Alas, many at Howrey found Ruyak’s leadership to be less than inspiring. He was frequently cast as the villain in the demise of the firm, which he led for over a decade before its dissolution. As noted by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak was criticized “[i]n some corners of the blogosphere” for “not respond[ing] swiftly enough to declines in the firm’s productivity” and “not sufficiently shar[ing] management responsibilities with his fellow partners.” According to the American Lawyer, he caused the firm to overexpand, taking on too much risk — in the form of lateral partners and contingency cases, among other things — when it should have been buckling down for tough times ahead.
Today brings news that Robert Ruyak has found a new professional home. Where’s he going?
For some reason, something must end before we learn our lessons. That is precisely the reason that Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls attended her own funeral. She wanted to hear how much people appreciated her while she was still alive, correctly realizing that eulogies are much more valuable at a “funeral” where the individual is still alive to hear the nice things said about her.
This is also why every tech blogger and new source is discussing what we can learn from the retirement of Steve Jobs. My favorite “eulogy” is from a Wall Street Journal blog, The Juggle, recalling a commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005 about never settling. While I am pretty sure I did not listen to his advice, it is nevertheless sound. He said:
Heller Ehrman announced its dissolution in September of 2008. The firm was required to give employees 60 days paid notice under the WARN act, but they couldn’t even get that right. Many associates and staff had their pay terminated before their 60 days were up. And many more employees were not compensated for their unused vacation time and other expenses.
These people have had to wait in a long line to get their piece of the steaming Heller carcass.
But the wait is almost over, though the payout will be underwhelming. Take heed, Howrey folks. We could be looking at your future….
Although it officially passed away back in March, when its partners voted for dissolution, the law firm of Howrey LLP continues to twitch in its grave — or maybe even step out of its grave and walk around a bit, like a zombie from a horror flick.
Howrey continues to have a presence on Twitter, for example. A D.C.-based reader pointed out to us that the April 2011 issue of Washington Lawyer magazine contained a partnership announcement for the firm, on page 44: “Stephen D. Palley and Andrew R. Sommer have been named partner at Howrey LLP.” (Both landed on their feet: Palley is now a principal at Ober|Kaler, and Sommer is now of counsel at Winston & Strawn.)
And, strangely enough, Howrey is still seeking client engagements….
* The oldest continually operating law firm in Austin, Clark Thomas & Winters, has gone the way of Howrey. [Austin American Statesman]
* If you want to teach high schoolers about privacy, speak to them in a language they understand: embarrassment. [Kashmir Hill / Forbes]
* Can a U.S. state prohibit pre-viability abortions based on concerns about fetal pain? Professors Glenn Cohen and Sadath Sayeed, of Harvard Law and Harvard Medical Schools, respectively, tackle this question. [SSRN]
* Will Maryland be getting medical marijuana? [Underdog]
Although Howrey LLP officially dissolved as a partnership as of March 15, some operations continued beyond that date. But at the close of business today, the firm is going into a more complete shutdown, due to a withdrawal of bank financing.
“Last night, we received notice via email that Howrey is closing as of today, because CitiBank refuses to pay the payroll,” one source reported. “CitiBank has also refused to pay our PTO [paid time off], and our pension contributions.”
“Citibank has closed the door on Howrey operations today, more than a month before the May 9th date listed on WARN notices,” a second tipster confirmed. “No PTO, pensions will be paid out.”
UPDATE (6 PM): Citi takes issue with Howrey’s take on events. From a Citi spokesperson: “We are deeply disappointed in Howrey’s mischaracterization of the situation. Citi is not responsible for the employment practices of a client and has acted in a professional manner throughout this process.”
Tomorrow, March 15, the end will finally come for Howrey. Later this month, the law firm of David J. Stern, formerly known as Florida’s foreclosure king, will shut its doors.
This week, we’ve got another sizable law firm announcing its dissolution. Obviously not everybody is catching on to this economic recovery. While some firms are doling out the green, in the form of spring bonuses, other firms are handing out pink slips.
Today’s law firm obituary also comes from South Florida. Yes, we know, shocking that Florida is still suffering the effects of the recession. But there are another 280 people down there who will soon need to find new jobs….
* An interesting account, by former Dealbreaker editor (and Skadden lawyer) John Carney, of behind-the-scenes arguments between the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office over Rajat Gupta, pal of Raj Rajaratnam. [NetNet / CNBC]
* A legal loss for the Naked Cowboy — guess his briefs weren’t good enough. [Huffington Post]
Judge Jack Camp
* What should you do if you’re an associate who thinks your firm is going down, a la Howrey? Here are some practical tips. [Vault]
* By the time ex-Sidley associate Tyler Coulson completes his hike across America, “food will cost twice as much! Gasoline will be $5! Charlie Sheen will be running for office in California (and be elected)!” [Funny Business / CNBC]
* Ms. JD’s fourth annual conference on women in law is coming up next month. [Ms. JD]
The partners of the law firm of Howrey LLP, founded in 1956, have voted to dissolve the existing Howrey partnership. The dissolution will take effect on March 15, 2011, according to a press release that was issued earlier tonight by the firm.
The firm’s chairman and CEO, Robert Ruyak, has not been the most popular person during Howrey’s long and painful disintegration (which arguably started over a year ago, with some key partner defections). But few would disagree with the statements he made this evening.
“This is a very difficult time for our firm, for our attorneys and for our staff,” Ruyak said. “Many of us have spent our entire legal careers at Howrey and remain proud of what we built. We find some solace in the fact that our people have been so well received by their new firms. They are first class professionals and deserve the respect accorded to leaders in their fields.”
We extend our sympathies to everyone at Howrey who will be affected by the firm’s demise, and we wish them the best of luck as they search for new workplaces. Many superb lawyers and staff have worked at Howrey over the past 55 years, and as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many are being courted and welcomed by other law firms — a testament to their talents and abilities.
Additional commentary and links, as well as the full press release, appear below.
Yes. The voting started today at 11:30 AM (Eastern time) and remains underway, according to Am Law Daily. We will keep you posted, either by adding updates to this post or publishing a new post.
Meanwhile, the CEO (and poet laureate) of Howrey, Robert Ruyak, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about the apparent downfall of his firm. As summarized by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak blamed Howrey’s troubles on a combination of (1) experiments with contingency fees and alternative fee arrangements, (2) impatient and risk-averse partners, and (3) discovery vendors.
Are you finding it hard to keep track of where all the Howrey partners are ending up? Join the club. Luckily, there’s a new resource out there that can help….
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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