Litigators

Ultimately, I think the price is right — you’ve got all the amenities of living at home that you wouldn’t have otherwise. The washer and dryer at your place, the full kitchen all the time, and you’re not living that rugged lifestyle. You get to eat steak and not ramen.

John O’Connor, a graduate of UC Hastings Law, recounting the joys of living in his parents’ homes as opposed to renting. O’Connor, an associate at a small California firm, estimates he’s saved about $25,000 in rental payments.

I have in my office a framed print of the classic New Yorker cartoon: “You have a pretty good case, Mr. Pitkin. How much justice can you afford?” I often find myself referring to the cartoon when talking to prospective clients.

JUMP to find out why…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new 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.

Patton Boggs, the preeminent Washington-based lobbying law firm, is reeling from a slew of recent events, hinging upon their multi-million dollar litigation with Chevron. In 2010, the firm released a memo entitled “Invictus,” proudly proclaiming their new endeavor: the representation of Ecuador in a long-contested battle over Texaco’s culpability in creating nearly one thousand pits of oil in the jungles of Ecuador — a liability Chevron inherited when it purchased Texaco in 2000 for $36 billion.

But Patton Boggs’s plan to quickly enforce a settlement soon became more challenging than anticipated. Playing hardball, Chevron has continuously called Patton Boggs’s bluffs…

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Ed. note: This is the first installment in a new 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.

BuckleySandler LLP landed a big fish in Los Angeles. With the firm’s recent hiring of Richard Gottlieb, a well-known class action defense litigator, and Fredrick Levin, a class action and securities litigator, the partners confirm that BuckleySandler’s Los Angeles office (and soon-to-be-opened Chicago office) are serious contenders in the quest for lateral partners. Gottlieb is a heavy hitter in the consumer finance and mortgage class action space, and he developed a very significant book of business with a national client base.

The deal is unique on several levels…

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Tom Wallerstein

Last week, I was having a business lunch at Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta overlooking the San Francisco Bay. (Those who know me won’t be surprised that I managed to combine a business meeting with some good eats. I’ll save my restaurant review for another time, or you can read it on OpenTable.)

Anyway, my lunch was with a partner at Leason Ellis, a thriving IP boutique in New York. The firm is a boutique in that the lawyers are specialists in intellectual property; as far as I know, that is their only practice area. But within that subject matter, they have both a litigation and transactional practice. Conversely, with limited exceptions, my own firm has remained a litigation-only boutique since it was founded four years ago. We handle a wide range of subject matters, but only do litigation within those subjects.

What are the pros and cons of running a litigation-only shop? Why haven’t we added a robust transactional practice as well?

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Last week, we wrote about reductions to the ranks of lawyers and staff at WilmerHale. We noted that the cuts, made in connection with twice-annual performance reviews, seemed to focus on IP litigation and on the Boston and Palo Alto offices.

Today we bring you additional information about the reductions, which look a lot like stealth layoffs. They seem to be more widespread, in terms of offices and practice areas, than previously reported.

And they might be due to some earlier overhiring, reflected in an interesting email we received….

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Usually when we talk about Eliot Spitzer there are the obligatory “Client 9″ prostitute jokes. Yes, yes, it’s terribly embarrassing that a married man frequented prostitutes. Spitzer was most famous for being a prosecutor, and prosecutors who break the law are hypocrites, and we have to point and make the Invasion of the Body Snatchers face and scream.

So I’ll pause to let everybody do that. In the immortal words of Tim Curry in Congo “have your laughing.”

Okay, are we back now? People love to bash this man; Spitzer made few friends in public life. But those of us who were in Biglaw while Spitzer was doing his thing at the New York Attorney General’s Office should hold him close to their hearts, or at least their wallets. Because Spitzer made a lot of lawyers a lot of money. Suing Wall Street might not have been popular with Wall Street, but it was sure as hell popular with lawyers who serviced Wall Street firms.

Bet-the-company litigation, huge fees, tons of associate man-hours just trying to unpack whatever shady, arbitrage/Ponzi/derivative bollocks your client was doing — these are the cases that make it rain in litigation, baby. Most of my brief Biglaw career could be described as applying wet wipes to clients whom Spitzer crapped all over.

And everybody made money.

So the question is… can The Steamroller do it again?

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What should unemployed law school graduates do when they can’t find work and can’t feed themselves? A certain great French princess — although not Marie Antoinette, FYI — might say, “Let them eat cake.”

But not everyone can afford cake. Debt-burdened young (and not-so-young) lawyers don’t want to spend dough; they want to make it.

Perhaps literally as well as figuratively. Do you have some talent in the kitchen? Here’s an inspiring story for you….

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In the dark days of 2009, we had frequent occasion to discuss the difference between “layoffs” and “performance-based dismissals.” Layoffs are generally understood as economically motivated, large-scale reductions in headcount, while performance-based dismissals involve specific individuals being asked to leave for cause. (Some see this as the difference being getting laid-off versus getting fired, although I’ve sometimes heard layoffs referred to as firings.)

The distinction can be a fine one. Unless cuts are made based on factors like seniority or practice area, layoffs often target weaker performers, so they can look a lot like performance-based terminations. There’s no bright-line cutoff, in numerical terms, for what constitutes a round of layoffs. And you can’t let firm characterization control, since many firms find it in their reputational interest to deny layoffs (unless the cuts are so large as to be undeniable; see, e.g., last week’s Weil Gotshal layoffs).

Today we bring you a story that captures this ambiguity. Several lawyers and staffers, totaling a number believed to be in the double digits, have been asked to leave a firm — but the firm denies that it’s conducting “layoffs.” We’ll present the facts and let you be the judge….

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Tomorrow, I’ll be going into a meeting with the folks from finance, and they’ll ask me: “How much are we going to pay in the Smith case, and in what quarter?”

[Note to accounting purists: We'll assume that we could reasonably win Smith, so liability is not probable.]

To be sure that I have the most informed opinion possible, I call outside counsel and cleverly ask: “How much are we going to pay in the Smith case, and in what quarter?”

And outside counsel starts the usual spiel:

“Life is full of surprises. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Litigation is like a black box; you never know what’s inside until you’ve opened it, and by then it’s unstoppable.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say. “But how much are we going to pay in the Smith case, and in what quarter?”

“Well,” says outside counsel. . . .

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