As businesses go, the business of law isn’t extremely capital intensive. Most of the capital in Biglaw is really human capital. As one bankruptcy lawyer put it, “It’s incredible how fragile law firms are. Unlike a company, the principal assets walk out the door every night.”
But law firms do need some capital. Those fabulous offices — and fabulous associates, at $160,000 and up — don’t come cheap.
Firms can obtain the capital they need to operate through borrowing; but credit needs to be used judiciously, lest a firm go the way of Dewey & LeBoeuf. And partners make capital contributions to the firm, most notably when they buy into the partnership.
But sometimes that capital isn’t enough. So firms issue capital calls to their partners, which brings us to today’s topic….
As we mentioned yesterday in Morning Docket, Judge Marcia Gail Cooke (S.D. Fla.) recently issued an omnibus order on multiple motions for sanctions in the high-profile case of Coquina Investments v. TD Bank. The plaintiff, Coquina Investments, moved for sanctions related to various alleged discovery violations.
At a contempt hearing held back in May, Judge Cooke heard testimony from employees of TD Bank and current and former lawyers from Greenberg Traurig, which previously represented the bank. She took the matter under advisement — but not before saying things like, “It is hard for me to describe in words the difficulty throughout this trial related to documents and discovery.”
* From the White House to the ivory tower: Cass Sunstein is leaving OIRA to return to Harvard Law. Perhaps his thoughts on behavioral economics and public policy will be appreciated in academia. [New York Times]
* Jared Loughner is reportedly set to plead guilty in the Arizona shooting attack that killed six people, including Judge John Roll, and injured 13, including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords. [Los Angeles Times]
* Lance Armstrong is going for the gold against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, this time with a bid to Judge Sam Sparks for a restraining order blocking the USADA from forcing the cyclist into binding arbitration. [Bloomberg]
* “[T]his is not the time for us to become an international accrediting agency.” The ABA will remain a faulty U.S. accrediting agency, because the Legal Ed Section voted against accrediting foreign law schools. [ABA Journal]
* Apparently Texas Tech Law has more than beauty queens. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has appointed dean emeritus and current law professor Walter Huffman to the new Defense Legal Policy Board. [KCBD 11]
* Remember Joshua Gomes, the UVA Law student who allegedly broke into the school’s registrar office? As it turns out, there’s no more “allegedly” about it. We’ll likely have more on this news later today. [Daily Progress]
* Law school graduates’ tales of woe are still making headlines in newspapers. Please take heed, 0Ls, and remember that you decided to discount this info if you’re told that you “should have known better.” [Oregonian]
* If you want to eat mor chikin but the thought of supporting Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay marriage is giving you indigestion, now you can eat your fill with the assistance of Ted Frank’s chicken offsets. [Huffington Post]
Whenever there’s a big story, GT is there. In the past month, it has appeared in these pages as the possible savior of Dewey, the actual savior of Dewey’s Poland operations, and the victim of some alleged rudeness by a divorce lawyer in Texas.
And, of course, Greenberg Traurig has found itself at the center of the TD Bank controversy. Late last week, Judge Marcia Cooke held a contempt hearing, to decide whether Greenberg should be sanctioned due to a discovery debacle.
The hearing spanned two days and featured some high-powered witnesses. What happened?
* “I want to apologize. Obviously, mistakes were made.” Admitting you’ve got a problem is just the first step. Greenberg Traurig’s executive director apologized for the Biglaw firm’s apparentscrew-ups in a Rothstein-related trial. [Miami Herald]
* Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng will be enrolling at NYU Law School on a fellowship. The administration is giving him a ritzy faculty apartment that comes complete with a kitchen full of Chinese food. He already knows how to eat like a law student. [New York Times]
* “What [the f**k] comes next?” That’s what law school grads asked themselves when their commencement speakers tried to slap on a happy face and speak positively about the job market. [Connecticut Law Tribune]
* But perhaps future law school grads will be able to find jobs more easily thanks to class offerings geared toward in-house counsel lawyering skills. Keep on dreaming that impossible dream. [Washington Post]
* How does a small-time DUI attorney from California go from being an unknown to being a household name overnight? By filing a lawsuit filled with tawdry allegations against actor John Travolta. [Los Angeles Times]
I think a lot of normal men have been in this position: another guy says something horrible about your female friend or colleague, expecting that you will go along. It makes you very uncomfortable in the moment — because your knuckles stopped dragging on the pavement years ago. Then it makes you extremely uncomfortable later when you see the female friend or colleague, and you have to decide whether or not to tell her the horrible things being said about her by these other people.
It happens more than you think, and most of the times most guys just keep it to themselves. There’s no upside to telling a woman all of the things guys say, most of the time. But sometimes, ironically, especially when it happens in a professional context, you have to tell your female colleague what other professionals are saying about her, just so she’s not blindsided as she tries to go about her job.
Maybe some people would consider it a violation of the “bro code,” but one lawyer seems to think that the code is a viable defense in court. Sanctions are being sought against a divorce lawyer who has allegedly been saying horrible things about female lawyers, and when he got called out, he responded in court that he never said any of that stuff “to their faces.”
In our last full post on Dewey & LeBoeuf, the fast-fading New York law firm, we tried to find some moments of humor in this generally depressing story. Now we’ll return to the hard — and gloomy — Dewey news. (We mentioned several D&L items in today’s Morning Docket.)
Without further ado, let’s find out what’s going on….
Based on recent remarks by current and former leadership at Dewey & LeBoeuf, it seems that the firm is going to end with a whimper, not a bang. The current plan apparently involves no bankruptcy filing or dissolution vote, but just the defection of one partner after another, until nobody is left.
* Dewey need to send them a wedding present? Because to be honest, we really can’t afford one. Fifty of the firm’s European lawyers jumped ship to tie the knot with Greenberg Traurig in Poland. [WSJ Law Blog]
* “I don’t think there’s enough space in the legal market to absorb all the Dewey lawyers that aren’t prepackaged in a group.” When Dewey get on the unemployment line in New York City? [New York Law Journal]
* Ropes & Gray is expanding its Chinese private equity practice with plans to double its Asian-based lawyers by the end of the year. For now, the firm’s just poaching partners from Norton Rose and Paul Weiss. [Bloomberg]
* John Edwards’s legal team began his defense, and they still don’t know if he’ll be taking the stand. Not to worry, because he’ll be torturing his daughter, Cate Edwards, instead. [CNN]
* Remember the Catholic school that fired someone for getting IVF? They’re asserting the “ministerial exception” against Emily Herx — an unordained woman who doesn’t teach religion. [Washington Post]
* Apparently this only matters when top-tier schools do it, but like UC Hastings, George Washington Law will be reducing its class size in the hope of keeping new student enrollment below 450. [National Law Journal]
It’s interesting to see how the pace of the Dewey story is shifting. We’re moving from the breathless breaking of news into a period of longer pieces focused on analysis and narrative. This makes sense, given that most of the major events have already transpired (with the exception of formalities that will be big news if and when they do occur — e.g., an official vote of dissolution, a filing of bankruptcy, etc.).
So let’s do a more comprehensive review of the latest Dewey stories from around the web. We bring you more theories of blame, more partner departures, and more revelations about the personal life of former chairman Steven H. Davis….
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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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