Earlier this month, we broke the news of three prominent Proskauer partners — Louis Solomon, Hal Shaftel, and Colin Underwood — jumping ship to Cadwalader. In addition, Michael Lazaroff, who has been senior counsel at Proskauer, will join Cadwalader as special counsel (as noted in the New York Law Journal).
In its press release, Cadwalader touted their arrival as a coup. And that’s generally how the news was covered (which is so often the case with law firm moves).
But covering every move by partners from Firm A to Firm B as a triumph for Firm B, the receiving firm, isn’t always accurate. Sometimes Firm A is perfectly happy to see lawyers leave. Sometimes firms even squeeze out departing partners — a trend that has been on the upswing during the recession.
With respect to the Proskauer-to-Cadwalader moves, is there perhaps more to this than meets the eye?
Today is the last day at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal for Marc Zwillinger and Christian Genetski — the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of SNR’s internet practice group. Their bios have already been removed from the Sonnenschein website (our links go to cached versions), and if you email them — as we did, to confirm the news — you receive an out-of-office auto-reply announcing their departure (and providing contact info for their new firm).
They’re leaving to start a boutique law firm, Zwillinger Genetski LLP, which opens for business on March 1. Zwillinger and Genetski will be joined by several associates and staffers who are currently at Sonnenschein.
“We are very excited about our new firm,” Marc Zwillinger told ATL. “As for our departure, it couldn’t be more amicable.”
“No idea why,” said our source, “but Davis seems like a place where disappearings are rare.”
Indeed. It’s one of a handful of super-elite firms, like Cravath and Wachtell and Sullivan & Cromwell, where partners rarely leave. When they do, there’s often a story behind the departure. See, e.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda and John O’Brien, formerly of Sullivan & Cromwell.
We followed up by calling the firm yesterday. The first time we called the main number, the receptionist hung up on us after we asked for Pat Bradford. This was very un-Davis of her, since DPW is known for its passive-aggressive uber-polite, genteel, “kinder and gentler” atmosphere.
We called back, and this time we were connected to a secretary who put us into Bradford’s voice-mail. We left him a voice-mail and followed up with an email. Today Bradford confirmed his departure from DPW, in a short statement to ATL:
I have withdrawn from my firm to pursue a position in government service.
The bonuses were basically on the Cravath scale, provided you meet “the bonus criteria set forth in the bonus policy.” We’re advised that the bonus criteria focus for the most part on hours, with bonuses triggered at around 2000 hours (1900 billable).
In other CWT news, we hear that two real estate partners — Alan Lawrence and John Busillo — are leaving the firm for Arnold & Porter. Sources describe them as “heavy hitters” who “still have some business.”
Back in April, we wondered about the departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of John O’Brien, a highly regarded and well-liked corporate partner who focused on M&A work. This development captured our interest because it’s unusual for lawyers to leave the (highly lucrative) partnership of a top firm like S&C.
When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure. E.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda (partner left S&C after billing clients and firm for more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).
In addition, word on the street was that O’Brien was escorted from the building by security personnel. Partners are being asked to leave their firms with increasing frequency during the recession — but they’re not usually walked out by muscle.
Back in March, we reported that two big time Skadden D.C. partners were splitting off from the mothership and forming their own firm. Yesterday, we received word that their new firm, BuckleySandler, made a significant new hire:
After 20 years with General Electric, Stephen Ambrose, Jr., former General Counsel of GE Capital’s consumer finance unit, is joining BuckleySandler, as Partner-in-Charge of the firm’s New York office, effective July 1, 2009. This move coincides with the opening of the firm’s New York office.
G.E., we bring good things to life.
A new New York office run by a finance guy? Are they hiring?
Actually, if I was an unemployed corporate attorney in NYC I wouldn’t wait for an answer to that question. Sending a cold, unsolicited resume to a person you haven’t met can’t really hurt. Not in this market.
A spokesperson for Buckley Sandler had this to say about the importance of the hire:
Steve’s reverse commute will provide the firm with not only an accomplished, well-respected addition but an industry insider with a complete understanding of the financial services landscape and huge sector experience. As Steve notes, “Joining BuckleySandler provides me with a superb opportunity to employ as outside counsel the client-focused service and cost management skills I’ve developed during my career, as well as the chance to practice with my longstanding and highly respected legal colleagues at the firm.”
Oh come on, he’s practically begging to be inundated with resumes from young lawyers who also want a complete understanding of the financial services landscape — and a paycheck.
Check out the full BuckleySandler press release after the jump.
Back in March, we reported that Skadden D.C. lost important members of its litigation team when Andrew Sandler and Benjamin Klubes left to start their own firm. Have those losses been replaced? Sources report Skadden is in the process of poaching a big name from O’Melveny & Myers. Apparently, John Beisner is leaving OMM for Skadden, and he’s taking Jessica Miller and Steve Harburg with him.
Beisner is based out of Washington, D.C. and is the chair of O’Melveny’s firmwide Class Actions, Mass Torts, and Aggregated Litigation Practice. A source says this about Mr. Beisner’s importance to O’Melveny:
Beisner’s cases are an unbelievable percentage of the entire litigation portfolio – this has been a huge fear now realized among associates/counsel.
This latest piece of news, like the pushing back of start dates to November 2 for incoming associates, falls somewhere in between. Above the Law has learned that John O’Brien — a corporate, er, “general practice” partner at S&C, where he handled “mergers and acquisitions, investment management, [and] corporate and securities matters” — has left the firm. He joined the firm in 1992 and made partner in 2001.
Multiple sources report that O’Brien’s departure was involuntary. Apparently he was removed from the building by security personnel, sometime last week. His removal came as a shock to many. According to one S&C tipster, O’Brien was known around 125 Broad Street as “a well-respected attorney and incredibly nice individual” — one of the nicest people at S&C.
(That may not be saying much, given the firm’s reputation for hiring folks like the infamous DB. But O’Brien was also highly esteemed for his legal skills at the uber-prestigious, super-successful firm, home to many great legal minds.)
Regardless of the exact reasons for John O’Brien’s departure — if you have information, please email us — it is confirmed that he is no longer with the firm.
He no longer appears on the external S&C website. Nor is he on the firm intranet, sources at the firm inform us. We called his former direct-dial number and received no answer. We called the main S&C switchboard and asked to speak with him. After placing us on hold for a long time, the receptionist returned to inform us that O’Brien “is no longer with the company” (and that she had no forwarding information for him).
It was all very reminiscent of the Carlos Spinelli-Noseda situation. As you may recall, Spinelli-Noseda — like O’Brien, a young, highly regarded, very well-liked corporate partner at S&C — mysteriously disappeared from the firm. Several months later, it came to light that Spinelli-Noseda defrauded clients and the firm (to the tune of $500,000, through submission of fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).
Last night, we reached out to H. Rodgin Cohen and to a firm spokesperson for comment. Neither has gotten back to us yet; if and when we hear anything, we’ll let you know. If you have inside info, please email us, or call (212-334-1871, ext. 9).
More about John J. O’Brien and Sullivan & Cromwell, including cached versions of his firm and Martindale-Hubbell bios, after the jump.
Superstar litigatrix Kathryn Ruemmler, a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins and an Enron prosecutor before that, has been picked to serve as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Obama Justice Department. That title is a mouthful, but lawyers inside the Beltway know it’s a Big Deal.
The revolving door between the DOJ and Latham swings again. Ruemmler has traded places with another fierce female litigator: Alice Fisher, who rejoined the firm after heading up the Criminal Division.
As for Ruemmler, the government’s gain is Latham’s loss. Says one LW tipster: “She’s a really good lawyer, and a genuinely nice person. We’re very sorry to lose her.”
Kathy Ruemmler isn’t just a genial genius; she’s stylish, too. From the WSJ Law Blog, reporting on a day of the Ken Lay trial:
Speaking of footwear, the boldest fashion statement of the day — possibly rivaling O’Melveny paralegal Bill Evans’s goth getup for the gutsiest sartorial move of the week — came from the government’s Ruemmler. The deputy director of the Enron Task Force, who won convictions against four Merrill Lynch bankers in the 2004 Nigerian Barge case, paired a conservative gray suit with stunning 4-inch bright pink stiletto spikes.
Litigatrix indeed. Just because you work for the DOJ doesn’t mean you have to shop at DSW.
There’s a lot of diversity in Obama’s Department picks so far. Eric Holder, nominated to serve as Attorney General, is African-Amercan. Elena Kagan and Dawn Johnsen, nominated to serve as, respectively, Solicitor General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, are women.
The full memo about Ruemmler’s move, after the jump.
As the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.
So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.
“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”
“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”
“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”
Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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