Orrick

There was no rational foundation to do [the spring bonuses]. It was not as if suddenly all the law firms in The Am Law 100 were minting money.

Ralph Baxter, longtime chairman and CEO of Orrick (shortly before he was overheard screaming at the Wheeling career associates to mint more money).

During 2011, Paul Hastings has been picking up partners. We previously mentioned their acquiring two prominent leveraged finance lawyers, Michael Michetti and Rich Farley, from Cahill Gordon. Additional hires, including Michael Baker from Shearman & Sterling and Steven Park from Finnegan Henderson, are listed on the PH website.

Like any large firm, however, Paul Hastings loses partners too. We’ve just learned of two partners who are ankling PH for Nixon Peabody.

Let’s find out who they are, get the backstory on their departures, and also obtain the 411 on some PH staff layoffs….

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(Plus Paul Hastings staff layoffs.)

Edward De Sear

On Friday we brought you the story of Edward De Sear, a former partner at several top law firms who now faces a charge of child pornography distribution. De Sear — a graduate of Columbia and UVA Law, who is now one of the nation’s leading capital-markets lawyers — has been a partner at Allen & Overy, Bingham McCutchen, McKee Nelson, Orrick, and Milbank Tweed. As we mentioned in our prior post, the charges against De Sear came as a shock to fellow New York lawyers and to neighbors of his in Saddle River, New Jersey (my hometown — I can walk to De Sear’s place from my parents’ house).

After our story appeared, a former colleague of Ed De Sear came forward, to share some recollections. “I’m completely stunned,” said this attorney.

What could our source recall about De Sear?

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Edward De Sear

I grew up in the town of Saddle River, New Jersey, a suburb about 40 minutes outside of New York City. With its wooded rolling landscape and small-town charm, Saddle River is a pleasant place to live. Large houses, a mix of stately older homes and well-executed McMansions, sit on sizable plots of land, thanks to two-acre zoning.

It was a peaceful and bucolic locale, and when I visit my parents, it seems much the same. My colleague Staci Zaretsky, our newest full-time contributor here at ATL, also grew up there — and concurs with my assessment.

But Saddle River, like the suburbs depicted in such films as American Beauty and Happiness, is not without its drama. Yesterday Edward De Sear, 64, a resident of Saddle River and a capital-markets partner at the distinguished international law firm of Allen & Overy, was arrested at his home and charged with distributing child pornography. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

UPDATE (12:00 PM): Make that a former partner of Allen & Overy. De Sear has resigned from the firm, according to a statement issued by A&O. Read it in full after the jump.

Let’s learn more about the allegations against Ed De Sear, hear from someone who knows him, meet his high-powered defense counsel — and check out his beautiful and historic home….

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I’m going to tell you the tale of two law firms.

Firm A: You win a major, high-profile case. The victory is covered by the legal press and mainstream media. The award to your client is huge, and the victory comes at the expense of a rival firm. Your only problem? Your client won’t pay you your millions in legal fees.

Firm B: You lose a major, high-profile case. Your well-known client gets rocked with a huge verdict, a rival firm is taking a victory lap all around town, and all you can do is tweet about the appeals process. But you are getting paid, and you expect to earn even more in fees as you plan your next move.

All else being equal, which firm would you rather work for?

If you chose Firm A, welcome to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. And good luck to you…

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You'd smile too if you got home in time for dinner.

Today’s New York Times has a front-page story by Catherine Rampell entitled At Well-Paying Law Firms, a Low-Paid Corner. The article focuses on the phenomenon of “career associates” or “permanent associates” at large law firms. These lawyers are not eligible for partnership consideration and earn less than traditional associates, but they do enjoy a better “lifestyle,” in terms of more-reasonable hours and greater control over their schedules.

These positions generally pay around $60,000, significantly lower than the $160,000 that’s standard at top Biglaw shops. They are typically located not in New York or Chicago or L.A., but in more out-of-the-way places — such as Wheeling, West Virginia, where Orrick has its back-office operations, or Dayton, Ohio, where WilmerHale has “in-sourced” much of its work.

We mentioned the Times article earlier today. Morning Dockette was not impressed: “Career associates get to have ‘lifestyle’ jobs at Biglaw firms — but really, what kind of a lifestyle is it when you have to live in a crappy city with an even crappier salary?” Elie has also criticized these positions, characterizing them as “barely legal” jobs.

But such criticism might be overly harsh. Let’s look on the bright side….

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The official title of the NALP conference panel that I attended on merit-based compensation contained a playful shout-out to Sarah Palin: “How Is That Performance-Based Compensation System Working for Ya?”

The panel was originally supposed to have featured a representative of the now-defunct Howrey law firm. So the snarky answer to the question presented might be, “Not well.” (In fairness to merit-based compensation, however, Howrey’s dissolution didn’t have much to do with its model for training, promoting, and compensating associates.)

No mention of Howrey was made during the introductory remarks (or anywhere else in the discussion, for that matter). Rather, the panel focused on the positive — and offered useful advice for firms that are contemplating adoption of performance-based systems….

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What’s going on over at Orrick? Spring bonuses, that’s what — but with a twist.

As we’ve noted before, Orrick remains committed to merit-based compensation, even though some other firms that started moving away from lockstep have returned to it. Orrick’s approach to spring bonuses reflects the meritocratic orientation of its compensation.

Let’s have a look at what Orrick is doing here….

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Judge Linda Van De Water

* Musical chairs: Orrick partners to Dechert and Gibson Dunn; Weil Gotshal partners to McDermott. [Am Law Daily; McDermott Will & Emery]

* Some of the questions in this survey, designed to assess how law students use online media when evaluating law firms, are amusing. If you’re a law student, please take the survey — you can win a gift card — and talk about how important Above the Law is to your assessment of firms. [Survey Gizmo]

* Judge of the Day candidate #1: Linda Van De Water, for allegedly “kicking and jumping on her ex-boyfriend’s car after confronting him outside the home of another woman.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

David Zornow

* Judge of the Day candidate #2: Tom Carney, for allegedly wielding a gun like a gavel, in an incident with another motorist. And don’t forget that snazzy pink necktie. [Erie Times-News]

* Peter Lattman looks at David Zornow, the global head of litigation at Skadden, and Zornow’s obsession with Bob Dylan — reflected in a mock indictment of “The Judges,” drawn up by “special assistant U.S. attorney Bob Dylan.” [DealBook / New York Times]

* There’s a new post up on the blog of Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, daughter of Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld. Critics of Amy Chua have speculated about whether her “Tiger Mother” ways have damaged her daughters psychologically. But based on her blogging, young Sophia seems grounded, charming, and funny. [new tiger in town]

On Tuesday we told you that McGuireWoods, Dewey & LeBoeuf, and Weil Gosthal were all contributing to the relief efforts under way in Japan. The response has been pretty great.

While some people seem to think Japan’s status as a rich nation means it doesn’t need any international aid, I don’t see how the country’s long-term ability to recover has anything to do with the immediate humanitarian crisis. Japan will undoubtedly be able to rebuild in the future, but its citizens need food and water today.

We’ve now received word that even more Biglaw firms are pitching in to do what they can. If you know of additional firms supporting relief efforts that we have not mentioned, please tell us in the comments to this post….

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