Lateral Moves

Some of our older readers may, like me, remember the television show Dallas. This deliciously dishy, prime-time soap opera was packed with suspense, drama, and conflict.

Suspense, drama, and conflict have also haunted the high-powered law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges this year. In June, the firm conducted major layoffs, which shocked the legal world due to Weil’s profitability and prestige. In April, Weil lost some prominent litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C., amid significant controversy.

So it’s fitting that today’s juicy story comes from the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal, which just lost a slew of partners to a rival firm under interesting circumstances….

(Please note the various UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

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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. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

A day in the life of an English litigator just got considerably more complex. Lord Justice Jackson’s year-long appraisal of English litigation ended in 2009 and culminated in a set of new rules dubbed the Jackson Reforms. These eponymous reforms are being heralded as revolutionary, yet the full impact of the reforms has yet to be ascertained. While opinion is divided on the impact of these reforms, we have seen a very tangible ripple in the frequency of U.K.-based movement from litigation partners over the last few years.

As you are all aware, the U.S. legal system is based on British Common Law. While many facets of our systems are congruent, litigation financing diverges significantly between the two countries.

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Firms generally celebrate when they make lateral hires. They trumpet the new arrivals with press releases, invoking themes of growth, expansion, and an enhanced ability to serve clients.

For folks who are already at a firm, however, could lateral hiring have a downside? Could it possibly result in layoffs of existing employees?

Our latest layoff story raises this possibility….

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* Even at the top of the in-house food chain, women lawyers are still paid less than their male counterparts. But hey, at least they’re not being forced to cry poverty like their in-house staff attorney brethren. [Corporate Counsel]

* Neil Barofsky, the former King of TARP in the United States, is making the move to Jenner & Block, specifically because as opposed to all other firms, “Jenner took the side of really getting to the truth of the matter.” [Reuters]

* Luxury fashion is fun: four Biglaw firms, including Cleary Gottlieb, Cravath, Torys, and Proskauer Rose, all took Tim Gunn’s mantra to heart to make it work for the $6 billion sale of Neiman Marcus. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* If you want to try some lawyer, we hear that they taste great when poached this time of year. Speaking of which, Troutman Sanders just reeled in three attorneys from Hunton & Williams. [Richmond BizSense]

* Law schools in the Dakotas are renovating their buildings in the hope of enrolling more students. Luckily, South Dakota has that sweet indentured servitude plan. [Prairie Business; National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re thinking of applying to law school, here’s a plan of attack for the month of September. That’s right, friends, you can start gunning right now! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Are you ready for some tax law?! The NFL and other professional sports leagues might lose their nonprofit status if new tax reform legislation makes it through the House and the Senate. [Businessweek]

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

You would think that most lateral partners climb the proverbial Am Law 200 ladder to the “Holy Grail,” but our research has shown that predicting partner moves is not merely an exercise in linear extrapolation. Instead, myriad factors are relevant in predicting when and where a partner is likely to move.

Though the basic Am Law rankings are enormously useful in many aspects, they fall short in predicting lateral movement, at least if one adheres to the conventional wisdom that “bigger is better.” We have instead found that, on average, a lateral partner tends to move to a firm ten rankings below their previous firm. This is why we utilize a smorgasbord of other indicators, including PPP (profits per partner), firm reputation, practice size, and other analytics, to better match candidates to firms.

The foremost objective is to predict partner moves, which is why we utilize advanced statistics in our database to assess the likelihood of partner moves….

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Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Shelly Leonida, LP’s Director of Human Resources.

It’s 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, you’re cranking away at that brief, and your office line rings. You don’t recognize the number. You put your head down, waiting for voicemail to pick up so you can get back to the finer points of Massachusetts estoppel law. Because you know, inevitably, that on the other end of that line is yet another headhunter.

Sure, it’s annoying. But don’t let that experience turn you off from recruiters when it comes time to make a move. For one thing, let’s be honest: having too many people trying to get you a job isn’t the worst thing in the world. For another, recruiters taking the scattershot, cold-calling approach — testing your interest in a real estate practice in LA, when you’re quite happy at your corporate group in Chicago — are not the best representatives of the profession. The fact is, they can help. And I don’t just say that because I used to be one myself.

Brokers fill important roles in many markets, and recruiters — though not “brokers” in the strictest sense — do just that in the market for legal talent. First, and maybe most importantly, they are valuable sources of information. That may sound like a superfluous role in the Internet age, given all the information available on law firms’ websites and candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. But neither firms nor prospective laterals put everything out there for the world to see, and that’s where recruiters can be handy…

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Put your new firm under the magnifying glass.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Elizabeth Katkin, a Senior Director at Lateral Link, where she focuses on partner and practice group transitions and developing strategic relationships with top international firms and companies in the Middle East and Europe.

Do you have one or more of the following frustrations with your current law firm? Inadequate overall or relative compensation. No platform to support or develop your practice. Feeling shut out of management decisions — or even having a voice.

Perhaps you are just beginning the search for a new firm, or perhaps you know where you are headed next — a place with a great footprint, support in the practice areas you need, and a group of lawyers that feels like a good fit. In the world of law firm management today, you already know that what you see is not always what you get. It is essential to gauge the financial and management health of a firm before you move, both to ensure your happiness and viability at the firm and to ease your exit in the event that there is trouble in paradise.

Here are five things you should understand before giving your withdrawal notice to your current firm:

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David Bernick

As we mentioned earlier, prominent litigator David Bernick is leaving Boies Schiller for Dechert. Bernick joined Boies Schiller just a year ago, to much fanfare, so some were surprised to see him go so quickly.

But others were not shocked. As the always insightful Alison Frankel observed on Twitter, “Is anyone who knows David Bernick surprised he was mismatch at firm dominated by David Boies?”

Perhaps not. Some of our readers predicted this union wouldn’t last long….

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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. Today’s post is written by Nicholas Goseland, a Director at Lateral Link, where he oversees attorney placements and client services in California and Asia.

Seeking to chart a course for China, Fenwick & West recently moved quickly to recruit a pair of corporate partners, Eva Wang and Carmen Chang (who will serve as a part-time advisor), to spearhead the firm’s new office in Shanghai. The move is already paying dividends.

Less than two months after her arrival, Wang, who once served as VP and general counsel of Spreadtrum Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD), has secured a mandate to represent Spreadtrum in its announced acquisition by Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. for $1.78 billion. The deal will present numerous cross-selling opportunities for Fenwick partners in the coming year and generate a lucrative stream of fees for the firm, which has already assigned 16 attorneys to the matter….

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Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by the firm’s chairman, Bryan Schwartz.

I spent all of July on sabbatical from the law. I didn’t field a single work-related email, or phone call, or even check the news. For an entire month, I focused on fly-fishing, golf, and family. I focused on myself.

Now, I don’t say all that to make anyone jealous. (If I were going to do that, I would have mentioned my week in Punta Cana.) I say that because, as I sit down to write about how law firm “culture” should impact lateral decision making, I keep coming back to my sabbatical. I was as unplugged from legal practice as I’ve been in years — okay, decades — but it told me more about culture than any month in the office.

As anyone who has been through it knows, the recruiting process is rife with talk about law firm culture. Interviews that pass without glowing reference to a firm’s “collegial culture” are as rare as sightings of the Dodo bird. But let’s face it: some minimum amount of camaraderie among peers is a pretty low bar to meet.

The cultural questions that should concern laterals most do not have to do with the frequency of happy hours, the annual barbeque, or the degree of a partnership’s collective inebriation at the holiday party. Instead, the most important question of culture is this: does this firm have a motivating purpose beyond the production of income for its individual lawyers?

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