Bingham McCutchen

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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Sleeping Beauty: Not on the fast track to partnership.

I’m a big believer in forcing society to make reasonable accommodations for disabled people. It’s not too much to ask that disabled people be provided with handicapped accessible taxi cabs and buildings. And a special parking spot. Or whatever. If there’s a reasonable thing that society can do to make it a little bit easier to function with a disability, we should do it.

As long as we’re dealing with a real disability.

We used to live in a world where it was pretty easy to identify a disabled person. “Hello. Hello? Oh, you must be deaf.” “Hey, why are a you miserable cuss who keeps screaming ‘hoo ha’ at me? Oh, you must be blind.” “Why did you take out a hundred thousand dollar loan to go to a school that doesn’t help people get high-paying jobs? Oh, you must be retarded.” Man, those were the days.

Sadly, we now live in a world where it’s harder and harder to separate out the really disabled people from those who just can’t get their stuff together. To cope, I’ve developed my own little test: if I wouldn’t want the disability, it’s a real disability. If I’d gladly take the “disability” in exchange for a cash payout, it’s probably fake.

So let me ask you this: would you take a cash payout from your Biglaw firm if I afflict you with the dreaded “I’m really sleepy” disability? Yeah, this woman would too….

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