Law Firm Mergers

Merge; merge; merge. It’s all we hear about from law firms these days.

But corporations do these things in both directions: Corporations do acquisitions, but they also do divestitures. Corporations merge, but they also de-merge.

If it occasionally makes sense for a corporation to divest itself of a business unit, or to split itself in two, then it surely also makes sense for law firms occasionally to divest themselves of practice groups or split themselves in two. But we almost never hear about those things. (A reader of this column tells me that he googled “law firm” and “de-merger” and found only this five-year-old announcement about a firm in the UK.) (Don’t complain about my shoddy research. That’s more spadework than goes into a typical one of these columns.)

So here’s the idea: You have a global mega-firm that combines a fine M&A practice with a great litigation practice. Just as corporations sometimes think that combined business units would have more value if pulled apart, the law firm decides that everyone would prosper if the litigation firm were spun off from the transactional practice.

Divestiture! It’s not a dirty word in the corporate world; why is it never spoken among law firms?

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Not so fast, Canellas…

* Yeah, about that huge bonus we were going to pay our ex-finance director — we realized how silly that was, so we’re not going to do that. Aww, don’t worry, Dewey & LeBoeuf, you’ll have plenty of other chances to look absurd. [Am Law Daily]

* Not only is Samsung suing Apple for patent infringement, but the company is also trying to get a do over by getting Judge Lucy Koh to throw out the original billion-dollar verdict over jury foreman Velvin Hogan’s alleged misconduct. [Bloomberg]

* “Small deals are easier to swallow, easier to integrate.” Regional firms like Carlton Fields and Adams and Reese are gobbling up smaller firms in what seems to be the latest trend in law firm merger mania activity. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Douglas Arntsen, the former Crowell & Moring associate who had to be extradited from Hong Kong after embezzling $10.7M from clients, pleaded guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. [New York Law Journal]

* It’s tough to come up with appropriate whistleblower jokes given the background here. We’ll play it straight: Mike McQueary filed a defamation suit against Penn State, and he’s seeking $4M in damages. [ABC News]

* Jose Godinez-Samperio, an undocumented immigrant, is fighting for the ability to practice law in Florida, but the members of the state Supreme Court are literally trying to make it into a “federal case.” [Washington Post]

Peter Kalis

As we head into the weekend, we’re happy to bring you additional commentary from Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates. Earlier this week, the colorful Kalis was unanimously reelected to his leadership role by the 60 voting members of the Management Committee.

The delightfully opinionated Kalis recently gave an interview to Am Law Daily, in which he shed additional light on the state of K&L Gates. His remarks weren’t as forceful as the beatdown he administered to the firm’s anonymous detractors last week, but they are interesting….

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Law firm layoffs follow law firm mergers as naturally as Biglaw firms follow the Cravath bonus scale. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that McKenna Long & Aldridge, after absorbing Luce Forward this past March, is cutting loose some Luce lawyers.

How many lawyers are we talking about? And are these actually true layoffs? Let’s discuss….

An UPDATE, after the jump.

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Peter Kalis: hail to the chief!

Much like the similarly named Kelis, his milkshake brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard. Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, just won a fifth consecutive term at the helm of the global mega-firm. As noted in the firm’s press release, which we received here at Above the Law, the 60 voting members of the Management Committee supported Kalis unanimously.

Kalis assumed leadership of the firm in 1997, back when it was called Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. On Kalis’s watch, the firm conducted eight mergers, including the combination with Preston Gates & Ellis that resulted in the “K&L Gates” moniker. When Kalis took the helm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart was a regional firm with six offices, all in the Eastern time zone of the United States. Now K&L Gates boasts almost 2,000 lawyers in 41 offices on four continents.

But growth brings with it growing pains. Let’s discuss those, and get some information about partner capital contributions at the firm….

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Now this is how you handle negative rumors about your firm.

As we mentioned last night, in the past week or so we’ve seen media reports of possible trouble at K&L Gates. Stories in Law360 and Crain’s Chicago Business speculated about “an alarming rate” of partner departures and “attorneys increasingly los[ing] faith in the firm’s leadership and strict compensation policies.”

The chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, Peter J. Kalis, isn’t taking all this sitting down. Very early this morning, the famously outspoken Kalis sent around a firm-wide memo that powerfully refutes some of the claims made about the firm.

If you’re at all involved in law firm management, you should read it. The Kalis email offers a master class in how to thoroughly respond to negative rumors….

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On multiple days over the past week or so, one of the top ten search terms bringing visitors to Above the Law has been K&L Gates. For whatever reason, people seem keenly interested in what’s going on right now at this major international law firm.

(But maybe we shouldn’t read too much into such queries. Also in the top ten search engine terms: “pictures of tacos.”)

So what is going on at K&L Gates? A significant amount of partner attrition, as various news outlets have recently pointed out….

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An ethical duty?

* Are you ready for some Supreme gossip? In remarks delivered at Colorado Law, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted that the Defense of Marriage Act would be argued “toward the end of the current term.” [CBS News]

* Dewey’s version of trying to curry favor for the proposed $72M partner settlement? Filing a deposition transcript noting that others could’ve also been blamed for D&L’s downfall, but weren’t due to time constraints. Gee, thanks. [Am Law Daily]

* Novak Druce + Quigg and Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz will merge to form Novak Druce Connolly Bove & Quigg, the 7th largest IP firm in the U.S. Guess seven name partners was a bit much. [Delaware Law Weekly]

* Michael McShane was nominated by President Obama to fill a judgeship in Oregon. If confirmed, he’d be one of the few openly gay judges on the federal bench, which, of course, would be fabulous. [Oregonian]

* The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession wants the ABA to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to include a duty to promote diversity. Because we clearly need a rule on that. [National Law Journal]

* Cindy Garcia, an actress from “Innocence of Muslims,” is suing, claiming that she was duped into the role under false pretenses. She wants the film removed from YouTube. Everyone else does, too, lady. [Bloomberg]

* A judge refused to issue an injunction against the California ban on foie gras, instead allowing a suit on the same topic to move forward. Oh mon dieu, judge, think of all the poor Francophiles! [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Joshua Morse III, former dean of Mississippi Law who defied segregation, RIP. [New York Times]

Kim Kardashian

* Apparently spring bonuses don’t make the Biglaw world go ’round after all. The annual Am Law midlevel survey is out, and satisfaction levels are up across the board. Maybe they’re happy to still be employed. [American Lawyer]

* When Dewey get to retire this used up, old D&L pun? Probably around the same time as that Howrey joke — never. Oh, and the firm asked a bankruptcy judge to approve its $70M partner “clawback” plan. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Oh mon dieu, it’s time for some law firm merger mania! DLA Piper, the second-largest Biglaw behemoth, proposed to French firm Frieh Bouhenic, and of course, the corporate boutique said “oui.” [Legal Week]

* Judicial efficiency: Judge Robert Hinkle says he’ll block Florida’s regulations on voter registration groups just as soon as an appeals court boots the state’s arguments. [Bloomberg]

* Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. will step down as judge in the George Zimmerman case after using “disparaging” language in a bail order. Zimmerman’s probably hoping that the third judge will be the charm for him. [CNN]

* Kim Kardashian settled her suit against The Gap over the company’s use of a look-alike actress in an Old Navy commercial. Sigh. She’ll keep getting paid, no matter what we do. [Hollywood, Esq. / Hollywood Reporter]

Two prestigious names in Philadelphia law announced they are joining forces today. Pepper Hamilton, the storied 120-year-old firm, will be absorbing various outfits spearheaded by Louis Freeh, most recently known for his harsh report following the Penn State scandal.

Let’s check out the details on these two firms, who were already quite close, and are finally tying the knot….

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