Musical Chairs

Peter Kalis

As we head into the weekend, we’re happy to bring you additional commentary from Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates. Earlier this week, the colorful Kalis was unanimously reelected to his leadership role by the 60 voting members of the Management Committee.

The delightfully opinionated Kalis recently gave an interview to Am Law Daily, in which he shed additional light on the state of K&L Gates. His remarks weren’t as forceful as the beatdown he administered to the firm’s anonymous detractors last week, but they are interesting….

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Peter Kalis: hail to the chief!

Much like the similarly named Kelis, his milkshake brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard. Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, just won a fifth consecutive term at the helm of the global mega-firm. As noted in the firm’s press release, which we received here at Above the Law, the 60 voting members of the Management Committee supported Kalis unanimously.

Kalis assumed leadership of the firm in 1997, back when it was called Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. On Kalis’s watch, the firm conducted eight mergers, including the combination with Preston Gates & Ellis that resulted in the “K&L Gates” moniker. When Kalis took the helm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart was a regional firm with six offices, all in the Eastern time zone of the United States. Now K&L Gates boasts almost 2,000 lawyers in 41 offices on four continents.

But growth brings with it growing pains. Let’s discuss those, and get some information about partner capital contributions at the firm….

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Now this is how you handle negative rumors about your firm.

As we mentioned last night, in the past week or so we’ve seen media reports of possible trouble at K&L Gates. Stories in Law360 and Crain’s Chicago Business speculated about “an alarming rate” of partner departures and “attorneys increasingly los[ing] faith in the firm’s leadership and strict compensation policies.”

The chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, Peter J. Kalis, isn’t taking all this sitting down. Very early this morning, the famously outspoken Kalis sent around a firm-wide memo that powerfully refutes some of the claims made about the firm.

If you’re at all involved in law firm management, you should read it. The Kalis email offers a master class in how to thoroughly respond to negative rumors….

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On multiple days over the past week or so, one of the top ten search terms bringing visitors to Above the Law has been K&L Gates. For whatever reason, people seem keenly interested in what’s going on right now at this major international law firm.

(But maybe we shouldn’t read too much into such queries. Also in the top ten search engine terms: “pictures of tacos.”)

So what is going on at K&L Gates? A significant amount of partner attrition, as various news outlets have recently pointed out….

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No, different Magic Circle.

The leading firms of the United Kingdom, the so-called Magic Circle firms, have made significant inroads into the U.S. legal market. Over the years, they’ve hired a number of high-profile lawyers away from domestic law firms. They might not have conquered New York to the same degree that they’ve dominated many other markets they’ve entered, but they’ve certainly built up significant outposts here in Gotham.

In today’s notable lateral news, though, we see partners disappearing from one Magic Circle firm and reappearing at… another Magic Circle firm. Who are the lawyers in question, and where are they going?

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The last winner of our esteemed Comment of the Week contest was rewarded for bringing some Oscar-winning gravitas to an already serious issue. Namely, the oft-crushing weight of student loans.

There’s always time for serious business, but sometimes we appreciate astute observations of minute, easily-overlooked details. (As Mitch Hedberg would have said, “What the f**k is a sesame?”) And our newest Commenter of the Week winner uncovered a similarly amusing logic problem in a former Sidley Austin associate’s book about his adopted K9….

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He’s going to Disney World? No, not this veteran M&A lawyer….

Let’s say you graduated from a leading college, summa cum laude, and from an elite law school, also summa. You began your legal career as a transactional lawyer at one white-shoe law firm, where you made partner. You left that firm for investment banking, where you encountered significant success. Then you returned to the legal world, first as an M&A partner at one top firm, then at another. At your final firm, you served as global co-chair of the firm’s renowned mergers and acquisitions group, working on some of the biggest deals around the world.

Then, in your 70s, you decide to leave your firm and also the legal world. Where would you go next?

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When people leave the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, they do it in style. Remember the humorous departure memo of partner David B. Johnson, who left the firm to pursue a career as a novelist? Or the epic farewell message of associate Tyler Coulson, who left to hike across the country with his dog?

(And write a book about the experience, with a great title: By Men or By the Earth: A Corporate Lawyer Walks Out on Law, Love, and Life, and Walks Across America With His Adopted Dog (affiliate link).)

Today we have news of another lawyer leaving the Chicago office of Sidley. But this departure reads more like a mystery novel than a memoir. Let’s find out who’s leaving, even if we don’t yet know why….

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Many of the lawyers from the bankrupt law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf have found new professional homes. But what about the managers? Since the firm filed for bankruptcy, we haven’t heard much about the fates of D&L’s leadership troika: former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and former chief financial officer Joel Sanders. What’s going on with them? Have they found new jobs?

Of course, they can afford to take some time off before returning to the workforce. As we previously reported, DiCarmine and Sanders each received more than $2.9 million — in salary, bonuses, and expense reimbursement — in the year leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy filing.

So, assuming he has reasonable living expenses, former CFO Joel Sanders can afford to coast for a while. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s already back in the workforce.

What if we were to tell you that the chief financial officer of Dewey has found a new position? At a law firm — a pretty sizable one, in fact?

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David Bernick

As we just noted in Non-Sequiturs, the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner has managed to fill the — possibly peep toe? — shoes that were recently vacated by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Trading one famous name for another, the firm just hired celebrated litigator David Bernick (as reported earlier today by Thomson Reuters).

So it seems that there will be two David B’s in the building. Boies Schiller was founded, of course, by the legendary David Boies, one of the greatest litigators of our time — known for his work on such marquee cases as Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, the Perry / Prop 8 case (which could end up in the Supreme Court), and too many others to mention.

Let’s take a closer look at David Bernick’s résumé, and analyze what his arrival means for BSF….

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