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.
Alliteration aficionados are bemoaning the tongue-twisting fusion of Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs into Squire Patton Boggs. I prefer the feudal-esque Squire Boggs, but then again, I was not on the naming committee. Aside from this rebranding exercise, Squire Patton Boggs makes it clear that mergers (or acquisitions) are easier to execute in principal than reality.
Many of the firms in the Am Law 200 are the result of previous mergers including WilmerHale and DLA Piper. Most of these mergers were consummated before the recession, and since then, the parity between Am Law 200 firms has been dwindling.
The race for supremacy in the legal market has created a system with far less parity than before and consequently, a greater degree of difficulty for mergers. For example, the spread of Profits Per Partner in 2003 is right-skewed — and this will likely always be the case — but overall, there is little variance in spread of PPP in 2003 when compared to the spread in 2014…
* “[T]hree names are unnecessary, and over time I think you’ll see Squire Patton start to take hold.” Sanders got the boot in this law firm merger, and it won’t be long before Boggs follows. [Am Law Daily]
* The “great female brain drain” at Am Law 200 firms isn’t slowing down, and it will only get better if Biglaw firms concentrate less on their failed “fix the women” approaches. [Harvard Business Review]
* Mary Jo White of the SEC promised to dust off an often ignored — but “potentially  very powerful” — section of securities law to pursue financial violations. Be wary of the “innocent instrumentality” doctrine, defense attorneys. [DealBook / New York Times]
* We’ve got some breaking news for our readers from the “no sh*t” department: Law school graduates are still having a very tough time getting jobs as lawyers, and there is no real end in sight. [Sacramento Bee]
* If you’re looking for a way to explain a switch in your undergrad major when applying to law school, show admissions committees how pretty your grades are now. Tada! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
When we last checked in with the beleaguered law firm of Patton Boggs, things were looking… dicey. The firm was losing more partners — some due to layoffs, some due to defections — and firm leaders were suspending their partnership draws (and asking their fellow partners to do the same; yikes).
But today we actually have some positive news to share about Patton Boggs. Here comes the cavalry!
Which major law firm just signed a letter of intent with Patton Boggs regarding a possible merger?
We’ve seen this story before. A firm experiences a dip in profitability, then starts losing key partners (or reverse the order if you like; falling profits and defecting partners go hand in hand). Worried about its survival, the firm starts seeking out a white knight, in the form of a merger partner. And then….
Well, that depends. Sometimes a merger partner is found and the combined firms live happily ever after. Sometimes a merger partner is found and the combined firms suffer together, with the weaker firm effectively giving the stronger firm the “cooties.” And sometimes no merger partner is found at all; the troubled firm goes down, and rival firms swoop in like vultures to pick off the top practices and rainmakers. We can all think of examples of each scenario.
* Hot on the heels of the SCOTUS stay, Utah has ordered its state agencies not to recognize any of the same-sex marriages that took place. Eww, Utah, you are being disgusting right now. [NBC News]
* The eminently quotable Chancellor Leo Strine of the Delaware Court of Chancery has been nominated to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court. Best of luck with your confirmation! [Chicago Tribune]
* Law firm mergers rose by almost 50 percent after 88 firms joined forces throughout 2013 (a new record, according to Altman Weil). Let’s see if this year’s pace is as frenzied as last year’s. [Am Law Daily]
* The legal profession isn’t very good at diversity, especially in Texas. Here’s a not-so fun fact: just six percent of all equity partners at the largest law firms in Dallas are minorities. [Dallas Business Journal]
* “[I]t was the first time he had ever heard of someone being killed by a pair of underwear.” A man in Oklahoma was tragically killed after becoming the first-ever recipient of a fatal atomic wedgie. [News OK]
* A Supreme Court whose members are still afraid of using email will most likely have the final say on the NSA case, one of the biggest technology and privacy rulings in ages. Well, that’s comforting. [Talking Points Memo]
* Pittsburgh firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is reportedly in merger talks with Tampa firm Fowler White Boggs. Boy, a merger between two firms from lackluster cities sure sounds promising. [Daily Business Review]
* Law professors are completely outraged by the ABA’s proposal to cut tenure from its law school accreditation requirements. Quick, somebody write a law review article no one will read about it! [National Law Journal]
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 . . . .
As reported in Morning Docket, the year is quickly drawing to a close, and two large law firms may be getting ready to celebrate their future together in 2014. Sources say that Blank Rome and Nixon Peabody have the urge to merge, and they’ve supposedly been in talks for two months or more.
The last three proposed Biglaw mergers we reported on — McKenna/Dentons, Pillsbury/Orrick, Patton Boggs/Locke Lord — fell apart, but if the Blank Rome/Nixon Peabody combination comes to fruition, their union would create one of the top 50 largest firms in the U.S. (number 33, to be exact).
Will they or won’t they? Let’s discus the details…
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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