Here at Above the Law, we’re trying to help you. We write about lawyers who do embarrassing things so that you can learn from their examples. Heck, you should get ethics CLE credit for reading this site.
One of our most widely-used lessons — now part of new employee training at a Wall Street firm, in fact — is the cautionary tale of Acela Bob. Pillsbury Winthrop partner Robert Robbins conducted what should have been a confidential conversation about impending layoffs at his firm — in a loud voice, using his cellphone bluetooth, on a crowded Acela train. An ATL reader heard the whole thing and tipped us off; we wrote it up. Shortly thereafter, Pillsbury — which had not yet admitted to any layoffs — confessed that cuts were coming (and “apologize[d] for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public”).
Here’s one lawyer who apparently never heard about Acela Bob, or perhaps forgot the story: James J. Kirk (no relation to Captain James T. Kirk).
Time for a brief follow-up to our earlier post about Biglaw partner Robert Robbins, head of the corporate practice of Pillsbury Winthrop, and how he spoke — a little too loudly, on a crowded Acela train — about the firm’s planned layoffs. You may have already seen it in the comments, but in case it got lost in the shuffle, the firm has confirmed the gaffe (and the layoffs).
After getting its act together — the Pillsbury website was down for a while today, which some commenters attributed to web traffic resulting from the mini-scandal — the firm issued a statement to The Recorder (via Legal Pad):
It is an unfortunate fact in today’s economy that no business or law firm can rule out adjustments to their overall workforce levels. This includes Pillsbury, and, among other cost cutting measures, we will be implementing reductions to ensure that our resources are aligned with our business needs. We apologize for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public.
We reiterate our earlier advice: Pillsbury associates, start your engines laser printers, and crank out those résumés. It’s time to move on. Bob Robbins is coming for you.
We’ve collected selected links to coverage by other outlets — heck, it even made Gawker — of the “unfortunate” incident. Enjoy.
Law firm partners need to watch more Gossip Girl. If they did, they’d learn the perils of talking about private matters in public places. In the age of BlackBerrys, texting, and cameraphones, it’s ridiculously easy for tipsters to leak details of overheard conversations and not-so-secret rendezvous to their favorite online gossip girl (or boy — XOXO, Lat).
Last year, we wrote about a Thelen partner who was overheard discussing her firm’s layoffs on the subway. Last night, we received this information, from a law student traveling from D.C. to New York:
This afternoon I boarded a train from Washington bound for Penn Station…. I, along with all of the other passengers, were sitting quietly when the man directly behind me decided to make a phone call using his bluetooth. He was talking so loudly that I think most people in the car were able to hear him.
His conversation, though he stressed how necessary it was to be kept secret (ah, the irony), detailed the current plans of Pillsbury to lay off somewhere in the range of 15-20 attorneys from four offices by the end of March, including a few senior associates with low billable hours and two or three first-year associates. I wouldn’t have believed it except for the fact that he identified himself to the call as Bob Robbins, who I learned is the leader of the firm’s Corporate & Securities practice section, and was talking to Rick Donaldson, who I learned was COO. What’s more, he was NAMING NAMES over the phone!
After we expressed skepticism over this wild story, including the tipster’s ability to catch the names of both Robbins and Donaldson, we received this response:
I agree it’s pretty wild. I wasn’t trying to overhear, but I had no choice because of the proximity. The name “Robbins” I remembered because he said it so damn loud. I went to their website, and the picture [at right] was an exact match. He was big enough to fit almost two chairs.
“Donaldson” I didn’t remember as clearly. I remembered that it began with a “Do” and thought it was “Dotson,” but there was no “Dotson” on the site — just “Donaldson.” Also, he called him “Rick” a few times.
Says our source, in explaining the decision to tip off ATL:
Before today, I have never even considered posting on this website, but I was so mortified by my experience…. I’ve heard of attorneys being reprimanded for discussing client matters in an elevator. Where does airing your own firm’s dirty laundry on an express train fit on the list? I don’t know if there is a way that you can independently verify this, but if so, please do.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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