Peter Kalis

Peter Kalis: hail to the chief!

Much like the similarly named Kelis, his milkshake brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard. Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, just won a fifth consecutive term at the helm of the global mega-firm. As noted in the firm’s press release, which we received here at Above the Law, the 60 voting members of the Management Committee supported Kalis unanimously.

Kalis assumed leadership of the firm in 1997, back when it was called Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. On Kalis’s watch, the firm conducted eight mergers, including the combination with Preston Gates & Ellis that resulted in the “K&L Gates” moniker. When Kalis took the helm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart was a regional firm with six offices, all in the Eastern time zone of the United States. Now K&L Gates boasts almost 2,000 lawyers in 41 offices on four continents.

But growth brings with it growing pains. Let’s discuss those, and get some information about partner capital contributions at the firm….

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Now this is how you handle negative rumors about your firm.

As we mentioned last night, in the past week or so we’ve seen media reports of possible trouble at K&L Gates. Stories in Law360 and Crain’s Chicago Business speculated about “an alarming rate” of partner departures and “attorneys increasingly los[ing] faith in the firm’s leadership and strict compensation policies.”

The chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, Peter J. Kalis, isn’t taking all this sitting down. Very early this morning, the famously outspoken Kalis sent around a firm-wide memo that powerfully refutes some of the claims made about the firm.

If you’re at all involved in law firm management, you should read it. The Kalis email offers a master class in how to thoroughly respond to negative rumors….

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On multiple days over the past week or so, one of the top ten search terms bringing visitors to Above the Law has been K&L Gates. For whatever reason, people seem keenly interested in what’s going on right now at this major international law firm.

(But maybe we shouldn’t read too much into such queries. Also in the top ten search engine terms: “pictures of tacos.”)

So what is going on at K&L Gates? A significant amount of partner attrition, as various news outlets have recently pointed out….

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We’ve previously discussed the trend of partners leaving Biglaw to launch their own firms. We’ve seen a lot of this action in New York and D.C., home to such well-regarded boutiques as MoloLamken, started by former Shearman & Sterling and Baker Botts partners, and BuckleySandler, started by former Skadden partners.

It’s happening out on the West Coast, too. In the fair city of Seattle — one of my favorite places in the entire United States, especially when it’s not raining — about half a dozen partners are leaving K&L Gates to start their own shop. One Queen Emerald City tipster described this news as “the most exciting thing that has happened here since Kurt Cobain died.”

UPDATE (4/5/11): The official press release about the new firm, Pacifica Law Group, appears after the jump.

Who are the lawyers that are leaving, and why? Let’s find out….

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The end of the year was a pretty interesting time for partners at K&L Gates. Our sources report that right before the close of the year, the partners received a blistering message from Peter Kalis, the managing partner of the firm. Just 24 hours later, K&L Gates partners received an email from Kalis that was full of appreciation for the firm’s great 2010.

The two emails aren’t exactly contradictory in substance. But when it comes to tone, let’s just remember that partners have bosses too…

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Outsourcing; you might have heard of it. It’s the trend whereby law firms send high man hours/low brain effort work overseas to workers who can complete the tasks at a fraction of the cost. Clients love it, consultants are pushing it, and law firms are struggling to add this new efficiency opportunity into their overall business model.

Well, not all law firms. Peter Kalis, managing partner of K&L Gates, gave a quote to the Legal Intelligencer where he called outsourcing “a gnat in an elephant’s ear.” Evidently, K&L Gates is the elephant, LPO’s are the gnats, and I’m not sure who the clients are supposed to be. Perhaps Peter “Aesop” Kalis can let us know in a future fable.

It’s not that Kalis has his head in the sand when it comes to cost savings that can be generated by moving work out of places like New York and Washington. It’s just that in his world he doesn’t view Mumbai as all that different from Pittsburgh.

Maybe he’s right about that?

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Well, I don’t mean you should go make fun of the managing partner’s hair line. But you should ask searching questions.

Peter Kalis, global managing partner of K&L Gates, explaining his comment that he’s looking to hire “sassy” and “edgy” lawyers.

Am Law Daily has what can only be termed a frightening headline today:

The Am Law 100 2010: Too Big to Fail?

Nooooo! Haven’t we learned that “too big to fail” is terrible? It’s bad for our economy when things are too big to fail — too often, too big means too inefficient to change:

Carrying dozens of offices through the worst recession in a generation might sound like a prescription for disaster. But heads of The Am Law 100’s most geographically diverse firms say that their business model is not only alive, but robust.

Have we learned nothing from everything that’s happened? Do these firms really think that the entire legal recession can be blamed on so-called “entitled” junior associates who had the audacity to accept the money firms were willing to pay them?

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[Firms] are still being forced to recruit a year and a half prior to an anticipate start date, what other industry tolerates such a crazy hiring model?

– K&L Gates Chairman Peter Kalis

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