Here’s the thing about these “onshore,” “insourcing” operations: they are successful. Ridiculously successful. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter called the decision to open the Wheeling center “one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made for the firm and our clients.” And that’s coming from a man who made the smart decision not to merge with Dewey Ballantine.
That’s why every Biglaw managing partner, and every law student thinking of taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to law school, should pay attention to what’s going on in Wheeling…
That’s the question the WSJ Law Blog just asked about the [pick your favorite adjective: beleaguered / collapsing / flailing / troubled] law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Today brings big, bad news for Dewey: bankruptcy superstar Martin Bienenstock is taking his practice to Proskauer Rose. He’s moving with five other partners — Philip Abelson, Irena Goldstein, Timothy Karcher, Michael Kessler, Judy Liu — and nine associates.
Dewey’s loss is Proskauer’s gain. “He is absolutely the crown jewel over there, a fantastic lawyer who will be a great partner,” a current Proskauer partner told us. “This is going to vault us into the company of Kirkland and Weil, giving us one of the top bankruptcy practices in the country. We are really thrilled.”
About two weeks ago, we covered reports about Dewey & LeBoeuf possibly shedding some of its overseas offices. We noted at the time, however, that the reports were vague, and we added that some D&L sources denied the existence of plans for closing any specific foreign office.
Well, the reports are getting increasingly detailed. Word on the street is that D&L might shutter three of its offices in the Middle East. And the firm’s Moscow office is reportedly being courted by other major U.S. law firms.
Which offices are being considered for closure? And who are Dewey’s suitors in Moscow?
The firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has been a leader in instituting a merit-based compensation system. Two aspects of their system make Orrick’s commitment to merit-based seem genuine:
1. Partners put in significant time so that merit evaluations are more than just hours cut-offs.
2. Orrick is transparent about how many people get paid.
You can’t run a merit-based system with a Jones Day-like approach to transparency without everybody feeling like they are secretly getting screwed. If you do it out in the open, at least the low-hanging fruit will know that other, better work paid off for others in their class.
So let’s look at the memo. While Orrick generally does a good job of looking at associate productivity instead of mere man-hours, make no mistake, the firm still wants you to bill, and in a timely fashion….
Agreeing on this point is former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper (whose apparent pro-associate stance may make him a sort of Biglaw apostate). As Harper points out, “equity partner profit trees have resumed their growth to the sky. As the economy struggled, Cravath’s average partner profits increased to $2.7 million in 2009 and to $3.17 million in 2010 … That’s not ‘treading water.’ It’s returning to 2007 profit levels — the height of ‘amazing’ boom years that most observers had declared gone forever. Watch for 2011 profits to be even higher.”
And yet associate bonuses remain stagnant at 2009 levels. Furthermore, as ATL commenter “The Cravath Cut” is so fond of noting, when viewed as a percentage of profits, bonuses appear especially measly, at least from the associate p.o.v. (The current $7,500 market rate for first-years is just 0.23% of Cravath’s profits per partner. Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equalled 1.36%.) Despite these numbers, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone Biglaw’s rank and file will follow Cravath’s lead.
Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. We thought it would be interesting to see what the implications of matching Cravath are for those firms with much lower profit margins. Which firms’ partners willingly take the biggest hit by keeping up? Are these firms arguably more “generous”? After the jump, check out those firms that pay the largest percentage of PPP in bonuses.
Welcome to the West Coast edition of the Career Center’s Top Partners to Work For. For the past few weeks, we have revealed the best partners to work for in New York and Washington, D.C., as nominated by you, our readers.
The law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe continues to do battle with its former client, MGA Entertainment. It seems that the maker of Bratz dolls is still acting in bratty fashion, by not paying its legal bills, and Orrick has moved to withdraw from representing MGA. (This is not the first time that Orrick has tried to fire its difficult client.)
Fortunately, things are happier on the transactional side for Orrick. The firm just announced that it’s picking up five bank finance and high-yield partners, for its New York office.
The new arrivals come from four different places, including three firms whose names you will definitely recognize….
* Check out Orrick’s excellent “It Gets Better” video. Orrick, MoFo and Shearman are the three large law firms we’re aware of that have made such videos; if you know of others, please let us know. [It Gets Better]
* If you are free on November 4th and will be in New York that night, consider attending the Black and White Masquerade Ball of the Dave Nee Foundation, a non-profit committed to fighting depression and preventing suicide. [The Dave Nee Foundation]
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This year, the Trust Women conference will take place 18-19 November in London. From women’s economic empowerment to slavery in the supply chain and child labour, this year’s agenda is strong and powerful. Speakers include Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking and many other influential leaders. Find out more about Trust Women here.