Partners With Issues

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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[Partner David] Cowling and the very intoxicated summer student began to dance in a sexually explicit manner. The student’s arms were around Cowling’s neck and his hands were on her waist and buttocks. While dancing, Cowling placed his hand on the student’s breast. Shortly thereafter, the summer student fell to the floor. She was assisted to her feet by Cowling and others. The summer student then went to the washroom where she vomited over her hair, body and clothes

– Canadian lawyer Sarah Diebel, in the statement of defense she filed in opposition to a defamation lawsuit by David Cowling, a former partner at the Canadian law firm of Mathews Dinsdale & Clarke.

(Cowling sued Diebel and another former associate, Adrian Jakibchuk, for defamation, alleging that their statements about a wild party in January 2009 defamed him. We covered Cowling’s defamation lawsuit here. Earlier this week, Jakibchuk sued Mathews Dinsdale for wrongful termination, bringing the firm’s “night of debauchery” back into the news.)

Recent news about Cahill Gordon has been very positive. In December, the firm announced year-end bonuses that made Cravth’s widely-adopted year-end bonus scale look paltry by comparison. Cahill can afford to be generous: last month, Am Law reported that the firm enjoyed record profits and revenue in 2010, with profits per partner last year of $3.23 million.

(This has caused some to wonder whether Cahill will be paying spring bonuses, like Cravath and many other firms. In light of the spring bonus phenomenon, how does Cahill compensation compare to Cravath et al.? One Cahill source suggests Cahill is still ahead, but we’d love to see the numbers run by someone who knows the full Cahill scale. Feel free to send us an email, or comment on this post.)

The most recent news out of Cahill, though, is strange rather than glowing. Last week, a prominent partner was escorted out of the building by security and removed from the Cahill website. A firm-wide email then went out informing all staff that he was no longer a member of the partnership. (We haven’t seen this email, but feel free to send our way.)

So who’s the Cahill Gordon partner in question?

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On Tuesday, Ropes & Gray was sued in Manhattan federal court by a former partner, Patricia A. Martone. Martone’s lawsuit claims age discrimination, sex discrimination, retaliation, and interference with protected retirement benefits in violation of ERISA (the basis for federal jurisdiction in the S.D.N.Y.).

As you might expect from an ex-Ropes partner, Martone has some high-powered counsel: Anne Vladeck, one of New York’s top labor and employment lawyers, widely regarded as the queen of employment discrimination law. Vladeck famously (and successfully) represented Anucha Browne Sanders in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas and the Knicks.

Patricia Martone is a veteran intellectual-property litigatrix, a specialist in patent litigation, with almost 40 years of practice under her belt. She made partner at Fish & Neave, the well-known patent law firm, in 1983, and then became a Ropes partner in 2005, when Ropes absorbed Fish. She’s now a partner at Morrison & Foerster, which she joined in October 2010.

Why did she leave Ropes? Let’s have a look at Patricia Martone, and her lawsuit….

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Sometimes you just have to whip it out and wait for somebody to bring over a ruler. That’s just a part of life.

But some lawyers seem to sit around all day just waiting for an opportunity to drop drawers and call for the chains.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this guy from SNR Denton. He was reading the Middle East Practice Area ABA listserv and came across an innocent question and follow-up discussion. Instead of answering the question or providing any helpful information whatsoever, he shot off a quick little response about his firm’s own magnificence.

And to make matters worse (and hilarious), it turns out he didn’t even know what he was talking about in the first place…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

I need your help here.

I occasionally give “book talks” about my silly little ditty, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law. During those talks, I explain that my book is written in the voice of a jaded old coot who rants at young lawyers about how to do their jobs. I explain that I would have liked to include in the book a chapter called, “How To Be A Crappy Partner.” That chapter would have been written in the voice of a young lawyer ranting at an older one about the ways the old guy messes up his job. I didn’t include that chapter because it would have required changing the authorial voice from an old coot to a young one, and I couldn’t figure out how to execute the switch.

(Why are there so many great words for nasty old men, but none for nasty young ones? We have “curmudgeon,” “coot,” “crank,” “grouch,” and probably a bunch of others for the old guy. But there are so few (that you can type in public) for the younger version of that character. I propose to add “snark” to the lexicon, meaning a nasty young coot.)

If I’d been able to include the missing chapter, I would have included many examples of how to be a crappy partner. For example….

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We’ve already shown you what it looks like when an associate gets laid off from a law firm. It’s not pretty.

What does it look like when a law firm fires — or tries to fire — a partner?

Well, that is even uglier….

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Sometimes lawyers at Cadwalader are the victims of theft. And sometimes they’re the ones doing the stealing.

Here’s the promised follow-up to yesterday’s post about Cadwalader’s successful raid on the energy law practice of McDermott Will & Emery. It’s big news in Biglaw. As of now, nine partners are moving — Paul Pantano, Karen Dewis, Greg Lawrence, Greg Mocek, Tony Mansfield, Ken Irvin, Rob Stephens, Daryl Rice and Doron Ezickson — but if they’re followed by associates, a few dozen lawyers could be involved.

In an email sent out on Wednesday by MWE leaders Jeff Stone and Peter Sacripanti, reprinted in full after the jump, McDermott tried to minimize the losses. Stone and Sacripanti pointed out that “[t]his group of partners focused mainly on one aspect of our overall energy practice, which was commodities and derivatives trading for financial clients,” and that “the departing partners’ total collections in 2010 amounted to about three percent of overall firm revenue.”

Still, three percent of total MWE revenue is nothing to scoff at. In 2009, McDermott had total revenue of $829 million, according to the American Lawyer. Assuming that 2010 revenue is similar (the Am Law numbers aren’t out yet), three percent amounts to $24.87 million. Dividing that out over nine partners yields revenue per partner of about $2.8 million — not a bad book of business.

Let’s check out some reader views on this news….

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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.

I was chuckling with a client the other day about the insanity of trying to please a partner with a piece of written work.

The trick, she said – I’ve heard this before – is to adopt the voice of the partner. That’s what he wants – something that sounds like him. It doesn’t matter if your style is better than his. He wants to hear himself.

My client can imitate the writing styles of five partners. That includes whatever quirks – run-on sentences, rudeness, biting sarcasm, unnecessary adjectives, circuitous explanations – capture that partner’s unique gift. It’s a piece of cake: assemble substance, add ventriloquy, and voila! – a happy partner…

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