Partner Issues

thumbs-upWe are living in a feedback culture. Traveled lately? Uber wants to know how your ride to the airport was. Your airline? An emailed survey is waiting for you on arrival at your destination. Checking out of your hotel? Have a goodbye survey on the house. Had a meal? Make sure you take the opportunity to complain (on Google, Yelp, etc.) about the server who accidentally brushed your shoulder while pouring your overpriced Malbec. Or rave about the innovative creme brulee and brioche hybrid that is the heir apparent to the cronut as a worthy “queue them up” for hours artery-clogger. It’s easy. Just a few clicks, and the world will be enlightened with your opinion. And your service provider can “improve the experience” for the legions of satisfied customers to follow.

In fact, service providers in multiple industries are quite busy turning your technological toys into “review generation machines” — because they can. Purchase an item online, and be prepared to answer questions about the item, the purchasing experience, and even the process of returning “crappier in real life than it looked on my Retina Display iMac/iPhone/iPad” item as well. While you are at it, maybe you have some thoughts on the packaging too. If so, the good folks who supply online retailers with corrugated cartons of all shapes and sizes would sure appreciate hearing about it.

There is no doubt that technology has fostered this “connectivity” between consumer and service provider in a quite mind-boggling way. And that those service providers are not shy about exploiting it. Many times, we do not even realize just how much our thinking has changed on this issue….

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dartboard pen on target inside straightGimme a break: I mean this hoo-ha, not the other one.

I’m thinking about the usual happy talk. At law firms, the happy talk sounds like this: “We’re landing big deals and new cases left and right; we just received the firm-of-the-year award from some outfit that hosts a dinner to celebrate this stuff; we’re launching great new business development initiatives.”

And only then, later, and maybe never spoken aloud at all: But we’re not paying associate bonuses, and we just moved a half-dozen guys out of the equity partner ranks.

Trust me! Times are great!

At corporations, the happy talk sounds like this: “We’re landing big customers left and right; we just received firm-of-the-year-award; etc.”

And only then, later, and maybe not spoken aloud at all: But the stock price is down, and we can’t afford to give raises this year.

Trust me! Times are great!

Riddle me this: Why do the institutions bother with this stuff? And, more than that, why do some employees seem to lap it up?

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Bingham new logoOver the past few months, we’ve offered extensive coverage of Bingham McCutchen, the once high-flying law firm that’s now struggling to survive. Bingham has remained mainly mum during these trying times.

This week, however, managing partner Steven Browne — who took over earlier this year from Bingham’s longtime leader, Jay Zimmerman — has been on a charm offensive. He gave interviews to the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal, which along with the American Lawyer ran long pieces on the state of affairs at the firm. We’ll share with you the new and most notable material from all three stories.

Before we get to the substantive stuff, though, let’s check out the Wall Street Journal’s interesting choice of a photo for its Bingham piece….

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kirkland RFEarlier this year, we noted a number of departures of private-equity partners from Kirkland & Ellis, a traditional leader in the PE space (and the #2 firm in our new law firm rankings). But K&E has also picked up partners in this practice area as well, including Sean Rodgers and Rick Madden, plus Andrew Calder and Anthony Speier in Houston.

This week the revolving door spins again at Kirkland, with the departure of a lawyer who has served in leadership roles at K&E. Who is he, and where is he going?

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goodbye farewell Ill miss you“Beware the serial lateral partner.” That’s conventional wisdom in some circles of the legal profession. Here’s a pattern you often see: someone who gets poached by one firm, presumably lured by a big pay package, then laterals to another firm after the period of guaranteed compensation runs out, to enjoy another few years of guaranteed comp.

Today’s lateral partner story is a bit different. This high-profile partner is leaving his new firm after less than a year there (surely to the great disappointment of any recruiter who might have been involved in his original move).

It’s a strange story. What could be going on here?

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Now that Bingham McCutchen appears to have found a savior, talk is turning to other firms that have experienced a lot of recent partner attrition. One such firm is Dickstein Shapiro, which lost the most partners to lateral moves in 2013 and has continued to shrink over the course of 2014.

Today brings word of more Dickstein departures. Who are the latest lawyers to leave?

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Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the past three articles I published in ATL over the past month or so. My first article argued that Profits Per Partner is a great servant for a law firm but a bad master. In my second article, I set forth our Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as an alternative. In my third article, I set forth what I believe is the highest level in law firm profitability analysis, which is to “embrace” the volatility inherent in the practice of law. In this final article, I will give some thoughts on how a law firm could indeed Embrace Volatility.

Before getting to that, I will mention as an aside that I wrote a few weeks ago in this column an article entitled “Are Lawyers Only Happy When They’re Miserable?” That article largely dealt with how an individual might in fact Embrace Volatility. This article is directed not at individuals but at law firms.

If you have been reading my past articles, you may be open to at least considering how Embracing Volatility might be a good thing for a law firm. But is this whole concept just a fantasy, like it would be nice to not be afraid of snakes but you can’t help it and just reciting “I am not afraid of snakes” isn’t going to work? I don’t think so. I think the following simple steps would do it quite nicely:

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John Grisham

* Dickstein Shapiro’s IP practice was raided by Manatt Phelps & Phillips, and now the struggling firm is down one practice group coleader thanks to its partner defections. [Am Law Daily]

* Contrary to popular belief, O’Melveny & Myers is not opening a Portland office. Instead, the firm is setting up a temporary shop to work on a local patent trial. [Portland Business Journal]

* You can turn an IPO into a gold mine for your firm using this one weird trick. Discover how you can turn that one deal into your future. Prepare to be shocked. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Now isn’t the best time to enroll in law school. It’s also not the best time to rank law schools as “top” schools based on enrollment alone. Seriously, have you even heard of all of these law schools? [Birmingham Business Journal]

* Thanks to this Georgia appellate ruling, parents may now be held responsible for what their silly little children who weren’t supposed to be on Facebook are posting on Facebook. Dislike. [WSJ Law Blog]

* John Grisham says not all consumers of child pornography are pedophiles. Here’s a story about one of his law school pals: “He shouldn’t ‘a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.” [The Telegraph]

In my line of work, I sometimes end up as a career counselor of sorts. People talk to me about what’s going on at their law school or law firm and ask me for advice about what to do.

I recently had occasion to speak with a lawyer who was laid off by his Biglaw firm. He remains on the website, but he hasn’t been to the office in months; that was part of the deal they negotiated with issued to him. He has been looking for a new job for months but has been having difficulty. He blames this in part on a lack of specialization — he’s a generalist, not really marketable as an expert in a particular type of litigation or transaction.

This reminded me of a chat I was having with an old friend from my high school debate days, who has found great professional success in a focused practice area. I contacted him again and our chat turned into a full-blown interview about how to become (and remain) a partner at a major law firm by establishing expertise in a particular field of substantive law.

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Based on the traffic we’ve been seeing, there is considerable interest in the new ATL Power 100 Ranking of law firms. The Power 100 blends objective data with subjective feedback from over 20,000 law firm associates and partners. The result is a holistic picture of each firm, encompassing employee satisfaction, compensation, reputation, desirability as an employer, and data-driven measures of firm growth. The Power 100 offers a new perspective on how Biglaw firms stack up.

Today we share the leading firms in some of the individual categories of our rankings formula: Which firms have the highest growth rate? The lowest leverage? Which firms’ lawyers are happiest with their pay? Which firms are considered the most desirable employers?

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