Musical Chairs

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

We all know that sometimes relationships end. Take Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper. As my friend (who is a divorce attorney) always says, if things are not working out, end it and do not buy real estate together.

This is true not only with bad relationships, but with bad jobs. I have received emails and had conversations with several small-firm attorneys who are unhappy. One woman emailed me that she worked at a small firm where she had to work in a poorly heated office with roaches and screamers (I guess she worked on a pirate ship). One man told me that he was repeatedly forced to cancel his vacations for faux emergencies. I have heard many different tales of experiences that range from unpleasant to abusive.

The idea of quitting a job (even a bad one) in this economy seems heretical to many. But, it shouldn’t. A recent study suggests that working at a bad job may be more harmful than being unemployed….

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Last week we reported on global megafirm Latham & Watkins heading into the Boston legal market. The firm will officially announce the opening of its Beantown outpost later this month.

We mentioned that Latham snagged Alex Temel, a prominent partner from Proskauer, to help start up LW’s Boston office. Now we’re hearing additional reports about attorneys who will be joining Latham in Boston, as well as the location of the office….

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The partners of the law firm of Howrey LLP, founded in 1956, have voted to dissolve the existing Howrey partnership. The dissolution will take effect on March 15, 2011, according to a press release that was issued earlier tonight by the firm.

The firm’s chairman and CEO, Robert Ruyak, has not been the most popular person during Howrey’s long and painful disintegration (which arguably started over a year ago, with some key partner defections). But few would disagree with the statements he made this evening.

“This is a very difficult time for our firm, for our attorneys and for our staff,” Ruyak said. “Many of us have spent our entire legal careers at Howrey and remain proud of what we built. We find some solace in the fact that our people have been so well received by their new firms. They are first class professionals and deserve the respect accorded to leaders in their fields.”

We extend our sympathies to everyone at Howrey who will be affected by the firm’s demise, and we wish them the best of luck as they search for new workplaces. Many superb lawyers and staff have worked at Howrey over the past 55 years, and as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many are being courted and welcomed by other law firms — a testament to their talents and abilities.

Additional commentary and links, as well as the full press release, appear below.

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Yes. The voting started today at 11:30 AM (Eastern time) and remains underway, according to Am Law Daily. We will keep you posted, either by adding updates to this post or publishing a new post.

Meanwhile, the CEO (and poet laureate) of Howrey, Robert Ruyak, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about the apparent downfall of his firm. As summarized by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak blamed Howrey’s troubles on a combination of (1) experiments with contingency fees and alternative fee arrangements, (2) impatient and risk-averse partners, and (3) discovery vendors.

Are you finding it hard to keep track of where all the Howrey partners are ending up? Join the club. Luckily, there’s a new resource out there that can help….

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Raj Rajaratnam

* The epic insider trading trial of Raj Rajaratnam got underway today. Bess Levin, of our sister site Dealbreaker, comes up with a (rather hilarious and bizarre) list of possible character witnesses for Raj. [Dealbreaker]

* Speaking of the Rajaratnam trial, who were those mystery men observing the proceedings in the courtroom? [Clusterstock]

* In other insider-trading news, a former Dewey & LeBoeuf associate, Todd Leslie Treadway, has been hit with civil insider-trading charges by the SEC. [National Law Journal via WSJ Law Blog]

* Talk about a benchslap: “Mr. Redlich continues to display an apparent disregard for the time and resources that this court must expend in interpreting his poorly-drafted pleadings and analyzing his sloppily-constructed and thinly-researched memoranda.” [Albany Times-Union]

* Four important lessons, for lawyers and technologists, that can be drawn from Michelangelo’s sculpting of The David. [Ben Kerschberg / Forbes]

* Musical chairs: Sean Patrick Maloney — former aide to Governor Paterson, Governor Spitzer, and President Clinton, and a former candidate for New York Attorney General — joins Orrick from Kirkland. [Orrick (press release)]

* Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? [In Custodia Legis]

* On a more festive note, Happy Mardi Gras! [Twitpic]

* Congratulations to Omar Ha-Redeye of Law Is Cool, winner of the 2010 Blawg Review of the Year. [Blawg Review]

We’re hearing reports — not yet confirmed, so please take them with the proverbial grain (or shaker) of salt — that Winston & Strawn has rescinded some or all of its offers to partners of Howrey.

The supposed catalyst for the collapse: antitrust star Sean Boland, who had been leading the talks on the Howrey side, pulling out of the deal. It has been rumored that he might take his team not to Winston but to Baker Botts (which has already absorbed other Howrey talent).

What we do know for certain is that the partner exodus from Howrey continues. Here is the latest confirmed news.

UPDATE: Various updates have been (and are still being) appended — after the jump….

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No, wrong Boston Market.

The global megafirm of Latham & Watkins is in full expansion mode. The firm recently picked up a trio of real estate partners from Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, for example.

And even though it’s not yet listed on the firm website, we understand that LW has quietly opened a Boston office. The official announcement will be made later this month, according to the Boston Business Journal.

This news shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Latham loves geographic reach, and it has been mulling over a Beantown presence since late 2007, as noted by Am Law Daily.

Tipsters tell us that Latham has already been scooping up talent from different firms around town. We have at least one name that we don’t believe has been publicly announced yet….

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As we mentioned in our last story on the embattled Howrey law firm, the remaining partners will vote this week on whether to wind down the 55-year-old shop. According to Am Law Daily, that vote is set to take place on Wednesday.

For the past few weeks, Winston & Strawn has been waiting in the wings, hoping to help itself to Howrey’s healthiest parts. But as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many of the strongest partners and practice groups have already defected to other firms.

Let’s discuss the latest developments — and also learn the fate of current 3Ls holding offers from Howrey….

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Partners at the differently abled challenged Howrey law firm continue to leave the reservation in droves. Last night, Am Law Daily reported on the departure of antitrust litigatrix Roxann Henry. She’s joining Dewey & LeBoeuf, which has picked up a number of Howrey refugees (including Henry Bunsow, former vice-chairman of the firm).

What’s next for Howrey? According to Legal Week, the remaining partners plan to vote next week on whether to wind down the firm. (For a discussion of possible Howrey endgames, see Am Law Daily, which interviewed partnership law expert Robert Hillman, a professor at UC Davis.)

After the dissolution vote, Howrey can focus on talking to Winston & Strawn about which associates and staff Winston might want (as well as other assets, like the Howrey name). As previously discussed, a few weeks ago Winston made offers to about 75 percent of Howrey’s partners. It looks like about 35 percent of Howrey’s remaining partners have agreed to join Winston, and Legal Week reports that confirmation letters went out to them last weekend.

In our last post, we opened up a Howrey haiku contest. Let’s look at the winners….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Howrey Kemosabe: Rivals Claim More Scalps, As Dissolution Vote Looms (Plus the Howrey haiku contest winners.)

* Marc Randazza wants to feed the members of the Westboro Baptist Church into a wood chipper, but he respects their First Amendment rights; accordingly, “the Westboro Baptist Church is the first entity to receive both the First Amendment Bad Ass award and the Asshat award in a single blog post.” [The Legal Satyricon]

* Everyone’s talking about the Westboro Baptist Church case, but don’t overlook Chief Justice Roberts’s hilarious opinion in FCC v. AT&T, rejecting a corporation’s claim of privacy rights under FOIA (contrary to the alarmist predictions of certain overwrought, Citizens United-obsessed liberals). [Slate]

* Speaking of noteworthy cases, check out the latest precedent of Zoopreme Court: Justice Under Paws. [Zoopreme Court]

* New New Hampshire motto: Leave my junk free or die. [Huffington Post]

* Musical chairs: three real-estate partners leave Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago for Latham & Watkins. Speaking of these firms, will either pay spring bonuses? [Chicago Tribune]

* Meanwhile, on the South Side, UofC Law is encouraging young black high schoolers to go to law school. If B (# of black students) < P (Posner) + L (Liberals), then you've got to do some outreach. [University of Chicago Law School]

* If you enjoyed our recent post about Chief Judge Kozinski’s taste in movies, you can check out all of his mini-reviews over here. [IMDb]

* Some reflections by Jane Genova on politics, law firms, and the power game. [Law and More]

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