Lateral Hiring

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Abby Gordon is a Director at Lateral Link, focusing on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in the New York region, Boston, and Paris.

I was a paralegal before law school. I took four years between undergrad and law school, so I knew a herd of practicing lawyers when I was still applying to law school. I thought I had a leg up on everyone; I thought I had it all figured out. But in hindsight, I realize that there was a lot I did not know — not in law school and not as I made my way through seven years as an associate with a top international law firm.

Now as a legal recruiter, I see associates making the same mistakes over and over. I wish law schools would do a better job of preparing students for the practicalities of the legal industry and not just teach the substance of the law. But until they do, here is my list of key points to understand and mistakes to avoid…

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There’s lots of good partner-level news coming out of Morrison & Foerster. The firm has been hiring new partners (including a star of the bankruptcy bench and an FCPA guru), bringing back former partners, and making new partners.

What about associate-level news? That brings us to today’s topic of bonuses for MoFo associates (non-NYC)….

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On our recent post about bonuses at Bingham McCutchen, some commenters complained about our coverage of the firm. Here’s what one said: “What this article fails to mention is that NO ONE made their hours, it’s THAT slow. Good job, ATL, for eating whatever it is Bingham pays you to NOT report [on bad goings-on at the firm].”

Actually, we’re perfectly willing to report on negative developments at Bingham (or any other major law firm). Just email us or text us (646-820-8477), and we’ll investigate.

There’s certainly a lot to cover over at Bingham: tumbling profits, partner departures, and unfortunately timed staff layoffs. We’ve collected some reporting from around the web, which we’ve combined with inside information from ATL tipsters at the firm. Let’s have a look, shall we?

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This is pretty archaic.

* Being a mass murderer wouldn’t be any fun if you couldn’t play video games. Also, let’s Upworthy this: Elie tells a story about himself dancing naked… you won’t believe what happens next. [ATL Redline]

* Ted Wells of Paul Weiss finally got off his duff and issued his report on the harassment situation in the Miami Dolphins locker room. [Deadspin]

* ♫Rubber Duckie, you’re the one, you make state legislative sessions drafting complicated statutes allowing gambling on racing you so much fun!♫ [Lowering the Bar]

* From the “dick moves” file, this guy put up a Craigslist ad pimping out his neighbor without her knowledge or consent. From the f**king idiot files, this guy had no idea how easy it would be for the authorities to track him down. [IT-Lex]

* Is the aggressive lateral partner recruitment strategy bringing results? [Adam Smith, Esq.]

* There’s pretty much nothing OK with the new gay segregation law in Kansas. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* The Virginia decision legalizing gay marriage made one slight misstatement. “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal.” Really? Does it now? [Josh Blackman's Blog; WSJ Law Blog]

* Intelligence Squared held a debate last night between Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and the ACLU’s Ben Wizner against former prosecutor (not Weekend at Bernie’s star) Andrew McCarthy and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey on the question: Snowden Was Justified. The video is embedded after the jump…. [Intelligence Squared]

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

Home to 80 degree Januaries, the lateral market has been equally hot in L.A. to start the year. The first six weeks of the year showed unmistakable improvement over last year and even bested 2012. The national lateral market is up 43% while the Los Angeles market is up 126% from 2013. Lateral Link alone is currently working with over 200 partners with aggregated practices north of $250,000,000.

The strong Los Angeles trend is highlighted by the recent move of John Shaffer into Quinn Emanuel’s bankruptcy practice. Shaffer, one of the nation’s preeminent restructuring lawyers, should bolster an already stacked Quinn Emmanuel office.  Winston also just picked up two prominent partners, Eva Davis from Kirkland and Dan Passage from Bingham.   Last, but not least, John Gatti left Stroock for Manatt.   I predict a dozen or more significant moves over the next few months in Los Angeles alone….

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Earlier this month, we asked: What’s Going On At Kirkland & Ellis? Some observers wondered whether K&E, arguably the nation’s best overall law firm, was experiencing an unusually high number of prominent partner departures.

We received some interesting responses from Kirkland sources, some defending the firm and some more critical. Let’s hear what these readers had to share with us….

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

A good recruiter can identify window-shoppers. We are all tempted to do it. You walk down Rodeo Drive and on your left, the polished chassis of a Bugatti Veyron catches your eye and on your right, the muted silver of Lamborghini Veneno flickers in the sun. A Lamborghini or Bugatti would more than satiate most people, but the titans of Biglaw are always chasing that elusive Maybach Exelero and in the process, they may at the same time alienate top-tier “Lamborghini” lawyers.

This condition is endemic to some of the top Am Law 100 law firms. Despite their massive push for expansion, many firms are still hesitant to bring in outstanding lateral candidates. The process is also torturous for the candidates who go through multiple rounds of interviews before they are finally turned away for bill rate concerns or potential conflicts, not even mentioning the opportunity costs of time for everyone involved in the process…

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About two years ago, in May 2012, Dewey & LeBoeuf filed for bankruptcy. It was the largest law firm bankruptcy in the history of the United States. Shortly thereafter, industry insiders began to speculate as to when the next big firm would fold. In June 2012, our own Mark Herrmann suggested that it was a “near certainty that a firm [would] collapse within the next two years.”

Lo and behold, he was correct, for it was just last night that another embattled Biglaw firm decided to close its doors. Perhaps the loyal employees clinging to this firm’s carcass should have been better prepared for something like this, since it was preceded by waves upon waves of partner defections and talks of a “major restructuring,” likely due to financial problems, among the firm’s leaders.

You’ll want to keep reading, because this is the largest law firm to ever fail….

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Law firms have been in a “slow growth” phase ever since the nation began its recovery from the Great Recession. As we mentioned when we discussed the 2013 Am Law 100, “success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics,” with Biglaw gains described as “modest” and “spotty” across the board.

Big-name lateral hires can sometimes bring in enough positive publicity and fanfare to make even the sickest of firms seem like the very picture of health and vitality. According to the latest American Lawyer Lateral Report, those lateral moves can be likened to a peacock’s tail: they offer “no advantage” for a firm’s ultimate survival, and may hinder the firm in the future. It happened at Dewey, and it can happen at other firms if they’re not careful. If only partners’ attentions weren’t so easily grabbed by the promise of higher profits.

So if this growing reliance on lateral hiring is truly capable of destabilizing law firms, wouldn’t you like to know which firms did the most lateral hiring over the past year? We’ve got the details for you….

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Back in December, some associates at Kirkland & Ellis expressed some displeasure about their bonuses. Now, make no mistake, the K&E bonuses still beat the market by a healthy amount; they just didn’t beat the market by as much as they usually do (at least according to some sources; under an individualized bonus system, reactions will vary).

In our bonus post, we wondered about K&E’s financial performance in 2013. Could the firm — which could very well be the nation’s finest law firm — have had a less than stellar year?

Associates might not be the only ones dissatisfied with their compensation. Sources point to a fair number of prominent partner departures over the past few months, in one of K&E’s top practice areas….

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