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.
Of the roughly 36,000 partners in Biglaw, roughly 6,800 (18.8%) of them are within a few years of or have surpassed (and then some) the mandatory retirement age. Lawyers 55 or older make up about 1/3 of the practicing partners in the Am Law 200, a figure that will likely hold steady as the tail end of the baby boomer generation ages. Am Law 200 law firms have on average about 34 chairs, executive members, and senior partners whose 35-plus years of experience, client relationships, and leadership must be transferred to a new generation of rising stars. The process is hardly ever smooth and often involuntary.
Most partners in senior vintages begrudge the practice of mandatory retirement; some bemoan that it is an overcautious safeguard or the epitome of ageism. Some claim the practice is supported by scientific studies that link cognitive decline with advancing age — especially after 65, which is about the average for mandatory retirement. However, with advancing medical standards the idea of being forced to retire at 65 may soon seem ludicrous, but for now, how many law firms are prepared to deal with the void left by these partners?
We’ve written from time to time about senior judges, the most senior of whom was Wesley E. Brown of the District of Kansas, who remained on the bench until his death at age 104. We’ve even written about lateral moves made by nonagenarians to highly esteemed Biglaw firms, likely performed with the aid of a walker. We’ve never written about centenarian Biglaw attorneys, presumably because there are very few of them, but that’s about to change.
Fear not, clients, for that’s not a blood stain on your legal documents. It’s prune juice, because a 101-year-old lawyer was working on your deal, and he needs to stay regular to keep his billable hours up.
Which Biglaw firm is keeping this extremely senior counsel on its payroll?
* A proposal to raise the retirement age for judges in New York was crushed by voters, but Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has vowed to continue fighting the requirement — just like a stubborn old man. [New York Law Journal]
* Which law schools have the highest percentage of graduates working as corporate directors or executive officers of companies? You might be surprised by some of the results. Or you might not. [National Law Journal]
* Dean Lawrence Mitchell of Case Western Reserve Law wants parts of the retaliation suit that’s been filed against him tossed for being “scandalous” and “salacious.” But those are the best parts. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
* Thanks to a $25 million donation from an alumnus and his wife, Yale Law School is going to be getting dormitories for law students in the very near future. The thought of all of those coed nerdgasms between future SCOTUS clerks is a thing of beauty. [Fox News]
* Clark Calvin Griffith, the former adjunct professor at William Mitchell Law, has been suspended from practicing law for 90 days after exposing his penis to a law student. Stiff punishment. [Pioneer Press]
* If you were thinking of giving away guns on Facebook, then you should think again. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun on the internet is with slideshows of the 572 best kitty cat gifs. [Corporate Counsel]
* A police officer in Arkansas ordered a woman to flash him her boobs while she was at work, and when she refused, he allegedly Tasered her repeatedly. She’s obviously suing now. [New York Daily News]
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.
An intriguing demographic dilemma is approaching a powerhouse law firm, Jones Day, as several senior partners and chairs are straddling the mandatory retirement age. The firm currently has over eight partners — including numerous practice leaders and partners in charge — above their proclaimed mandatory retirement age, and over ten partners nearing the cutoff, which probably signals that Jones Day gives some partners a pass when it comes to retirement. For example, Mark Sisitsky, Hugh R. Whiting, and Bob Mittelstaedt, just to name a few, are all very respectable partners who are refining with vintage.
Jones Day generally restocks from within by promoting partners in the first quarter each year. In 2013, the firm internally promoted 29 partners in the first quarter, each with an average of 12.5 years of experience. Although Jones Day is five months away from the next round of promotions, Lateral Link has identified around fifty associates who are in the running for a partner promotion (although only a handful will ultimately get the nod). We have an idea who fits in both categories and have been fairly accurate in our projections from the past….
If you’re a big corporate defendant hoping to be represented by Sheila Birnbaum and you head over to Skadden Arps, sorry — you’re out of luck. Your princess is in another castle.
The so-called “Queen of Toxic Torts” is about to leave her longtime realm. Birnbaum, the legendary litigatrix who currently serves as co-head of Skadden’s mass torts and insurance litigation group, is decamping to a rival.
So where is Birnbaum taking her talents — and her bulging book of business, estimated at more than $30 million? And is anyone else going with her?
(Multiple UPDATES, including Skadden’s internal memo, after the jump.)
If you follow the world of large law firms, then you are probably familiar with the incisive and candid commentary of Steven J. Harper. Over at his blog, The Belly of the Beast, Harper offers excellent insights into the world of Biglaw.
Harper knows so much about that world because he spent his entire legal career in it. He joined Kirkland & Ellis after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1979. He practiced litigation at the firm for about 30 years, until his retirement in 2008, at the early age of 54 (which you can afford to do when you’re an equity partner at a firm as lucrative as K&E).
In addition to blogging, Harper has written four books. I spoke last week with Harper about his latest book, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link), and about his views on the worlds of Biglaw and legal education….
Ed. note: This is the first installment in a new series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today, Larry Latourette, Executive Director – Partner Practice, brings us his insights on what it’s like to practice law in the era of mandatory retirement, and how older partners can make a lateral transitions to new firms.
When I first met “Mark” for lunch this summer, he appeared to be in his mid-fifties, in excellent health, and talked about his competitive tennis game, needing to put his teenage kids through college, and his thriving legal practice that he couldn’t imagine giving up in the next ten years. In reality, Mark was 64, faced forced retirement from his firm in nine months, and wanted to know what his options were for moving laterally to another firm.
As a legal recruiter, I have met a growing number of lawyers like Mark who are bumping up against their firms’ mandatory retirement age. This trend will, in fact, accelerate over the next five years, for several reasons. Like other sectors of the economy, the Baby Boomers have had a dramatic effect on lawyer demographics. About 60 percent of law partners are now 55 or older, and by some estimates, a quarter of all practicing attorneys will be 65 or older by next year. At the same time the population is graying, however, it is also living longer. Especially with the increasing number of women in the legal profession, the life expectancy of lawyers who are 65 is now almost 20 years higher, with most of that time spent in good physical and mental health. Finally, the recent downturn in the economy has also caused some lawyers to postpone retirement as their nest eggs have dwindled.
Objectively, there is no question that most older lawyers are up to the challenge of practicing law….
I recently had a birthday. I’m 32-years-old, but my liver has to be at least 60. It’s pretty close to mandatory retirement age. But I’m just getting back from Vegas (full report on twitter) and I can tell you that my liver will not go quietly into the good night.
And so I have a little appreciation for the partners that recently departed Mendes & Mount. A couple of partners there bumped up against the firm’s mandatory retirement age. After a failed negotiation with firm management, the older partners decided to take most of the damn practice group with them and start a new firm. The New York Law Journal reports:
Seven partners at Mendes & Mount have departed to launch a boutique after at least one of the partners failed to persuade the firm to amend its mandatory retirement policy.
The new firm, Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Tucker, Collier, Pagano, Aubert, consists of the bulk of Mendes & Mounts’ aviation practice and will have offices in New York and Los Angeles, said partner Ralph V. Pagano. The firm will be made up of 24 lawyers from Mendes & Mount, including the partners, one of whom joins as special counsel. Mendes & Mount will be left with about 109 lawyers.
“It’s a pretty big break-off,” Pagano said.
How’s that for flexing some muscle? Push me out — I’ll take 24 lawyers and your aviation practice group with me! Screw you guys, I’m going home.
Hey, the older partners gave Mendes an opportunity to reconsider…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.