Debevoise & Plimpton

It looks like a silly marginal tax increase on the personal incomes of the top 2 percent is the last thing the barons of Wall Street need to worry about. President Obama is sending a new sheriff into the regulatory fray.

Dealbook reports that Obama will nominate former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sending in White to the SEC is a little bit like calling the Wolf to drive home your blood-soaked vehicle. It’s a bold move for an agency that is often overwhelmed by the impressive lawyers marshaled on behalf of the financial industry in defense of their most complex transactions.

Unlike Elizabeth Warren (bless her heart), Mary Jo White is no academic, she’s a hard-nosed litigator. And she might be exactly what the SEC needs…

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The dominoes continue to fall. This morning brings word of two additional firms matching the pleasant (but not spectacular) Cravath bonus scale. The firms in question: Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and Debevoise & Plimpton.

The bonus numbers aren’t a surprise, but we can make a few comments about the timing (of the announcements and of the payments), share some tipster reactions, and show you the memos.

Let’s take a look….

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‘Standing with your arms folded is underrated.’

Hot air balloons, Ice Cube, new socks, Ray Guy, Uzbek food, Kevin Bacon, plus-size models, Pittsburgh… what do the items on this random list have in common? In some nook or cranny of the internet, someone is making the claim that they are “underrated.”

Apparently also underrated? The corporate group at Cahill Gordon, according to the ATL audience. Cahill received the most mentions as having an “underrated” corporate group in our ATL Insider Survey. Biglaw has a fairly stable roster of alpha dogs in each practice category (Weil in bankruptcy, Wachtell in M&A, etc.), but we wondered which firms’ practice groups deserve more recognition. So, among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.

Read on and have a look at the top three underrated firms in each practice area:

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American Airlines: something bankrupt in the air.

Complaining about air travel has become a cliché — but it’s still fun. The other night, while flying out to San Francisco for an event I’m doing on Monday (to which you’re invited), I was delayed by two and a half hours — due to a plane turned “biohazard.”

My experience — with United Airlines, which I generally like — pales in comparison to what the novelist Gary Shteyngart experienced recently with American Airlines. He wrote about in a New York Times piece that’s horrifying and hilarious.

But some folks have much warmer feelings for AA — namely, the lawyers and law firms that are making millions from the American Airlines bankruptcy case. Let’s find out how much they are seeking in fees….

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Maybe they’re on to something….

Here’s an interesting irony: some of the Biglaw firms that spend the least amount of time thinking about money are the ones that enjoy the most of it. A number of super-elite New York law firms have lockstep compensation systems, in which partners are paid purely based on seniority, and these firms are among the most profitable in the country. These firms focus on doing great work for their clients, not on divvying up the spoils from such work — and, in the end, there’s more than enough filthy lucre to keep everyone smelling like money.

On an individual level, some of the wealthiest lawyers in Biglaw — the ones who make partner, and remain partner, for years and years — don’t fixate much on money either. They focus instead on their work, which they seem to just love (often more than any hobbies, and sometimes more than their families). As for the money, well, it just comes — in copious quantities.

Let’s take a closer look at these phenomena….

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Who wants to do some document review?

We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.

One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.

So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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A lot of legal work is decidedly uncool. Sadly, there’s just not much sexiness in talking about your latest corporate bankruptcy case or major document review project.

But there are exceptions. Case in point: entertainment lawyers. How sweet would it be to represent celebrities? (Except if you had to work for train wrecks veteran rock stars like Courtney Love).

So, that being said, let’s take a look at the Hollywood Reporter’s newly released Power Lawyers 2012 list, which rounds up the top 100 entertainment attorneys in America.

Maybe you know someone on the list?

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If you want 'real,' then watch the Wire. If you want a television 'show,' watch this guy.

I plainly have a crush on lawyers, and because being one is hard, I decided to write about them instead.

– Aaron Sorkin, speaking to summer associates at Debevoise and Plimpton.

Sorkin has a long standing “crush” on Debevoise. On The West Wing, Josh Lyman’s father, Noah Lyman, was said to be a partner there, and Joe Quincy (played by Matthew Perry) was said to have an offer waiting for him at Debevoise. Sorkin is an old friend of Debevoise partner Steve Hertz.

(After the jump, we’ve got pictures of Sorkin sitting with the Debevoise summer associates.)

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* Who needs a Declaration of Internet Freedom when the government supports protesting citizens who go buckwild in the streets? The European Union voted against ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. [Associated Press]

* Kenneth Schneider, the former Debevoise & Plimpton associate serving a 15-year sentence for forcing a Russian teenager to be his sex slave, was suspended from practice pending further disciplinary proceedings. [New York Law Journal]

* Glenn Mulcaire, the investigator who intercepted voicemail messages on behalf of News of the World, lost a bid to remain silent about who commissioned his services. Rupert’s gonna be sooo pissed. [New York Times]

* Congratulations to the team from the University of Chicago Law School that won the United States Supreme Court Prediction Competition. They won $5K for betting on their Con Law nerd-dom. [SCOTUS Competition]

* Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. is expected to rule on George Zimmerman’s motion for bond today, and perhaps he won’t be so quick to forget that the defendant already lied to the court to get out of jail. [Orlando Sentinel]

* “You can’t just arbitrarily add anything you want to a sentence.” Well, it looks like you can, because in addition to jail time, a judge in South Carolina tacked on a Biblical book report to this woman’s sentence. [Daily Mail]

I used to work at Debevoise & Plimpton. Before I interviewed with them, I learned that the firm was called Debevoise (rhymes with “noise”) and not Debevoise (rhymes with voire “boudoir”).

Not everybody who showed for interviews had that level of commitment. How embarrassing for them. At Debevoise, they’re a little touchy about the proper pronunciation of the firm’s name — and not just with potential recruits. Do you know how stupid you sound when you are sitting with a bunch of Biglaw New York lawyers and your roll out with “Debevoir” or “Curtis Mallet” (as in hammer)? You sound like an idiot. People will make fun of you when you go to the bathroom. I once heard a person pronounce Cravath like “cravat,” and it was so jarring that I swear that’s the only thing I remember about the person. If I saw him again, our mutual friend would have to pull me aside and say, “That’s the ‘cravat’ guy.”

There are services out there to help you avoid these embarrassing mistakes. You should put in a little bit of time before you head to New York, or D.C., or L.A., or anywhere where top lawyers are likely to be….

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