Partner Issues

Astute Biglaw associates, and their fellow associates at boutiques and smaller firms, share an understanding with Tyrion Lannister. For those who don’t watch Game of Thrones, nor read the books upon which the popular series is based, Tyrion (played by the Emmy-winning actor Peter Dinklage) is the proverbial “second son,” whose father serves as the de facto ruler of the kingdom. His sister is the Queen Regent whose taste for wine matches only her disdain for her younger brother.

At this point in the series (spoiler alert — skip down two paragraphs if you are not up to date with the show), Tyrion stands on trial for alleged regicide. Rightfully skeptical of his chances of exoneration by the tribunal standing in judgment of him, Tyrion elects for “trial by combat” as a means of proving his innocence. While a smart choice, Tyrion is far from capable of physically defeating the literal “Mountain” man that his sister and accuser has selected to represent the “State” in Westeros v. Lannister. He needs a champion.

And he finds one, in the form of a visiting Prince who nurses a longstanding grudge against both Tyrion’s family members, and the man who will be his co-combatant — lucky for Tyrion, as his previous attempts to recruit others to stand as his champion had failed. When we see him at his moment of salvation, he is a desperate man, jailed, facing capital punishment at the hands of a blood-starved beast who disembowels malnourished slaves for sport. The appearance of a champion may not improve his situation all that much. But it gives him hope, and with hope comes the will to carry on.

Law firm associates may not have it quite as bad as Tyrion, but they share in common with him the need for a champion to secure their future….

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Usually Friday afternoon news dumps before holiday weekends are reserved for embarrassing news — a disgraced government official resigning to “spend more time with his family,” for example. But this latest news is happy rather than embarrassing (for the most part).

After a brief suspension of the voting, the partnership of Squire Sanders voted today to approve the proposed merger with troubled Patton Boggs. Not surprisingly, the Patton Boggs partnership had approved the merger days ago, on Monday. When a lifeboat pulls up, you don’t play hard to get.

So what’s the embarrassing part of this deal?

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* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]

* We already know that state prosecutors are very poorly paid, but let’s go one step further and see if women are paid less than men. Shockingly enough, women are getting the shaft in Texas. [Texas Tribune]

* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]

* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]

When we last checked in on Patton Boggs, the long-suffering law firm was on the brink of a bankruptcy breakthrough. Its partners, and the partners of Squire Sanders, were in the middle of voting on a merger that would save Patton Boggs.

Alas, sadly for Patton Boggs, Squire Sanders has suspended the merger vote. What happened? Did Squire come to its senses get second thoughts about that hideous proposed firm name, Squire Patton Boggs?

Actually, no; the issue is more substantial than that. Here’s a hint: Patton Boggs might have saved itself by June, if it weren’t for those meddling… Ecuadorian villagers!

(The vote is back on. Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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Partners think that they have all the power in the world, and when they want something, they try to get it — no matter what the cost. From new toys, to new clients, to new women, their voracious appetites for more are simply insatiable. If these playthings are unattainable, partners will become acutely aggressive in their pursuit, especially when it comes to potential sexual conquests.

Take, for example, the case of a prominent partner who recently found himself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment lawsuit. He allegedly sent a first-year associate videos about sexual techniques and engaged her in discussions about that literary classic, Fifty Shades of Grey (affiliate link).

Did we mention this alleged tour de force of sexual harassment culminated with the partner purportedly sending the associate emails describing his workplace sexual fantasies in great detail?

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Bruce Stachenfeld

In my article of two weeks ago, I threw out the proposition that if you are running a law firm — or a department or practice group in a law firm — the critical mission is to “attract, train, retain and inspire talent.” If you can do this, you are probably going to accomplish great things — and the converse. So the question now is, how do you do it?

Below is the best I have been able to come up with. It is (mostly) from a speech I gave at an IMN conference in 2011. (You can read the original speech here.)

First — and foremost — Talent wants to be with other talented people. They crave it in their souls. They will put up with major “not nice people” and even poor working conditions, if they are convinced that other very talented people are doing it with them in the trenches. Consider Apple and Steve Jobs. He wasn’t thought of as a nice guy; indeed, quite the opposite. But when people looked around the room, they were awed at the skill sets of those in the room with them, and boy did they want to stay in that room, in the worst way. So they put up with Jobs’s not–niceness. (Of course, I do not advocate being this way as a boss — far from it.)

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It’s springtime in D.C., and we all know what that means. No, we’re not talking about the cherry blossoms; that was last month. We’re talking about the spinning of the revolving door.

We have some interesting moves to mention taking place in the nation’s capital. One top government lawyer is returning to private practice; one top Biglaw partner is going back to government, perhaps for good; and one major law firm, potentially party to a high-profile merger, is losing some partners to a rival — after holding them prisoner for a while….

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‘Have spent all day fending Edna off my graphite shaft.’

We already knew that Biglaw firms aren’t exactly the most friendly places for women. We already knew that some male lawyers are still quite miffed that women invaded their good old boys’ clubs. What we didn’t know was that some Biglaw firms would go so far as to essentially sign off on their partners’ extremely sexist views.

Which firm recently found out that one of its partners was involved in a sexist email scandal, and is doing absolutely nothing about it?

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* A DLA Piper partner was cleared by the firm in connection with a string of sexist emails exchanged with a client because real lads don’t get in trouble for such trifling behavior. We’ll have more on this later. [Am Law Daily]

* Patton Boggs partners started voting on the firm’s merger with Squire Sanders yesterday. Apparently there’s at least one partner who will not be allowed to join the new firm because of prior conduct. Sucks to be you, guy. [Reuters]

* “It’s the best way to prepare for a whole variety of things.” Right now is one of the best times to go to law school, say California law school deans who really need to get asses in empty seats. [Daily Transcript]

* “We are a better people than what these laws represent.” Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage was struck down yesterday, making it the 14th victory in a row for the marriage equality movement. [Bloomberg]

* Showtime just bought a law firm comedy about “four smartass, workaholic associates” in Biglaw trying to make partner and avoid being murdered by the office serial killer at the same time. Uh, yeah. [Deadline]

Qui Tam: OMP

Not “on my period.” Nor “one minute please.” I’m talking about “Office Managing Partner.”

Think I saw the initials on a business card once, and knew instantly and certainly I had encountered a type of man once colloquially known as a “knave”….

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