Bingham McCutchen

Edward De Sear

Last summer, we brought you news about Saddle River, New Jersey, the beautiful town where my colleague David Lat spent his childhood (I grew up just one town over, in Upper Saddle River). But like every charming suburb, Saddle River apparently has a dark underbelly.

In July of last year, we discovered that Edward De Sear, a 64-year-old man who was an Allen & Overy partner at the time, had been arrested at his home and charged with distributing child pornography. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

De Sear was released on a $250,000 bond with electronic monitoring and never entered a plea. But it looks like the FBI was able to dig up some more information on his alleged pervy sexual preferences, because the ex-A&O partner was rearrested yesterday on eight additional kiddie porn charges.

Let’s learn more about the allegations against Ed De Sear, including details on where he supposedly viewed and trafficked child pornography….

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Since I began writing this column, I have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. After speaking with so many small-firm attorneys who talk excitedly about the challenges and rewards of owning their own businesses, I have toyed with the idea of doing the same. Because of my love-hate relationship with the practice of law, however, I have been trying to come up with other small business ideas. My latest brilliant business venture is a summer camp for unemployed people. Unfortunately, my dreams were dashed when a friend pointed out that my business was destined to fail because my target market had no money to spend on, well, anything. Boo.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with two attorneys who have identified a way to take advantage of the bad economy in a way that, unlike my plan, made financial sense. The idea is simple: offer in-house counsel seeking to reduce their legal fees reduced legal fees for the same high quality work. Yet another idea I wished I had come up with (note: I firmly believe that I created Pinterest because I started clipping stuff out of magazines in 1992)….

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Law firm financials can be shrouded in mystery. Sure, the American Lawyer releases its closely watched and highly influential Am Law 100 rankings each year, which shed some light on the subject. But these numbers are not Gospel truth, and sometimes they get restated — which is what happened last month to Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Making a material misrepresentation to the American Lawyer doesn’t violate the securities laws. Making a material misrepresentation in connection with the purchase or sale of any security — well, that’s more problematic.

Let’s take a closer look at a subject we mentioned last night and again this morning, namely, the offering memorandum for Dewey’s 2010 private placement of $125 million in bonds….

Note: we’ve added UPDATES, after the jump.

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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.)”

Billable-hour requirements are generally like the price of gas: they just keep going up. A law professor might compare it to a one-way ratchet. As law firms try to increase their profitability — by doing more work with less manpower, thanks to recessionary layoffs that haven’t been completely reversed — they ask more and more of their lawyers. Right?

Well, not necessarily. One Biglaw firm recently lowered its hours requirement — and instituted some other perks worth noting.

Might other firms follow suit? Perhaps yours?

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We’re getting the sense, based on anecdotal evidence showing up in our inbox, that law firms are quietly making cuts to the ranks of attorneys and staff. They’re doing so somewhat stealthily, however — in dribs and drabs, spread out over decent stretches of time, often invoking performance reasons. So we’re having a hard time obtaining enough information on any one firm to issue a report.

We need your help in keeping law firms honest. If you have layoff news to report, please send it our way, by email or by text message (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS). As you’ve probably already noticed, we do not name our sources.

One firm that’s being commendably upfront about its reductions is Bingham McCutchen. This afternoon, the firm announced some staff layoffs….

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been receiving interesting reports about Dewey & LeBoeuf. They were nothing but vague rumblings for a while, but they’ve now reached the point where we have enough to write about.

So let’s check in and ask: How do things stand at this major, top-tier law firm? In other words, “Where’s LeBoeuf?”

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Congratulations to Bingham McCutchen, which recently earned a spot on Fortune’s best companies to work for — for the eighth year in a row. And congratulations to Bingham’s nine new partners. It’s a very international group: these seven men and two women work out of London (3), New York (3), Hong Kong (1), Boston (1), and Hartford (1).

And congratulations to high-billing associates at Bingham. They were rewarded with “extraordinary” bonuses, as set forth in the firm’s bonus memo….

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Each year in January, Fortune releases its list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. As in years past, a few law firms have managed to sneak their way onto a list that includes companies like Google, DreamWorks Animation, and Goldman Sachs. With companies like that on the list, you’ve got to wonder (Elie did last year) — do the people at Fortune who make this list have any idea what they’re talking about?

We cover this list every year (click here for our posts in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007). Like last year, only four firms made the list for 2012.

But which four firms? Which four firms had pay that was high enough, perks that were good enough, and environments that were nurturing enough to make the cut?

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A 'best place to work': outside, when the weather's nice.

Since 2008, Crain’s has been producing a list of the 50 Best Places to Work in New York City. Each year, a few law firms manage to sneak their way onto the list, much like what we’ve seen thus far with Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

This year, seven law firms made Crain’s list, and as we told you back in January, only four made Fortune’s. Three firms are new to Crain’s list, while the other four moved up or down in the rankings. Just two of those firms overlap between Crain’s and Fortune’s lists.

It appears that congratulations and condolences are both in order. So, which law firms are considered the cream of the crop in New York City?

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