If you think that making partner is like winning the Biglaw race, you haven’t actually been paying attention to what’s been happening to partners over the past few years. Sure, Biglaw partnerships overall are enjoying higher profits now than they were during the darkest days of the recession (while associate salaries remain stagnant, of course). But average “profits per partner” numbers can be misleading.
Steven Harper, the former Kirkland & Ellis partner turned law professor, writes that the income gap between the top earning partners and everybody else is “exploding.” It’s never been more lucrative to have a nice book of business.
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]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
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