Potentially landscape-altering deals don’t come along every day, and a deal that would merge a 1,000-lawyer firm with a 700-lawyer firm would be exactly that. And it’s not just headcount — the marriage of these two firms would have placed the joint entity at No. 9 in revenue for 2012.
But just because two firms are talking merger doesn’t mean it’ll happen. We’ve been let down before.
Indeed, we’ve been let down by one of these firms before. Way back in February, we reported that Pillsbury Winthrop was talking with Fulbright & Jaworski about a merger. Nothing ever came of that, but members of the management at Pillsbury are still on the prowl for a big, strong firm to sweep them off their feet. It’s all very romantic.
And now they just might have found the partner they’ve been looking for….
Today, we turn toward Texas. Texas is beloved here at ATL as an apparently bottomless source of colorful legal news. The state is a frequent battleground for high profileconstitutional fights while also generating a steady stream of tabloid fodder, from “judges behaving badly” to “tragic homicidal mayhem.” (Of course, there’s also the running joke among the ATL commentariat that, for what a New York Biglaw associate pays for his cramped studio apartment, one can buy a 3,500-square-foot wife house in Texas.)
But of course this is a limited, distorted view of the legal industry in Texas. Texas is a huge, diverse state with a relatively strong economy and a unique legal culture. Biglaw firms thrive in all three major cities, both local outposts of national firms, or more significantly, Texas-bred firms such as Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins. Our ATL Insider Survey (13,000+ responses and going strong, thanks), asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Texas stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…
Back in December, we told you about a football coach who had recently been fired from his position as a cornerbacks coach for West Virginia University. Back in 2010, we told you about this same football coach, because he’d recently been picked up to work for the Detroit Lions. There’s a reason we keep telling you about this football coach: it’s because he gave up what could have been a prosperous Biglaw career after graduating from Harvard Law School to work for free to pursue his dreams on the field.
Here at Above the Law, we’ve been writing about the “Biglaw boys’ club” for quite some time. According to the latest report compiled by the National Association of Women Lawyers, when it comes to firm life in the fast lane, women continue to have difficulty ascending to the ranks of firm leadership. In fact, that study concluded that in the Am Law 200, women hold only 20 percent of the positions on firm governance committees. What’s worse is that only four percent of Am Law 200 firms have a firmwide managing partner who’s a woman. So much for girl power.
But when it comes to Am Law 100 firms, the American Lawyer recently conducted a similar study, and the results were less than awe-inspiring — in their discussion of the results, the editorial staff go so far as to refer to it as “the law of small numbers.” Lovely. Apparently the glass ceiling is still strong in Biglaw.
So what does the leadership hierarchy look like for women in the Am Law 100? Let’s find out….
Law firm mergers seem to be popping up as frequently as, well, problematic emails between married generals and their gal pals. Just a week after SNR Denton’s three-way merger with international firm Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain, we’re learning of another law firm combination with Canadian and European elements.
The law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski is a leader in many fields — at least 31 of them, according to the latest Chambers rankings. In addition to recognizing Fulbright as a leading firm in 31 categories, the influential Chambers guide also named 99 Fulbright lawyers as leading individuals in their practice areas.
Occasionally we have an opportunity to look at how soft law school has become. Gone are the trials by fire immortalized in the book One L. Now it seems that law schools are taking their teaching cues from Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore.
At the University of Texas School of Law, they’ve divided their classes into “societies” that compete against each other in games, wear special uniforms, have dedicated house mentors, and employ special Care Bears who hug people when they get back from the library. Okay, one of those things isn’t true.
What would a combined firm look like? Fulbright has approximately 900 lawyers, while Pillsbury has a little under 700 lawyers. If the rumors are true, then we could be looking at a gigantic, global mega-firm — a veritable army of lawyers marching at roughly 1,600 strong.
But what stage are the firms’ merger discussions in? Is this a sure thing?
“Oh, What a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive,” said Judge Guy Anthony, quoting Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion, as he sentenced British Biglaw attorney Francis Bridgeman to 12 months in prison on Friday. The former Allen & Overy (A&O) and Macfarlanes partner, who had already had his membership of the latter firm’s limited liability partnership terminated, then collapsed in the dock.
Until recently, Bridgeman, 43, was just another hotshot Biglaw equity partner enjoying a millionaire’s life-style. Educated at Oxford University, he joined Magic Circle firm A&O in the early 1990s and rose through the ranks so quickly that he made partner in 2000, aged just 32. Having got married, he bought a big house in the countryside outside London and became a governor at a local school. Three years ago, he capitalised on his success by moving to boutique financial law firm Macfarlanes, where profit per equity partner is still high for U.K. standards (last year it came in at £752,000) but the hours and stress are generally considered less than at the likes of A&O.
Then, on April 6 2010, everything changed for Bridgeman, in the most unexpected and surreal way….
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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