice.
1. Focus on finding what matters
Despite all of the articles lamenting the rapid growth in data volumes, litigation is still won and lost with a handful of witnesses and a few dozen documents. Regarding this issue, the head of litigation for an AmLaw 50 firm shared with me that for him litigation was still about the binder of documents he was glad he had found and the binder of documents he wished he hadn’t found. Discovery solutions, he explained, that didn’t address those needs were missing the mark. Given the strength of this lesson, I incorporated it into my discussions with other lawyers over the past few months and found that it resonated with litigators, especially those who practice outside of the eDiscovery bubble (in other words 99% of the litigators I interact with on a routine basis).
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for Asia focused projects and client meetings for the next 4 weeks, through December 15. Feel free to reach out to him at Evan@Kinneyrecruiting.com if you would like to schedule a meeting, to discuss the market and your career. Starting in January, Evan will be mostly splitting time between New York and Hong Kong.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The “New Normal” is no longer new. On Thursday, November 20th, from 6 to 9 p.m., join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer, and Joe Borstein of Pangea3 for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model.
Please sign up below to RSVP. We look forward to seeing you there.