Kasowitz Benson

It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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* The federal judiciary is hiring for staff and public defender positions lost during the government’s sequestration throughout the better part of last year. Ready, aim, fire those résumés! [Legal Times]

* New York Biglaw firms always manage to find their way to the top of the Am Law 100 rankings. When all’s said and done, being so close to Wall Street definitely has its perks. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

* Absolutely no one should be alarmed about the fact that Kasowitz Benson’s profits per partner have dropped by 15 percent — well, no one but the equity partners, that is. Have fun with that. [Am Law Daily]

* The managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers is worried people will think his personal injury firm is going under, not Jacoby & Meyers Bankruptcy. Either way, those commercials won’t die. [New York Law Journal]

* A professor at George Mason University Law was pepper sprayed IN THE FAAAAAACE by an unknown assailant in his classroom yesterday afternoon. We’ll obvious have more on this story later. [ARLNow]

* La Verne is the first law school to offer flat-rate tuition. There will be no scholarships and no discounts. Students will pay $25K/year, nothing more, nothing less. This is, dare we say, wise. [National Law Journal]

* “Passion over pension.” Mekka Don, the Weil Gotshal corporate lit attorney turned rapper, just released his first CD, and it’s all about leaving Biglaw to follow his dreams. Go buy it here (affiliate link). [MTV]

More than a week after we broke the news, the New York Law Journal got around to covering the Kasowitz Benson layoffs. (Thanks for crediting us, NYLJ.)

Although the report is untimely, it contains a few new bits of information about the Kasowitz cuts. Here are the highlights, along with additional info from Above the Law sources….

(Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post.)

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Jennifer Jones

* A source says the casualties at Kasowitz were a matter of “managing the pipeline” after work involving the credit crisis dried up. Don’t worry, he says the firm’s still really busy. Aww, someone will believe you. [New York Law Journal]

* Sorry, folks, but if you want to work in Biglaw, taking classes during law school like “Law and Unicorns” isn’t going to cut it. Try to stick to the boring stuff, and you probably won’t get dinged as often. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Oregon’s AG is refusing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage because it “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.” That’s just fabulous, darling. [Bloomberg]

* Career alternatives for attorneys: Olympic gold medalist. Jennifer Jones, in-house counsel at National Bank Financial, helped Canada’s curling team take the win this week in Sochi. You go, girl! [The Star]

* Say hi to this century’s Stella Liebeck. A woman is suing Dunkin’ Donuts after suffering second and third degree burns to her crotchal region after spilling her hot apple cider. [New Jersey Law Journal (reg. req.)]

Interesting things are afoot at Kasowitz Benson these days. Last month, we wrote about the prominent litigation firm’s “benchmark” bonuses — which some tipsters told us were bogus, but other sources defended (see the updates to the post).

Over the weekend, we received a cryptic tip about KBTF: “Kasowitz will be laying off a large number on Monday. From staff all the way up to partner.”

It’s now the end of the business day. Has this prediction come to pass?

(Please note the multiple UPDATES added to this post after its original publication.)

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Years ago, back when I was in Biglaw, I had an unpleasant interaction with Kasowitz Benson. I will spare you the details — they involved who would pay the costs for photocopying certain documents (in the ancient days before e-discovery) — but the Kasowitz lawyer made a promise that she did not honor. I thought to myself, “Watch out when dealing with Kasowitz Benson.”

That’s probably wise advice — not just for folks litigating with Kasowitz, but also for people applying to work there. Last year, we covered KBTF’s exploding offers during fall recruiting and cold offers to summer associates — practices that are frowned upon, to put it mildly.

And now we have new allegations of shadiness at Kasowitz, this time coming from people already working at the firm as full-time associates. They involve the hot-button subject of associate bonuses….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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It may be 2014, but Biglaw firms are still rolling out their 2013 year-end bonuses. While some firms are busy cutting supplemental checks for their associates, others are just getting around to making their first round of payments.

If you have any bonus news that we haven’t covered, even announcements dating back to last year, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). We’re trying to keep as accurate a record as we can of Biglaw bonuses that were announced in 2013, but we can’t do it without your help.

As for today’s bonus news, we’ve just received word that Kasowitz Benson unveiled its bonus structure yesterday afternoon. This is standard fare for the litigation powerhouse, which typically announces during the first full week of the new year. So what’s the good word on 2013′s bonuses? Did associates get more money if their legal minds were superior to all others?

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

* “We’re in uncharted territory right now.” The federal courts made it through the first week of the shutdown, but they’re approaching “here be dragons” land in terms of funding. [National Law Journal]

* “It would be the most interesting case in decades.” Legal experts debate whether President Obama can ignore the debt ceiling for much longer. [New York Times]

* People are getting out of Biglaw while the getting’s good. Reed Smith’s global managing partner is leaving the firm for a general counsel gig after 13 years at the helm. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Law firm leaders met to discuss how to empower women attorneys, and agreed it’s wise to parade them around in front of clients. Getting to work on those clients’ cases is another question. [Blog of Legal Times]

* No debacles here, contrary to past precedent: Kasowitz Benson poached two superior legal minds from NBCUniversal and welcomed them to the firm to open an entertainment litigation practice. [Bloomberg]

* Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers want their client’s prison restrictions to be lifted and are raising a slew of constitutional claims. We think the members of his fan club are the only ones feeling sorry for him. [CNN]

Yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lori Sattler ruled that Lisa Mehos, who is locked in a custody battle with her husband, banker Manuel Mehos, had to testify about having an abortion.

Why would Lisa’s abortion reflect on her fitness to raise her children?

Given that this is happening in New York rather than Mississippi, the argument is not the backward claim that she can’t possibly love her kids if she had an abortion. Rather, the argument is that she demanded custody of the kids over a weekend when she knew she was going to dump them off with a sitter so she could undergo a medical procedure.

Still, injecting the emotionally charged issue of abortion into the matter fits into an overall strategy of demeaning and vilifying a woman’s sexuality under a double standard that brushes past the transgressions of the father…

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Last week, we wrote about a recruiting snafu involving Kasowitz Benson. The high-powered litigation firm had an unexpectedly high yield for its 2014 summer program, so it started making phone calls in which it either pressed students with offers for a fast decision or effectively rescinded the offer, urging the student to go elsewhere.

A rescinded offer is bad news, especially in an age when fewer students have tons of offers to choose from. But a rescinded offer of a summer associate position is better than a cold offer at the end of the summer, right?

After our story about the controversial Kasowitz calls went up, we heard from multiple former summer associates at Kasowitz with additional allegations of shady behavior — specifically, cold offers….

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