Biglaw

If you’ve been thinking about having a family while working in Biglaw, most would have these words of wisdom for you: GFL. However, if you’ve decided to “pull the goalie,” then we’ve got some good news for you: at some firms, you can truly have it all.

The Yale Law Women are out with their annual list of the top ten family-friendly firms. We cover this list every year (click here for our posts in 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). This year’s list has changed dramatically from last year’s — only four firms have returned, with six new firms joining them.

But which firms made the cut? Which firms had the best options available to both men and women? Let’s take a look at the latest ranking for the most family-friendly firms….

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If you consider Sullivan & Cromwell’s Spring Tip as if it were a real tip on a meal that cost $160,000, S&C tipped at .6%. Not 6%, but .6%.

Cravath Swaine & Moore should be able to match that if every partner at the firm went home and shook the loose change out of their couches.

So, I’m not even going to ask if they’ll match. That’s a pathetic question. I’m going to ask if Cravath will beat the S&C spring bonus.

I mean, it’s not hard. S&C has set the bar so low that Cravath can crawl over it. For the love of God, I’ll get a better “spring bonus” from Breaking Media than S&C associates are getting.

If Cravath moves, we can assume S&C will follow….

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On Thursday morning, while talking to my therapist — no, not the People’s Therapist — I mentioned that I’ve been quite busy at work these days, covering the fast-moving story of a law firm implosion. I started to explain, but he interrupted.

“You mean Dewey?” he asked. “I know all about it. An old friend of mine is a partner there. He just asked me for a referral.”

Sign #1 that a law firm story has gone mainstream: your shrink knows about it. Sign #2: it’s getting covered by esteemed general-interest outlets like Slate and the Economist. (In Slate, Reynolds Holding argues that the experience of Ruden McClosky, the Florida firm that pulled off the bankruptcy-cum-merger maneuver last year, could provide helpful lessons for Dewey.)

Aside from a report that some partners want criminal charges brought against chairman Steven H. Davis, as noted in Morning Docket, things have been relatively quiet on the Dewey front over the past day or two. Perhaps too quiet, for some people….

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Yeardley Love

* Dewey get to see a member of this firm’s chairman’s office strut for a perp walk in the near future? After all, partners reportedly say that it’s thanks to him that D&L may close up shop “as early as next week.” [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* De-equitize this: Oh, how Biglaw firms in America wish that they could return to merry old England, where mandatory retirement policies for old fart partners are the norm, and the courts agree. [Legal Week]

* “We’re about to beat a dead horse here.” Even the judge presiding over the John Edwards trial got pissed when the defense repeatedly asked variations of the same question on cross-examination. [MSNBC]

* Ain’t no shame in his game (well, actually, there is). Judge Wade McCree’s lawyer says he’s sure the judge is sorry for his sext messaging. Yeah, sorry he got caught. [Detroit Free Press]

* Is this the first test of the “ministerial exception” in the Perich case? A teacher at a Catholic school was fired for getting in vitro fertilization treatments, and now she’s suing. [CNN]

* Insert your own UVA joke here, bro. Yeardley Love’s family has filed a $30M wrongful death suit against former college lacrosse player, George Huguely V. [Washington Examiner]

Lat here. In late March, I wrote a story with this title: “Sullivan & Cromwell Will Pay Spring Bonuses — But Will They Be Too Small To Be Worth Matching?”

I’m sad to report that my prediction has come to pass. Sullivan & Cromwell has announced spring bonuses, but they’re nothing to write home about. They are probably too modest for other firms to bother matching. The spring bonuses of Quinn Emanuel will surely exceed the S&C amounts.

Sullivan promised spring bonuses in its 2011 year-end bonus memo, and it reiterated that promise on subsequent occasions. But the powers that be at S&C never said anything as to amounts, leading some to forecast wimpy payouts.

So how much are we talking about? Let’s find out, and get some color commentary from my colleague, Elie Mystal….

UPDATE (4:20 PM): We’re continuing to update this post. Go after the jump and refresh.

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Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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In the nascent spirit of positivity around here, let’s take a look at where, according to our research, Biglaw’s happiest troopers can be found.

To be sure, lawyers are a notoriously depressive lot. Various studies — and presumably Will Meyerhofer — suggest that the characteristics that make a good lawyer actually correlate with clinical depression. Combine these alleged traits with crushing debt, an oversaturated job market, and an uncertain future, and the industry seems mired in malaise.

But what about those fortunate ones who’ve managed to snag a coveted Biglaw gig? Why, not only are they employed, but they have a realistic chance to pay off their loans. Are they any more upbeat than the industry’s rank-and-file? Our own survey data strongly suggests the answer is definitely maybe.

Respondents to our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey give their “firm morale” a mean rating of 6.81 out of 10. (By the way, if you haven’t yet, please take the survey here.) For context, lawyers rate morale a bit higher than “hours” (6.55) and bit lower than “training” (6.88). So, generally speaking, firm morale is not conspicuously singled out by lawyers as a negative.

But which are the happiest firms? And the unhappiest? Let’s have a look at the Biglaw shops getting top marks for esprit de corps….

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I gave my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law at Schnader Harrison’s annual retreat last Saturday and then had the opportunity to moderate a panel of six (counting me) in-house lawyers. Three of the gang were from QVC, one from Endo Pharmaceuticals, and one from the Graham Company. Being a rabble-rouser at heart, I started the discussion by posing the question that I often considered during my time as an outside lawyer: How can a law firm that wants new business displace a competent incumbent firm?

My co-panelists were quite good, but I must say that their natural instinct when confronted with this question was to evade. Each panelist started by saying something that was not quite responsive to the question. Only after some follow-up questions did our panel finally tell the audience how to displace a competent incumbent.

Let me start with the evasions, saving the real answers for the end . . .

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Matthew Powers: 'pimp hands' don't knot neckties.

The renowned IP litigator Matthew Powers, founding partner of Tensegrity Law Group, has a nickname here at Above the Law. We like to call him Matt “Pimp Hand” Powers. Back in 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Powers, former cochair of litigation at Weil, ruled over his domain by alternating between use of the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

Over the years, numerous litigants have felt the sting of Powers’s pimp hand. He has been described, quite accurately, as “one of the most feared, respected, and successful patent litigators in the country.” As noted on his website bio, Matt Powers “is known for taking tough cases to trial and winning them,” on behalf of leading technology companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and Intel.

But now the tables have turned. Powers recently found himself on the receiving end of a benchslap — from a lowly administrative law judge, ick….

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In August of 2009, while driving around Silicon Valley after speaking at Santa Clara Law, I saw an office park in East Palo Alto with a sign that jumped out at me. Being a Biglaw groupie, I stopped and snapped a picture:

I parked, got out of my rental car, and walked around. I was struck by the beauty of the overall office complex, with its expansive plaza, immaculate landscaping, and fountains. It was a veritable law firm Xanadu!

Or maybe an old Indian burial ground….

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(Plus more potential partner departures.)”

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