Money

[T]he solution to the knot [of complex legal problems] has been to add more string. Simply adding more lawyers and compliance professionals will only create far worse, more complicated and more costly problems.

Geoffrey A. Moore, author of the bestselling Crossing the Chasm (affiliate link) and other books, and Mark Harris, CEO of Axiom, in an interesting DealBook piece about the need to rethink the current model for delivery of legal services.

Contrary to the cliché, sometimes the acorn does fall far from the tree. Very, very far.

Let’s play a game of word association. If I were to toss out “ACORN” — as in the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, not the nut — what would come to mind?

Controversy? Certainly.

Scandal? Sure.

People in need of low-income housing? Why not.

You probably wouldn’t blurt out, “27-foot-wide, $21 million townhouse in the West Village”….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

This is the first of a four-article series focusing on the following matters:

  • First Article – Profits Per Partner: A Good Servant But A Bad Master
  • Second Article – A Profits-Per-Partner Emancipation Plan
  • Third Article – Beyond Profits Per Partner – Embracing Volatility
  • Fourth Article – How to Embrace Volatility as a Law Firm

Those of us running law firms have two sets of clients:

  • Clients – parties that hire us for legal work.
  • Lawyers – parties that do the legal work for the clients.

One without the other is pointless, obviously – they are yin and yang. However, despite this almost symbiotic relationship, most law firms are set up to attract great clients a lot more than they are set up to attract great lawyers. That is how law firms define “marketing.” The other function is called “recruiting.”

Indeed, let me ask you — in your firm, which is cooler: to be on the marketing committee, or to be on the recruiting committee? Which one is more likely to result in success at your firm, including money, power, fame, a big office, etc.?

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It’s always sunny – or raining money? – in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: it’s all about the Benjamin. The city abounds in tributes to its famous founding father, Benjamin Franklin. It even boasts a museum devoted to his life and times.

And maybe Philly will be all about the benjamins, plural — as in hundred-dollar bills. There’s speculation afoot that the new going rate for first-year associates in this city could rise to $160,000.

What’s the basis of the speculation? And could a Philadelphia pay raise have implications for other markets?

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If you’re going to steal millions from clients, at least make a good story out of it. Like blowing hefty sums on luxurious private air travel and wiring millions to casinos to cover gambling debts. Make it a rock star story right up until the very end.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a lawyer successfully stealing millions. There are just too many checks in place to let it get that far. It felt like the only thing anyone needed to know to pass professional responsibility was to respect escrow accounts. You just make sure all the money you’re watching for your customers, consumers, lenders and employees is always accounted for. There’s inevitably more than one person handling the bank statements. It’s just hard to lose millions.

Nonetheless, one law firm with offices around the country thinks it’s discovered more than a minor problem in its accounts. In fact, it just filed a lawsuit against its former managing partner, alleging that he siphoned off a cool $30 million from client escrow accounts to live like a proverbial rock star….

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Kim Kardashian

* First things first, she’s the realest: In light of the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri, of course Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged that we have a “real racial problem” in America. [National Law Journal]

* Cooley Law has experienced legal troubles over its job stats for the past few years, and a great deal of it has been handled by Miller Canfield. It raked in almost $1M from the school from 2011 to 2012. [Am Law Daily]

* Yesterday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The latest opinion is one of nineteen in favor of marriage equality. The decision was stayed, but yay for Flori-duh! [CNN]

* Half of Concordia Law’s third-year class will not be returning to school this fall because they’d rather wait to receive word on whether the school will be accredited than waste more of their time there. [Boise State Public Radio]

* Thanks to JudgmentMarketplace.com, a dentist was finally able to collect on a a years-old default judgment against Kim Kardashian — but only because a lawyer bought it from him. [WSJ Law Blog]

In today’s Lawyerly Lairs column, we’ll step inside the beautiful home of a Biglaw partner — a name partner at an Am Law and Vault 100 firm, in fact. There aren’t many of those folks still around, since most of the nation’s largest and most prestigious firms are so old. Paul Cravath died in 1940, in case you’re wondering.

But there are a few Biglaw name partners around — at (relatively) young, super-profitable firms, like Wachtell Lipton, Quinn Emanuel, and Boies Schiller. And these lawyers own some fabulous real estate.

Which they sometimes put on the market. Let’s look at the next item up for bids: the D.C. home of a leading litigator, on the market for $4.85 million….

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A year ago, in writing about how major law firms performed in the first half of 2013, I wondered whether Biglaw might be the proverbial frog in boiling water. I now wonder whether the analogy might still hold, but in a good way: could we be witnessing a quiet boom for Biglaw, happening so gradually that we don’t even realize it’s here?

In the past few weeks, a slew of mega-mergers have made headlines — which will hopefully turn into contributions to law firm coffers. But even if you focus just on the first six months of 2014, excluding the busy months of July and August, there’s good news to report.

Our friends at Citi Private Bank, a leading law firm lender, just released their report on how Biglaw fared in the first half of 2014. What are the key findings?

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Make fun of the University of Chicago Law School’s law-and-economics focus all you want. Their graduates make good use of the training, enjoying tremendous success in the business world. Some of them go on to become billionaires — and then make eight-figure gifts to their alma mater.

The legal eagle featured in today’s Lawyerly Lairs coverage isn’t a billionaire, but he has done very, very well for himself, in both business and politics. And real estate: he just sold his urban mansion for more than $11 million.

You’ll feel pangs of envy when you find out how little he paid for it — and when you see what a beautiful property it is….

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According to the latest Am Law 100 rankings, Wachtell Lipton had profits per partner of nearly $5 million in 2013.

Meditate on that for a moment. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

Five million bucks per year.

Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

I lost the slidy-thing from my slide ruler so I have to do this in my head, but I think that’s about $100,000 per week per equity partner. A little less than a newbie associate makes in a whole year outside of the major metropolitan areas.

Imagine all the things you can buy with that kind of money. A mansion that looks somewhat familiar every time you visit it. Luxury vehicles for your nanny. Dream trips for your spouse. The finest private schools for your kids. An iPhone for your son so he can talk to you every day. A high-end camera your wife can take to your daughter’s soccer game so you can watch her play through live streaming video. Oh, the joy that kind of money you can bring your family. It’s not Powerball, but it’s most certainly a lottery win per year.

How much do Canadian law partners earn?

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