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….
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….
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….
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Scott Hodes is a Principal in Lateral Link’s South Eastern office. He utilizes his experience as a former partner to help partners and associates make lateral leaps in the Florida and Atlanta markets.
With the new year upon us, we look back at an exciting 2013 as we have witnessed a resurgence in the legal industry after enduring a rocky time during the recent recession. As economic and labor market conditions improve, many firms are seeing sustained signs of growth, especially in the South Florida market.
As evidence of this growth trend, one need not look any further than Miami-based Akerman Senterfitt, now known as Akerman LLP. With more than 550 lawyers and government affairs professionals, Akerman recently became the largest law firm in South Florida based on number of attorneys, eclipsing Greenberg Traurig. Akerman reported its third consecutive year of growth, with record gross revenues of $297.5 million and net income of $109.3 million for the 2013 fiscal year. From January 1, 2013, to date, 65 attorneys, including 19 partners, have lateraled in to the firm. During that same time period, only seven attorneys departed the firm.
This is my first column of 2014, so I’m due to join the ranks of those who make predictions for the coming year.
But my predictions will be slightly different from others, because mine will be based on fact.
In the last months of 2013, I heard that two different law firms had reduced partners’ draws to offset the firms’ poor financial performance. At least one of the firms reduced draws retroactively — announcing near the end of the year that partners’ salaries would be reduced as of January 1, 2013 (which slices partners’ incomes dramatically in the last few months of the year). Both firms shared the pain among all partners — folks suffered in the equity and non-equity ranks alike. (This is a particularly nasty trick to play on income partners: “Here’s your partnership deal: If the firm does better than expected, you’re a mere income partner; of course you will not share the wealth. On the other hand, if the firm performs worse than expected, we’ll permit you to share the pain, and we’ll cut your pay. Here’s the partnership agreement! Sign right here on the dotted line!”)
I’ve now been in-house for four years, and my ear has lifted pretty far from the law-firm ground: If I heard about two law firms suffering from such terribly bad years that they were forced to reduce their budgets as year-end approached, then I’m guessing that many more than two firms suffered this fate. This means that, for many firms, 2013 was not a good year, which leads me to my predictions for 2014 . . . .
The guy in today’s story didn’t dress up like Gumby, but it’s still an amazingly stupid disguise.
* Man tried to rob a convenience store so he could go back to prison. And he almost screwed that up… [KMOV]
* The CIA’s former lawyer explains how torture came to be a go-to national policy. According to John Rizzo, author of the forthcoming Company Man (affiliate link), George W. Bush basically had no conception of what was going on, which makes a lot of sense anyway. [The New Yorker]
* Brooklyn Law’s Dean Nick Allard makes predictions for law schools in 2014. “[P]eople will look back at 2014 and say it marked the start of the new world of law: a renaissance where the respect and reputation of lawyers and law schools began to rise by measurable benchmarks.” Go ahead and laugh, I’ll wait. [TaxProf Blog]
* Paul, Weiss picks up tax partner Scott Sontag from Weil Gotshal. (Congrats to both firms, by the way, on tying for the #9 spot in our list of top-ranked law firms for 2013.) [Paul, Weiss]
As we’ve chronicled in these pages, the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal has been experiencing some upheaval. The big summer layoffs have been followed by a steady stream of partner departures, mainly from offices outside the power center of New York.
Many of the defections have taken place in Texas, but Weil’s Washington outpost has also been hard hit. Last month, that office lost three IP litigators to Greenberg Traurig. Said one of our sources, “IP was one of Weil D.C.’s most profitable practice groups. Expect downsizing or partner acquisition from another firm to compensate for loss.” And that wasn’t all. Earlier this month, BuckleySandler snagged Walter Zalenski, a prominent player in financial services regulatory law, from Weil.
Today brings news of another departure from Weil in Washington. Who is leaving now, and where is he going?
Bonuses are in. ‘Tis the season to lateral. Here’s what you need to know to make a move. Warning: some points are fairly obvious, many are overlooked, but all are important.
1. Start the process now.
Making a lateral move takes time. Unless the planets magically align for you, you’re likely looking at a couple-month process, start to finish. While that’s certainly not a bad thing (you should be exhaustive when making a career change), it does mean that you should start the process now if you’re planning on exploring your options after you collect your bonus in the upcoming weeks/months.
This is not to say that you should send your résumé to every recruiter that includes you in an e-mail blast in January. However, now is a good time to start taking all the necessary steps that come before sending out résumés and interviewing. These steps will help ensure that your lateral move will be as painless as possible.
The more organized you approach your search, the easier it will be for a good recruiter to get you what you want. This is typically a slow time of year for both work and lateral opportunities, so it’s a good time to get all your ducks in a row and be ready to take advantage of all the opportunities that interest you in 2014…
The past few months have been good ones for Morrison & Foerster. The firm, which secured an impressive victory for longtime client Apple in the smartphone wars, could end up getting part of its $60 million in fees paid by the losing party, Samsung. MoFo has also been adding new talent at a good clip, including D.C. securities partners Martin Dunn and Scott Lesmes (formerly of O’Melveny & Myers), London restructuring partner Howard Morris (formerly of SNR Denton), and a slew of partners (formerly of Hogan Lovells) who opened MoFo’s new Berlin office.
So the news about lateral partners at Morrison & Foerster is exciting. Can the same be said about associate bonuses in the New York office, the first MoFo outpost to announce?
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.
What can we expect for the first quarter of 2014 in terms of the lateral partner market? As I have detailed before, the market is generally volatile and the rate of change of each month and quarter from year to year is difficult to predict. In our calculations, the number of lateral movements in December accounts for less than 20% of the variation in lateral movements in January. However, on average there are 2.4 times as many moves in January as there are in the previous December (but this ratio is subject to much volatility).
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
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