Partners With Issues

A partner at Morrison & Foerster accidentally “replied all” to an email on which “List/Attorney/All” was cc’d. Emails sent to “List/Attorney/All” go out to all 1,000-plus MoFo lawyers around the world.

What the partner wrote in the email was probably not something that should have been shared with the rest of the firm….

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Juliette Youngblood and Morgan Chu

Last month, Juliette Youngblood, an ex-partner at the elite California law firm of Irell & Manella, filed suit against her former firm. In her lawsuit for sex discrimination and wrongful termination, Youngblood advanced a whole host of salacious allegations — including a report of sexual harassment by Morgan Chu, arguably the nation’s #1 intellectual-property litigator.

Irell did not respond to the lawsuit at the time. Now it has, in a blistering 22-page filing that calls Youngblood’s claims “meritless” and “utterly false, complete fabrications manufactured out of whole cloth.”

What does the firm have to say about the specific claims made by Youngblood — such as the allegation that a drunken Morgan Chu made inappropriate and offensive comments to her at a firm happy hour, including remarks about her physical appearance and about “objects entering [Youngblood's] body”?

And what do ATL sources, including readers familiar with both Youngblood and Irell, think of the situation?

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Firm denies claims and moves for arbitration.

John J. O'Brien

Remember John J. O’Brien? Back in April 2009, we wrote about the mysterious departure of John O’Brien from Sullivan & Cromwell, where he was a well-regarded and well-liked partner in the M&A department. In a follow-up post in December 2009, we noted : “When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure.”

In our December 2009 post, we reported that John O’Brien “left Sullivan & Cromwell due to an issue relating to his taxes.” We added that the problem was personal, i.e., that it did not implicate S&C or any of its clients (unlike the fraud of another former SullCrom partner, Carlos Spinelli-Noseda, who defrauded the firm and its clients of more than $500K).

Some readers pushed back on this reporting. They claimed that John O’Brien left voluntarily and for perfectly innocent reasons. They told us to leave O’Brien alone. They accused us of harboring ill-will towards Sullivan & Cromwell (even though, to be honest, large law firms are somewhat interchangeable for us here at ATL; they’re all just potential sources of news to write about).

In light of all the flak we took for our John O’Brien coverage — similar to the criticism we received for covering Theodore Freedman’s departure from Kirkland & Ellis, a few months before Freedman got indicted by the feds — please forgive us for gloating a little. (This gloating is directed at our critics, not at John O’Brien; we have nothing against O’Brien and wish him the best of luck in moving on with his life.)

Today brings news that John J. O’Brien has been hit with federal criminal charges. Like Ted Freedman, John O’Brien has been hit with tax-related charges. But the numbers involved are larger — a lot larger….

UPDATE (7 PM): O’Brien pleaded guilty. See the update appended to the end of this post.

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Morgan Chu

Legendary litigator Morgan Chu, former managing partner and current litigation chair at Irell & Manella, is one of the nation’s top intellectual-property attorneys and trial lawyers. He has tried multiple IP cases to nine-figure jury verdicts, and he has earned every professional accolade under the sun (see his Irell website bio). He is arguably the nation’s #1 IP litigator. (If you disagree, make your case for someone else in the comments.)

And now Morgan Chu is the subject of sexual-harassment allegations. In a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court on Friday, former Irell partner Juliette Youngblood alleges that Chu sexually harassed her, then retaliated against her after she rejected his advances.

Morgan Chu is widely admired — at Irell, where his rainmaking monsoon-making helps generate robust partner profits (over $2.9 million in PPP in 2010), as well as above-market associate bonuses; in IP litigation circles, where he is a fearsome adversary; and among Asian-American lawyers, where he stands as proof that we can excel at litigation as well as transactional work.

It’s hard to believe that such a beloved figure has been hit with such salacious allegations (which we must emphasize are mere allegations at this point, nothing more). But let’s forge ahead and check them out — along with the pertly pretty plaintiff who is making them….

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Former partner alleges sexual harassment by Morgan Chu.

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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This is the worst piece of whoring journalism I have read in a long time. How long are you going to suck [U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara]’s teat? All to hurt a decent, honest witness, [whom assistant U.S. attorney Reed] Brodsky could not lay a glove on. It did not work. The jury was not impressed by the worst cross examination ever delivered. So in the style of Preet, try to smear him by working the sycophants in the back of the Courtroom. He learned from Schumer in the Senate… Preet is scared sh[**]less he is going to lose this case so he feeds his whores at the WSJ. What a disgrace for an otherwise great paper.

John Dowd, partner at Akin Gump and defense lawyer to Raj Rajaratnam, in an irate email to Wall Street Journal reporter Chad Bray.

Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy, is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid “ugliness.” The partners, like the capos of major crime families, have delicate constitutions.

Ugliness could result from ill-considered communication. For that reason, a capo – or a partner – isn’t going to tell you what he really thinks. That would be indelicate. It could lead to misunderstandings.

You, in turn, shouldn’t tell a partner what you really think. That could lead to sleeping with the fishes.

My client recently received a lesson in partner communication…

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I hate you, I’m not telling you a thing.

John Dowd, leading criminal defense attorney and Akin Gump partner, responding (or not responding) to reporters’ inquiries about the whereabouts of his client, Raj Rajaratnam. The jury in Rajaratnam’s insider trading trial is still deliberating.

Toronto partner David Cowling, exonerated booty dancer.

Toronto partner David Cowling, exonerated booty dancer

Back in January 2009, a moot court after-party hosted by Mathews, Dinsdale & Clarke got wild enough to spark allegations of sexual harassment. Canadians do know how to party, eh? The “night of debauchery” has haunted David Cowling ever since; he was one of the partners accused of getting overly friendly with female associates and law students, while gettin’ jiggy.

He says that an internal law firm investigation cleared him of charges of inappropriate dance floor behavior, but that the firm refused to make that public, leading to rumors continuing to swirl in his work and social communities in Toronto. Oh, and have we mentioned that David Cowling specializes in labor and employment law? “If I were a personal injury lawyer, sexual harassment rumors would not be such a bad mark on my professional reputation,” says Cowling.

So he filed a libel suit against Adrian Jakibchuk and Sarah Diebel, the two associates who accused him of doing the really funky chicken on the dance floor. Apparently, they don’t study the Barbara Streisand effect in Canadian law schools. That got the allegations splashed across Canadian newspapers and here at ATL.

But now he’s got his name cleared, with a public statement from his prior firm, along with a seven-figurish settlement. He started a new firm and dropped his lawsuit against his accusers, and has a few things to say about his side of the story.

So say you’re the law student who supposedly got felt up by a partner on the dance floor, and his lawyer calls you up in the middle of exam week to talk about it. Yeah, that’s awkward. And Cowling sent along the transcript…

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