Michael Blair

It looks like the trusts and estates department at Debevoise & Plimpton needs a last will and testament. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the firm is pulling the lifeline on its T&E department.

The move surprised some, given the kind of place that Debevoise is. As Peter Lattman put it, “it seemed to run counter to Debevoise’s reputation for a strong partnership culture. At a time when many large law firms have discarded the traditional partnership model and embraced a more bottom-line approach, Debevoise has been seen as retaining an old-school ethos — a genteel law firm known for its camaraderie and decency.”

We have some additional information about the wind-down process. On the bright side, it’s being conducted in a genteel, decent, Debevoise sort of way….

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The dominoes continue to fall. This morning brings word of two additional firms matching the pleasant (but not spectacular) Cravath bonus scale. The firms in question: Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and Debevoise & Plimpton.

The bonus numbers aren’t a surprise, but we can make a few comments about the timing (of the announcements and of the payments), share some tipster reactions, and show you the memos.

Let’s take a look….

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Maybe they’re on to something….

Here’s an interesting irony: some of the Biglaw firms that spend the least amount of time thinking about money are the ones that enjoy the most of it. A number of super-elite New York law firms have lockstep compensation systems, in which partners are paid purely based on seniority, and these firms are among the most profitable in the country. These firms focus on doing great work for their clients, not on divvying up the spoils from such work — and, in the end, there’s more than enough filthy lucre to keep everyone smelling like money.

On an individual level, some of the wealthiest lawyers in Biglaw — the ones who make partner, and remain partner, for years and years — don’t fixate much on money either. They focus instead on their work, which they seem to just love (often more than any hobbies, and sometimes more than their families). As for the money, well, it just comes — in copious quantities.

Let’s take a closer look at these phenomena….

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