Howrey LLP

Howrey dissolved almost an entire year ago, but its bones are still filling warehouses and servers across the world, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage fees.

The firm’s estate is embroiled in the painstaking process of destroying old files or returning them to former clients. There is still a long, long way to go. In today’s Washington Post, we get to see a vivid illustration of the problems involved in putting to rest a massive law firm that bridged the paper and electronic eras.

It is also a good cautionary tale for other firms: these documents will not just go away, even if your firm bites the dust…

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* Obama took a break from his vacation to sign the NDAA. But don’t worry, as long as he’s president, he’ll never indefinitely detain American citizens. Oh boy, we get a one-year guarantee. [New York Times]

* “By your powers combined, I am Captain Primary!” Four Republican presidential candidates are joining forces to assist Rick Perry in his quest to conquer Virginia’s evil election laws. [Bloomberg]

* 31% percent of lawyers are planing to make new hires in the first quarter of 2012. The other 69% are busy doing Scrooge McDuck-esque swan dives into vaults full of money. [Washington Post]

* What will happen as a result of non-lawyer firm ownership? More money may be good for lawyers, but not clients. But if it leads to bigger bonuses, most lawyers won’t care. [Corporate Counsel]

* Howrey going to get out of these class action cases? Howrey going to pay the rent? Screw all of that, here’s the most important question: Howrey going to get paid? [Am Law Daily]

* Here’s something for all of the Roe v. Wade opponents to celebrate: two doctors have been charged with murder for performing late-term abortions in Maryland. [Star-Ledger]

* And in other abortion news, according to a lawsuit, babies are no longer kosher at this Long Island deli. A woman claims her boss forced her to lose her kid or lose her job. [New York Post]

* In case you missed our coverage on these cases, the Institute for Legal Reform is rehashing last year’s craziest lawsuits in its survey of the Top Ten Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2011. [Yahoo!]

* Like many of the victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, he and his wife contemplated suicide, too. But come on, why bother? Was career suicide just not good enough? [New York Times]

* For Sale: One Illinois law license at discount price! Hasn’t been used in 15 years — almost like new. Slightly tarnished. If interested, please contact Rod Blagojevich ASAP. [Chicago Sun-Times]

* Howrey gonna get paid? With a $3M bill and a new Chapter 11 bankruptcy trustee in place, that’s what all of these professional service firms are wondering. [Am Law Daily]

* 1Ls may be dumber this year, but prospective law students have gotten 13% smarter. That isn’t saying much, though, because 68% of them still want to go to law school. [National Law Journal]

* The TSA agent who advised this lawyer to “get her freak on” after spying a sexy personal item in her luggage has been professionally spanked. [New York Post]


Robert Ruyak

One of the most colorful characters in the saga of Howrey LLP, the once-thriving law firm that dissolved this past March, was Robert Ruyak, former chairman of the firm. How many law firm leaders write inspirational poetry for their summer associates?

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?

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* Howrey’s pre-Labor Day, everything must go, furniture sale. Don’t miss it. [Am Law Daily]

* CBS settles the case with two women suing Dr. Phil for unleashing a naked dinner guest on them for his show. I’m not sure if this is a case of two really uptight women or one really ugly dude, but I do know that alcohol would have solved this problem better than any counseling Dr. Phil could have provided. [Lowering the Bar]

* This is a touching little profile on life on the inside for Hacksaw McDaniel. [Macon Telegraph]

Obamacare!

* Obama is confident Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare? Did a justice die while I was away and nobody told me? [WSJ Law Blog]

* Do you think any of these new law firm models can use a thousand highly paid yet unskilled associates straight out of law school for a limited time until they go on to do actually interesting things with their lives? Oh, no reason, I was just asking. [Legal Blog Watch]

* This list of organizations who heavily contributed to members of the Deficit Super Committee includes Skadden. Actually, it looks like many lawyers are heavily invested with these politicians. [Maplight]

* A federal judge in Kansas has given Planned Parenthood’s Abortionplex a new lease on life. [WSJ Law Blog]

* What? A former Supreme Court clerk who got passed over for a job at a law school? Nicholas Spaeth, who’s also the former state attorney general for North Dakota, is suing the Michigan State University College of Law, for age discrimination. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times via SBM Blog]

* Interesting thoughts from Scott Greenfield on making executions public. I certainly don’t oppose more-comprehensive coverage of the criminal justice system in general. [Simple Justice]

* Elsewhere in criminal justice news, should prisons be run on a voucher system? Dan Markel offers some thoughts on Sasha Volokh’s interesting proposal. [PrawfsBlawg]

* An interesting profile of Alan Gura, the celebrated Second Amendment litigator, by a fellow small-firm lawyer, Nicole Black. [The Xemplar]

* Hopefully this will all become moot after a deal gets done, but remember the Fourteenth Amendment argument for Obama unilaterally raising the debt ceiling? Jeffrey Rosen thinks a lawsuit against Obama would get kicked for lack of standing — or might even prevail. [New Republic]

* But Orin Kerr believes that a recent SCOTUS case might change the analysis. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Howrey going to pay all the creditors? A lot turns on how some contingency-fee cases turn out, according to Larry Ribstein. [Truth on the Market]

* From in-house to the big house: former general counsel Russell Mackert just got sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for his role in a fraud scheme. [Corporate Counsel]

* Keep It Simple: a commendable theme for Blawg Review #313. [Patent Baristas via Blawg Review]

* I’m flying this weekend for the first time in over a year (it couldn’t be avoided). I’ll need to brush up on what rights I still retain during air travel. As long as I acknowledge TSA’s droit du seigneur to my wife, I’m allowed to carry an unopened water bottle on board, right? [Legal Blog Watch]

* There’s a statement from the University of Baltimore on the Phillip Closius situation. They say their “forward momentum” will continue. Does that mean they expect future Baltimore Law students to be unable to run a Google search? [WSJ Law Blog]

* Lat imagined a future legal career for Casey Anthony that starts with a Anthony getting a GED (before clerking on the Supreme Court and becoming a law partner of Jose Baez). But doesn’t Hustler seem like something more in her wheelhouse? [Gawker]

* Have we done irreparable damage to our credit rating, unless we can prove we have a legal “fail-safe” in case a vocal Tea Party minority hijacks the entire freaking nation again? [Blackbook Legal]

* Taco Bell employee fired for refusing to get his hair cut. I guess they were worried about 100% real hair mixing with their isolated oat product — er, seasoned beef. [Associated Press]

* Howrey going to massively reduce our assets for bankruptcy reporting purposes? [Chapter11Cases]

A friend of mine is a plaintiff’s lawyer in Boston. We’ve opposed each other on several cases, and our interactions (always on the phone; weirdly, we’ve never met in person) are characterized by good-natured but acerbic jabs. Typically, he would bemoan my clients’ “colossally stupid” behavior. For my part, I would make fun of his firm’s name.

Don’t get me wrong: his firm is one of the most respected plaintiff’s firms in town. But its name follows the classic ego-gratifying law-firm style of putting all the partners’ surnames on the letterhead. With Biglaw firms, this doesn’t matter much, because the name partners tend to be, well, not-so-much alive. And the sheer number of partners at big firms means that ego notwithstanding, most aren’t getting their names on the sign.

But small firms have (by definition) fewer partners — with just as much ego. And they tend to be living. So the firm names are long and subject to frequent change.

Why is this a problem for small firms, and what they should do about it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Small Firms with Big Names”

Before this column launched, I spent several moments stewing over possible pseudonyms. After all, branding is everything. So, I wanted to come up with a name that said to my audience that I was a small-firm expert and a super-cool chick. Naturally, I picked the name that is synonymous with post-menopausal Jewish bubbies. Perhaps I still have a thing or two to learn about branding.

I am not the only small-firm lawyer with a problem selecting the right name. Indeed, after Jay Shepherd opened my eyes to the hyphen-crisis, I began noticing a comma-crisis. Specifically, I noticed that there are a lot of small firms with way too many last names strung together with commas.

Why is it that many small firms have such problems coming up with the perfect firm name? Let’s explore this age-old question….

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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….

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