Partner Issues

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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Sometimes, firm publicists need to understand that it’s more about shoulda than coulda. Sure, you could put your entirely capable but not necessarily media-trained new chairperson in front of a camera to film an awkward welcome video, but that doesn’t mean you should. The buzzword-driven types probably shouted “New Media!” and “Video is the Future!” or some such and cajoled this lawyer in front of the camera.

What we ended up with are some of the worst line readings since Attack of the Clones….

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Justice Joan Orie Melvin

* How are Nevada and Idaho officials reacting to yesterday’s Ninth Circuit ruling striking down gay marriage bans in those states, and how soon might marriages get underway? [BuzzFeed]

* In other LGBT legal news, New York City is likely to make it easier for transgender individuals to amend their birth certificates. [New York Times]

* Good news for Joan Orie Melvin, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice turned convicted felon: her unorthodox sentence has been stayed (again). [How Appealing]

* Eduardo Leite, who has led Baker & McKenzie since 2010, gets another two years at the helm of Biglaw’s biggest firm. [American Lawyer]

* Cravath associate Micaela McMurrough scores a victory in tax court for artists. [New York Times]

* The ABA has issued a new opinion addressing ethical issues raised during the sale of a law practice. [American Bar Association]

* Why do lawyers blog? Tim Baran of Rocket Matter talks to 23 of us. [Legal Productivity]

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