Alas, the nickname is less funny in the wake of yesterday’s big layoff news. The firm announced it will be cutting 60 associates and 110 staffers from the payroll. Despite the generous six-month severance for associates, some probably feel like their legal careers have been mangled. The firm also plans to reduce the compensation of about 10 percent of its partners (roughly 30 out of 300, some income and some equity partners).
Let’s take a closer look at the layoffs and try to make sense of them….
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher, the major affirmative action case, turned out to be something of a dud, the big legal story of the day is the news out of Weil Gotshal. The firm is conducting large layoffs of both attorneys and staff, as well as reducing partner pay.
Thus far, many of our recent layoff stories have involved staff layoffs, especially secretarial layoffs; relatively small numbers of affected individuals; and firms not in the tippy-top tier of Biglaw. So that’s what makes the Weil news so notable — and so frightening.
Weil is an elite firm, in both profits and prestige. The cuts it just announced affect lawyers, not just staff, and reach into the triple digits….
But this has started to change over the past few years, as managing partner Thomas Reid discussed in an August 2011 interview with Am Law Daily. In the August 2010 to August 2011 period, DPW hired a half-dozen prominent lateral partners.
And the lateral hiring spree continues (although not without the occasionalsnag). Let’s hear about Davis Polk’s latest high-profile hire, a new lateral partner at Paul Hastings, and an addition to the leadership of Orrick….
Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.
But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.
There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.’” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….
For connoisseurs of salacious suits, Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi is the gift that keeps on giving. First Alexandra Marchuk, a young lawyer and recent Vanderbilt Law graduate, sued the Faruqi firm, claiming that she was subjected to relentless sexual harassment during the short time that she worked there. Then the Faruqis and partner Juan Monteverde fired back, filing aggressive counterclaims against Marchuk.
Marchuk isn’t taking these claims lying down. She has amended her complaint to add new causes of action and to increase her multimillion-dollar demand….
Biglaw firms are busy — busy making money, of course — and very reputation-conscious. They don’t want to be distracted by litigation, and they don’t want their white shoes sullied by grime. They will pay good money to make headaches go away.
But suing a scrappy plaintiff-side firm is an entirely different story. They will hit back — and hard.
In fairness to DLA Piper, the craziness might not be that high on a per capita basis. DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the world. In the most recent Global 100 rankings, DLA took second place in both total revenue and attorney headcount.
Many of the DLA Piper stories are on the lighter side. But this latest one — involving serious allegations of overbilling, apparently supported by internal DLA emails saying things like “churn that bill, baby!” — is no laughing matter….
* Michigan will assume control of Detroit pursuant to the state’s controversial “Emergency Manager Law.” How controversial? Michigan voters went to the polls to repeal the law last year… and the legislature said no. There’s a fitting symmetry that a law that denies the democratic rights of the people exists only because the legislature trampled on the democratic rights of the people. [WXYZ]
* A Harvard Law grad opens an e-commerce lingerie startup. The hook for her bra business is in-home fittings. Perfect for the cross-dresser who hates prying eyes. [Forbes]
* Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden have announced that they will merge into a single law school named “Rutgers School of Law” effective Fall 2014. The new school accomplishes the important goal of removing the words “Newark” and “Camden” from promotional materials. [TaxProf Blog]
* Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains how Chief Judge Kozinski’s piracy ruling actually advanced the liberal causes of the Law of the Sea and expanding the scope of the Alien Tort Statute. Yeah, but it also doomed us to destruction if Captain Kirk can’t get his act together in this new timeline. [Volokh Conspiracy]
* The producers of The Bachelor may need better lawyers. After they settled a claim with blogger Reality Steve, barring him from contacting cast and crew for spoilers, he’s publishing spoilers again. Reality Steve’s defense? The settlement agreement was silent on the matter of cast and crew contacting him. Touché. Reality Steve wins a one-on-one this week. [IT-Lex.org]
* Sometimes you just need to call the other player’s bluff. Right-wing legislators in Utah loudly parroted talk-radio scripts calling for Utah to reject federal grant money. Democrats in Utah agreed and voted to reject federal grants. Then Republicans started to panic. [Utah Political Report]
* Jon Stewart calls for the drowning of legal journalist Peter Lattman for being a wizard. Video after the jump….
This morning I attended the confirmation hearing for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan of Dewey & LeBoeuf. As I mentioned on Twitter a few minutes after leaving the hearing, Judge Martin Glenn confirmed the plan.
Under the plan, secured creditors will recover between 47 to 77 cents on the dollar, while unsecured creditors will wind up with 5 to 14 cents on the dollar. Secured creditors hold about $262 million in claims; total creditor claims, secured and unsecured, amount to about $550 million.
So that’s the bottom line. But what was the hearing itself like? Here are my observations, including a few photos — because bankruptcy court coverage is totally WWOP….
Mary Jo White? More like Mary Jo Green. President Obama’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission is deliciously rich, as revealed in her financial disclosures.
Although she’s barely five feet tall, making her a little litigatrix, Mary Jo White wears big shoes. In the words of my colleague Elie Mystal, a former Debevoise & Plimpton associate, she’s “one of those alpha dog partners…. the kind of partner that makes other partners stammer, shuffle papers, and try to look really busy and intelligent when she’s in the room.”
The sizable net worth of Mary Jo White shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not only is she a longtime Debevoise partner, but her husband, John W. White, has been a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for more than 25 years (interrupted from 2006 through 2008 by a stint at the SEC, actually, where he served as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance).
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