Partners With Issues

When my late grandmother heard I was going to law school, she recommended that I go into matrimonial law. It was her view that in a divorce, the real winner isn’t the husband, or the wife, but their attorneys: “The couple ends up with nothing, the lawyers end up with everything!”

That’s not exactly true. My grandmother — who worked as a doctor and not a lawyer, in a country that doesn’t have divorce — was hardly an expert on family law.

But there’s no denying that some divorces are very expensive for the couples — and very lucrative for the lawyers. One Biglaw partner and his (soon to be former) wife have racked up seven figures in legal bills. And they’re not even done yet….

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Last year, we covered the mystery departure of Lee Smolen — the prominent real estate lawyer, not the famed theoretical physicist — from Sidley Austin. It may have been related to the ethics charges filed against Smolen, accusing him of conversion and breach of fiduciary duty through alleged filing of false expense claims.

Amazingly enough, Smolen got picked up as a partner by DLA Piper. The firm admitted that it “was aware of this matter during the hiring process.”

In order to deliver to DLA’s bottom line, Smolen will need to avoid suspension or disbarment. So he has filed a response to the Illinois ethics charges against him. What does Smolen have to say for himself, and is it persuasive?

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Last September, we wrote about the mysterious departure of Lee Smolen from Sidley Austin. Smolen, former head of Sidley’s real estate practice in Chicago and a member of the firm’s executive committee, departed without comment or a known destination. When that happens, something interesting is usually afoot.

Earlier this month, the other white shoe dropped. A lawyer ethics commission in Illinois leveled charges against Smolen arising out of his time at Sidley.

What has he been accused of? And what does his new law firm have to say about it?

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‘Oh my God! My career! Nooooooooooo!’

A few weeks ago, we learned that when it comes to failed professional endeavors, hell hath no fury like a patent attorney scorned. Now we know the same sentiment applies to their failed romantic wranglings.

What would a patent partner do if a summer associate turned away his sexual advances? He’d do what any dork would: in the hopes of ruining her budding career, he’d obtain a movie clip of the girl in a state of undress and pass it around via email to more than 50 Biglaw attorneys.

Of course, this led to a disciplinary action in which the brokenhearted patent practitioner employed some pretty wild defenses, the most entertaining one being that his slut-shaming was beyond ethical reproach because it was constitutionally protected speech….

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Over the years, we’ve seen some strange and surprising law firm departure memos. They come not just from associates but from partners as well. See, e.g., this famous (or infamous) Skadden partner’s departure memo.

Today we bring you another weird farewell message penned by a partner. It’s strange because it burns bridges in a big way, making all kinds of incendiary allegations against the Am Law 100 firm involved.

You’d think that a leading employment lawyer would show greater discretion on his way out the door. Well, think again….

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‘This email is unbelievable….’

One argument you sometimes hear in favor of making the jump from Biglaw to boutique is that small firms are, for lack of a better word, nicer. Everyone knows everyone else, so people treat each other with respect and even kindness. The hours are less brutal than at large law firms, and the overall environment is less impersonal and more friendly. The lawyers and staff at small firms are less focused on billable hours and the bottom line than their Biglaw counterparts.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But is it universally true? According to one current employee of Faruqi & Faruqi, the litigation boutique on the receiving end of an epic sexual harassment lawsuit, F&F is not exactly a “Fun & Fabulous” place to work.

And this person provided email messages from the two name partners to support their claims….

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Patricia A. Martone

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”

— Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (affiliate link)

Take this famous line and replace “man” with “law firm partner,” and you’ve captured the gist of the lawsuit against Ropes & Gray brought by Patricia Martone, who alleges age and sex discrimination by her former firm. (Martone, a former IP litigation partner at Ropes, is now a Morrison & Foerster partner.)

When I broke the news of this lawsuit back in 2011, I expected a speedy settlement. Would Ropes really want to go toe to toe with a pair of high-powered litigatrices, namely, Martone and her formidable employment lawyer, Anne Vladeck?

But here we are, two years later, and the battle rages on. Ropes has hired a third leading litigatrix to defend itself. Let’s learn the latest news….

(Note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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Sexytary, at your service?

* Should the mentally disabled receive the death penalty? Neither SCOTUS nor Georgia’s Supreme Court stayed Warren Lee Hill’s execution, but the Eleventh Circuit saved the day. [Washington Post]

* If you’re looking for a mishmosh of Biglaw news, from new offices to new hires to new firm leaders, then look no further. If only this list were in alphabetical order! [Law Firm Insider / U.S. News & World Report]

* Dewey know why this partner who was sued by Barclays in the U.K. over his capital loan is suing the bank in the U.S.? It involves an alleged fraud and Joel Sanders. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* So much for that “silly sideshow”: Judge Richard Sullivan of the S.D.N.Y. hasn’t made a ruling in the Greenlight case yet, but he says David Einhorn may have a “likelihood of success on the merits” if the matter proceeds further. [Bloomberg]

* One of the partners at this small law firm apparently watched Secretary a few too many times, and he’s now accused of threatening to “whip” his ex-assistant into shape because she was a “bad girl.” [New York Post]

* The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law named an interim successor to former dean Hiram Chodosh, but we can’t say he’s a law dean hottie. He looks like Van Pelt from Jumanji. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law will house the first clinic in the nation devoted to pardons and the law. It figures that a religious school would focus on legal Hail Marys. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Career alternatives for law school dropouts: mining magnate and financier of the Titanic II. Much like the value proposition of going to law school for today’s generation, this idea is unsinkable. [New York Times]

* Prosecutors have upgraded the charge against Oscar Pistorius to premeditated murder, and one could now say the track star doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to being released on bail pending trial. [CNN]

* D is for… divorce? Sesame Street is talking about divorce in a way that children can understand, but alas, the series neglects important topics like “why mommy is a whore” and “why daddy drinks.” [Law Firm Newswire]

Earlier this week, we wrote about a pair of prominent partners at Skadden Arps who got hit with a big-time benchslap. A federal judge in Chicago issued an order to show cause, requiring the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for failing to cite a highly relevant (arguably dispositive) Seventh Circuit case when briefing a motion to dismiss. The judge also set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.”

The Skadden partners filed a contrite response. They apologized profusely to the court, explained why they viewed the Seventh Circuit as distinguishable, and argued that even though they erred, their conduct didn’t merit sanctions. They announced to the court that they had settled the case in question, with Skadden “contributing to the settlement amount in order to personally redress plaintiffs’ counsel for responding to the motion to dismiss.” (In a classy move, they also extracted their associate from under the bus, explaining that he played no substantive role in the briefing.)

Despite the apology and the settlement, the status hearing went forward as scheduled yesterday. What happened?

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On the transactional side, things seem to be going gangbusters for Skadden Arps. As we noted yesterday, the firm took the top spot in three separate rankings of 2012 M&A work. In 2011, a different firm sat atop each set of rankings, but in 2012, Skadden ruled them all.

On the litigation side, though, the new year has brought new headaches for Skadden. Earlier this month, a high-profile partner at the firm, along with another partner and an associate, got hit with a big benchslap. A federal judge issued an order to show cause, asking the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned, and set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.” Ouch.

Skadden recently filed its response to the OSC. Let’s review the benchslap, then see what the Skadden lawyers had to say for themselves….

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