Superstar Supreme Court litigator Thomas Goldstein — who has argued 22 cases before the high court, racked up numerous honors from legal and general-interest publications, and, most importantly, served as a judge of ATL Idol — is leaving Akin Gump. Goldstein has led the powerhouse firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice and serves as presiding co-leader of the firm’s litigation management committee. He arrived at Akin four and a half years ago, back in May 2006, to much fanfare.
Why is Tom Goldstein leaving Akin Gump? And where is he headed?
Pennsylvania legal circles are buzzing over a discriminationlawsuit filed yesterday in federal district court by a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Reed Smith. One source who informed us of the suit referred to “some really interesting allegations” against the firm.
A corporate and energy law partner at Reed Smith, JoEllen Lyons Dillon, alleges that her firm pays and promotes women less than men. Yawn; that’s definitely not “really interesting.” While unfortunate — or even outrage-inducing — if true, one could say the same thing about dozens, if not hundreds, of large law firms.
Far more interesting is Dillon’s claim that “work was diverted … to female attorneys who were willing to engage in sexual relations with members of [Reed Smith] management or with whom members of [Reed Smith] management had sought to engage in such relations.” Dillon alleges that because she “did not engage in such relations,” she was professionally penalized.
Dillon decided instead to have “relations” with her husband, resulting in the birth of twins. After she took time off to take care of the two tots, “her total compensation decreased, by almost half,” according to the complaint. Dillon claims that when she objected to this pay cut, partner David DeNinno, former chair of the Business & Finance Department at RS, asked if she was “done having babies yet.”
That’s just for starters. Dillon claims to have more dirt on her firm….
Given all that bad news, let’s focus on something positive (it is the holiday season, after all). Akin Gump has announced associate bonuses, and the firm is matching the Cravath structure, at least in New York. That makes sense: Akin Gump partners are meeting the minimum standard of bonus payout, while Akin Gump associates are putting forth minimal effort towards updating their time entries. What’s fair is fair.
What’s potentially not fair is the timing of the bonus payments. Akin Gump associates will have to wait until 2011 to actually collect their 2010 bonuses….
Nothing says “Biglaw” quite like an old-fashioned partner threat. Biglaw partners, a self-important bunch if there ever was one, generally do little to mask their huge egos. But when those egos express themselves in the form of threats against underlings, well, that’s when you learn why people get paid $160,000 right out of school.
You see, in most situations you just can’t treat highly educated people like naughty schoolchildren and expect them to take it. Not if you are paying them $50,000 a year for some average, middle-class lifestyle. They’ll quit. They’ll tell you to take your BS job and shove it down your condescending throat. But when you pay people $160,000 (or more), then you can talk to them however you please. They’ll take it (and apparently thank you for it). Biglaw partners know that their associates are being paid more money than they can make nearly anywhere else, and so they have little incentive to consider how they speak to their associate colleagues.
Now most partners threaten or belittle people on an individual, face-to-face basis. But sometimes these communications are disseminated to a broader group, and on the rarest of occasions these partner meltdowns are captured over email and sent to Above the Law. And those are the best.
Well, that was fast. Last week we learned of preliminary merger discussions taking place between Akin Gump and Orrick. But this morning, spokespersons for each firm released the following joint statement (which differed only in which firm’s name came first):
[The firms] have mutually agreed to conclude preliminary discussions regarding the possibility of a merger. The firms appreciated the opportunity to have the discussions, which confirmed their mutual respect for one another. However, the firms have determined not to proceed.
For an assessment of the pros and cons of an Akin / Orrick union, see here.
Yesterday we discussed the merger talks that are currently taking place between Akin Gump and Orrick. We solicited your views on a possible combination, and we received some interesting feedback (in the comments and by other means).
Let’s start with the happy stuff. Here are some positive takes on an Orrick / Akin merger, from the comments (yes, positivity in the comments — it happens):
“I have been at both firms and I believe it would be a good fit both geographically and practice-wise. Orrick is almost all about finance, and finance is one key area that Akin lacks real depth.” [FN1]
“#1 Vacuum company in America + #1 brand of cocktail shrimp = unstoppable legal force.”
But it’s not all vacuums and cocktail shrimp, sunshine and puppies. Insiders with knowledge of both firms also identified downsides to a possible Orrick / Akin merger….
Last week we started to hear rumors of a possible merger between Akin Gump and Orrick. One tipster offered this unenthusiastic take: “Suddenly, the firm that is known for professionalism and California-style collegiality courts the firm whose softball team is named ‘The Cheatahs?’”
Meow! Well, it appears that the rumors are true. Spokespersons for each firm just confirmed to Am Law Daily and the WSJ Law Blog that Orrick and Akin are in “preliminary,” “exploratory” discussions about a merger.
Back in June, we wrote about the fabulous Chelsea apartment snapped up by prominent Republican lawyer Ken Mehlman. Although his résumé is strewn with achievements — he’s a 1991 graduate of Harvard Law School (just like President Obama), a former partner at Akin Gump, and a current executive vice-president at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (ka-ching!) — Mehlman is most well-known as former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Because Mehlman settled in Chelsea — and took up residence in the Chelsea Mercantile building, home to such A-list gays as Marc Jacobs and Lance Bass — we couldn’t resist a little innuendo. Despite his status as a leading official of the Republican Party, which hasn’t always been down with the gays, Mehlman has long been dogged by rumors that he is a homosexual.
Now we don’t have to worry about Mehlman suing us for defamation — and litigating the interesting issue of whether calling someone a big old nelly queen constitutes defamation per se in New York. Mehlman just publicly admitted that he’s gay, in an interview with Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic. (The publication of the interview may have been accelerated, thanks to a nudge from Mike Rogers of BlogActive.)
Let’s take a closer look at the pink elephant in the room….
We’ve gotten away from plowing through the latest Vault Rankings, but fear not. Your firm is coming up soon.
We’ve been through the top 30 firms. But now we’re getting into a group of firms that really utilized the cost-cutting measures of salary cuts and layoffs to weather the recession of 2009. Did these guys take a big prestige hit? Not really. Here’s the next batch of firms:
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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.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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