Mayer Brown

Maybe you’ll make partner next year.

Back when I was at the law firm, billing more hours than I knew were in a week, there were people who thought I was “gunning” for partnership. I billed a ton of hours, had basic social skills and a good mentor, and hey, I’d look pretty good in any “diversity” partner puff piece. Just add ten years of sustaining a maniacal pace, learning how to generate rain in a shrinking market, and navigating the political minefield of kissing the right people’s asses, and maybe I could have had a shot.

Suuuure I would have. Making partner at the Biglaw firm that you started with is functionally impossible. It happens so infrequently that setting it as a goal is about as realistic as children saying they want to walk on the Moon when they grow up. The odds were long before the economic crisis that caused partnerships to close their ranks and protect their profits like dragons hoarding treasure.

It’s not going to happen, but trying to get there ruins a lot of people. They can be having perfectly fine, perfectly serviceable Biglaw careers, but then somebody starts dangling the possibility of “partnership” in front of them, and suddenly they are trying to schmooze late into the night and kick their billable hours up into the 3,000-a-year range. And maybe if they’re lucky they’ll be able to get into a less prestigious firm, slog another couple of backbreaking years as “counsel,” and then get equity at some other shop.

Am Law Daily has the story of a man who finally got his shot at the brass ring, was fired over his alcoholism, and died a short while later. It’s a sad and extreme story, but many people fall in all sorts of ways on the path to partnership….

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I’ll miss you the most, my little cupcake.

* Billable hours in Biglaw are down 1.5 percent, and 15 percent of U.S. firms are planning to reduce their partnership ranks in early 2013. Thanks to Wells Fargo for bringing us the news of all this holiday cheer! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Hostess may be winding down its business and liquidating its assets, but Biglaw will always be there to clean up the crumbs. Jones Day, Venable, and Stinson Morrison Hecker obviously think money tastes better than Twinkies. [Am Law Daily]

* How’s that “don’t be evil” thing working out for you? Google’s $22.5M proposed privacy settlement with the FTC over tracking cookies planted on Safari browsers was accepted by a federal judge. [Bloomberg]

* Greenberg Traurig and Hunton & Williams face a $7.2B suit from Allen Stanford’s receiver over a former attorney of both firms’ alleged involvement in the ex-knight’s Ponzi scheme. [Houston Business Journal]

* Perhaps the third time will be the charm: ex-Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins was convicted, again, for helping Refco steal more than $2B from investors by concealing the company’s fraud. [New York Law Journal]

* H. Warren Knight, founder of alternative dispute resolution company JAMS, RIP. [National Law Journal]

In a time when many law firms are relatively less stable than their employees would like, it’s definitely not good to hear about a Biglaw executive allegedly defrauding his firm out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But such is the world we live in. So let’s get to it: which former executive at Chicago-based Mayer Brown is facing pretty egregious fraud charges?

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He got an offer. Did you?

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of law firms giving offers to 100 percent of their summer associates. Whatever happened to selectivity? Given how perfunctory the hiring process is, there has to be at least one mistake in any summer class of decent size, right?

A commenter on our last post about offer rates put it well: “[A] 100% offer rate is not always a good thing. If we don’t want to work with the little weirdo who managed to slip through by pretending he was normal in 20-minute increments in callbacks, there’s a good chance the other SAs don’t either. Firms shouldn’t be so captured by the desire to have 100% offer rates that they give offers to people with serious social issues or work product problems, particularly in small offices where their general offensiveness will really have an opportunity to shine.”

Another reason I don’t like 100 percent offer rates is that I enjoy hearing funny stories of summer associate misbehavior, which often culminate in a no offer or a cold offer. You can share such stories with us by email or by text message (646-820-8477; texts only, not a voice line).

Alas, Biglaw firms are not obliging me. Let’s find out which firms are indiscriminately doling out offers to their summers….

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Which former White House official lives in this charming abode?

As we move deeper into election season, more of the nation’s attention is turning to Washington. So it seems only fitting for Lawyerly Lairs, our peek into the homes and offices of top legal talent, to follow suit.

In our last visit to D.C., we looked at residences worth around $500,000, a perfectly respectable sum. But today, to enhance the voyeuristic thrill, we’re upping the price point. We’re limiting ourselves to seven-figure residences.

Let’s have a look at some million-dollar homes in the Washington metropolitan area, shall we?

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In the nascent spirit of positivity around here, let’s take a look at where, according to our research, Biglaw’s happiest troopers can be found.

To be sure, lawyers are a notoriously depressive lot. Various studies — and presumably Will Meyerhofer — suggest that the characteristics that make a good lawyer actually correlate with clinical depression. Combine these alleged traits with crushing debt, an oversaturated job market, and an uncertain future, and the industry seems mired in malaise.

But what about those fortunate ones who’ve managed to snag a coveted Biglaw gig? Why, not only are they employed, but they have a realistic chance to pay off their loans. Are they any more upbeat than the industry’s rank-and-file? Our own survey data strongly suggests the answer is definitely maybe.

Respondents to our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey give their “firm morale” a mean rating of 6.81 out of 10. (By the way, if you haven’t yet, please take the survey here.) For context, lawyers rate morale a bit higher than “hours” (6.55) and bit lower than “training” (6.88). So, generally speaking, firm morale is not conspicuously singled out by lawyers as a negative.

But which are the happiest firms? And the unhappiest? Let’s have a look at the Biglaw shops getting top marks for esprit de corps….

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Which former Cabinet member sold the house with the blue door?

Are we too New York-centric in Lawyerly Lairs, our inside look at the homes (and occasionally offices) of lawyers and law students? Perhaps. It makes sense that we focus on Gotham, since Above the Law is headquartered here. But we realize that other cities and states boast great real estate too (and not just the 3500-square-foot houses enjoyed by the average associate at a Texas law firm).

Today let’s take a trip down to the nation’s capital. We’ll check out a few Lawyerly Lairs down in Washington, D.C. — including the $2 million Georgetown home shown above, recently sold by a former Cabinet member turned law firm partner….

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Back in 2009, we wrote about a Title VII suit that a former associate filed against Mayer Brown. To make a long story short (read our prior posts for the full background), Venus Yvette Springs, an African American woman, alleges that the firm discriminated against her because of her race, and eventually fired her in 2008 during the height of layoff season.

Springs filed her complaint against the Biglaw firm more than two and a half years ago, and in the time since, both parties have filed lengthy motions for summary judgment. Springs, who apparently had some time on her hands, also filed a lawsuit against Ally Financial, claiming that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for her suit against Mayer Brown.

On Friday, a federal judge ruled on the motions, and we’ve finally got an update. Will this discrimination suit be allowed to proceed?

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Alison Fournier

* In trying to resolve the Texas redistricting problem, the Supreme Court has come to a realization: everything really is bigger in that state, including its congressional delegation. [Los Angeles Times]

* The Center for Constitutional Rights is suing to get video of the would-be 20th hijacker’s interrogations made public. Too bad no one really cares about this stuff unless it’s in a movie. [Washington Post]

* The Second Circuit has overturned former Mayer Brown partner Joseph P. Collins’s Refco conviction. He’s getting a new trial, and maybe this time around, the jurors will be less shady. [New York Law Journal]

* Talk about a crappy ROI. Alison Fournier, a former i-banker, is Gloria Allred’s latest litigant. She claims that a drunken pervert groped her abroad thanks to Starwood’s lax hotel security. [Reuters]

* A judge has ordered that the leader of EquuSearch’s jurisprudential hymen be ruptured at deposition by Casey Anthony’s defense team for no more than seven hours. Ouch. [Boston Globe]

* Why are CUNY Law’s bar passage rates so low? Apparently New York’s second-worst law school has standards that are similar to the town bicycle’s morals and orifices — loose. [New York Post]

This morning’s news that Boies Schiller is making a mockery of the Cravath bonus scale simply reinforces the prevailing view (pace David Lat) around here that the 2011 Cravath bonus scale is fundamentally unfair.

Agreeing on this point is former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper (whose apparent pro-associate stance may make him a sort of Biglaw apostate). As Harper points out, “equity partner profit trees have resumed their growth to the sky. As the economy struggled, Cravath’s average partner profits increased to $2.7 million in 2009 and to $3.17 million in 2010 … That’s not ‘treading water.’ It’s returning to 2007 profit levels — the height of ‘amazing’ boom years that most observers had declared gone forever. Watch for 2011 profits to be even higher.”

And yet associate bonuses remain stagnant at 2009 levels. Furthermore, as ATL commenter “The Cravath Cut” is so fond of noting, when viewed as a percentage of profits, bonuses appear especially measly, at least from the associate p.o.v. (The current $7,500 market rate for first-years is just 0.23% of Cravath’s profits per partner. Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equalled 1.36%.) Despite these numbers, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone Biglaw’s rank and file will follow Cravath’s lead.

Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. We thought it would be interesting to see what the implications of matching Cravath are for those firms with much lower profit margins. Which firms’ partners willingly take the biggest hit by keeping up? Are these firms arguably more “generous”? After the jump, check out those firms that pay the largest percentage of PPP in bonuses.

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