DLA Piper

As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.

Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?

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Nobody puts DLA Piper in a corner. It’s the world’s new highest-grossing law firm, after all.

Were DLA Piper’s revenues enhanced by alleged overbilling of clients? A former client made that claim in a lawsuit, which the parties ultimately settled (but not before some bad PR for DLA).

Now one of the lawyers who was a thorn in DLA’s side finds himself in a prickly situation of his own. He’s up against the Biglaw behemoth yet again, pursuing a high-profile case that a judge just described as “reek[ing] of fraud and malfeasance”….

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For the past three years, Baker & McKenzie has taken the top spot in the American Lawyer’s Global 100, the magazine’s ranking of the 100 highest-grossing law firms in the world. With 74 offices in 46 counties, the firm has a presence in almost as many countries as Starbucks (which is in 50 different countries around the globe).

Baker saw its financial metrics rise like bread in the last fiscal year. Gross revenue grew by 4.6 percent to $2.42 billion; net income rose by an even larger amount, 9.1 percent, to $862 million; and profits per equity partner increased by 10.1 percent, hitting $1.2 million.

But this strong performance wasn’t enough to keep Baker at #1. Who is the new top dog?

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* After three years on top, Baker & McKenzie has lost its place as the top grossing firm in the Global 100. But which firm dethroned the once king? None other than… [Am Law Daily]

* Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, and yet some of the things he sought to change still remain the same in 2013. [Washington Post]

* The house always wins: Navin Kumar Aggarwal, the ex-K&L Gates partner who stole client funds to pay gambling debts, was jailed after receiving a 12-year sentence. [Am Law Daily]

* “This is like a triple-overtime win.” Merrill Lynch is making a huge $160 million payout in a racial bias case that’s been stuck in the courts for nearly a decade. Congrats, plaintiffs! [DealBook / New York Times]

* As eager young law students return to school, maybe it’s time for you to consider brushing up on the basics. Now is an excellent time to take care of those pesky CLE requirements. [Corporate Counsel]

* Husch Blackwell is teaming up with WUSTL Law to launch a training program for… partners. Take this for what is is, law students: a great opportunity to résumé bomb the hell out of them. [National Law Journal]

* Career alternatives for attorneys: judicial drug mule. Following an investigation by the DEA, a former Utah judge pleaded guilty to the possession of enough Oxycodone to kill a small horse. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* Don’t even think about texting anyone, ever again, in the state of New Jersey, especially if they might be driving, because the appeals court says you could be held liable for negligence. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild has been sentenced to 270 days in jail and three years’ probation after being convicted of assault and false imprisonment by a jury of “stupid, stupid idiots.” [Los Angeles Times]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

From Q3 2012 through Q2 2013, we have seen approximately 7,500 lateral moves at the top 200 law firms. Approximately 4,500 (60%) were associates; 1,900 (25%) were partners; and perhaps most surprisingly, 1,100 (15%) of the lateral movement consisted of “counsel” or “of counsel” positions.

To clarify, some firms promote their senior associates to a “counsel” position based on seniority, but even excluding this pool of associates, that still leaves a significant number of counsel-level laterals finding opportunities within new law firms. From April 2012 to the end of the second quarter this year, Gordon & Rees had the largest number of lateral counsel transitions, with 34 (in large part due to the fact they opened seven offices in 2012 alone). Seyfarth Shaw, Greenberg Traurig, and Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker followed closely with 26, 23, and 22 counsel placements, respectively. Notably, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had 11 counsel transitions in that same timeframe, 8 of them from a group of more than 15 Skadden Arps product liability attorneys who followed colleagues Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo, two heavyweights in the product liability world….

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You’d be jumping for joy if you landed an offer from a top law firm.

It’s harder to be a partner in Biglaw today, both in terms of making partner and remaining a partner. You can no longer just coast along after making partner; you need to prove yourself and your value to the firm, year after year. That’s a change from past practice (and people can argue when exactly the change took place).

But some things in Biglaw haven’t changed. The practice of being generous with offers to summer associates — too generous, some might argue — is alive and well. Summer programs are smaller today than they were before the Great Recession, but offer rates remain robust.

Following up on Monday’s story, here are more firms that have given offers to all of their summers:

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Last year, we covered the mystery departure of Lee Smolen — the prominent real estate lawyer, not the famed theoretical physicist — from Sidley Austin. It may have been related to the ethics charges filed against Smolen, accusing him of conversion and breach of fiduciary duty through alleged filing of false expense claims.

Amazingly enough, Smolen got picked up as a partner by DLA Piper. The firm admitted that it “was aware of this matter during the hiring process.”

In order to deliver to DLA’s bottom line, Smolen will need to avoid suspension or disbarment. So he has filed a response to the Illinois ethics charges against him. What does Smolen have to say for himself, and is it persuasive?

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* J. Lo has apologized for singing Happy Birthday to a repressive dictator. Many are questioning the decision to serenade an alleged violator of international human rights law, but I’m just confused why J. Lo didn’t opt for the new, copyright-free birthday song? But people are being way too tough on the President of Turkmenistan. Don’t be fooled by the rocks that he got, he’s still Gurbanguly from the block. [Breaking Energy]

* NYU Law Professor Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick wonder if the progressives have another liberal agenda item to push after marriage equality. The authors cite issues like voting rights and opposition to the death penalty as traditionally liberal causes marginalized by progressives. It strikes me this article makes a lot more sense if you replace the word “progressive” with “Justice Kennedy.” [Slate]

* DLA Piper’s decision to hire Lee Smolen has raised more than a few eyebrows given the firm’s commitment to ethical billing policies. [Hellerman Baretz]

* Did the ABA just recommend an ethical violation? [New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog]

* After a week of landmark rulings and Biglaw layoffs, the importance of clerking cannot be understated. [Judicial Clerk Review]

* The Supreme Court Term feels like a distant memory, but now’s a good time to look back on it with added perspective. Courtesy of MoloLamken, here’s a great guide to the big business cases of the Supreme Court Term just ended. Download or print it, then read it at your leisure. [MoloLamken]

* An attorney left the rat race to open a pea company. But these don’t look like the peas you tried to hide under your mashed potatoes, they look like serious snack food. [Kickstarter]

Last September, we wrote about the mysterious departure of Lee Smolen from Sidley Austin. Smolen, former head of Sidley’s real estate practice in Chicago and a member of the firm’s executive committee, departed without comment or a known destination. When that happens, something interesting is usually afoot.

Earlier this month, the other white shoe dropped. A lawyer ethics commission in Illinois leveled charges against Smolen arising out of his time at Sidley.

What has he been accused of? And what does his new law firm have to say about it?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Next in our series on a taxonomy of law firms are the capital-markets centric firms.

If you think this moniker roughly translates to the classic New York white shoe elite, move to the head of the class.

But, as much in our world at the start of the 21st Century, it’s not exactly that simple. Here’s what’s different about these firms.

First, recall that we’ve hypothesized seven primary species…

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