Profits

Ed. note: This is the second column by Anonymous Partner based on his interview of a more-senior partner, “Old School Partner” (“OSP”). You can read the first column in the series here.

“It was a nice profession,” Old School Partner told me, especially for a senior partner at a white-shoe firm. Collegiality, interesting work, and a good living were his. Despite occasional internal dust-ups about compensation within the partnership, partners were generally content with what they were making.

But things were about to change, and what had been a guarded and close-knit segment of the legal profession was soon thrust into an unwanted spotlight. It was a “watershed” moment for partners.

The “watershed” that mucked things up? The launch of American Lawyer magazine….

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Earlier this week, we wrote about the lavish payments that Dewey & LeBoeuf made to its former executive director, Stephen DiCarmine, and its former chief financial officer, Joel Sanders, in the year leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy filing. Each man received almost $3 million in salary, bonuses, and expense reimbursement. (There’s additional detail and number crunching over at The Lawyer.)

Today we bring you additional interesting information from — and speculation about — the Dewey bankruptcy filings. For starters, who are the two Dewey partners who received more than $6 million each in the year leading up to the Chapter 11 petition?

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(Plus additional tidbits about Dewey partner compensation.)

Photo (no, not a photoshop) by ATL reader 'Anna.'

As we reported over the weekend, it’s looking like Dewey & LeBoeuf will soon find itself in bankruptcy (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not). The specter of bankruptcy raises a question for the many former partners of Dewey: dude, where’s my car capital contribution?

Let’s find out — and get the latest dispatches on the Dewey death spiral, including news of a new home for former vice chair Ralph Ferrara….

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(Plus more partner moves, including Ralph Ferrara.)

As we mentioned last week, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. And despite all the doom and gloom permeating the legal profession, as well as the stagnant bonuses for associates lucky enough to make it into Biglaw, partners at large law firms are living just as large as ever.

In a way, the recovery in Biglaw is not unlike the recovery in America in general. If you were already well-off, you’re doing great now. It’s just not trickling down to anybody else. See, e.g., anemic spring bonuses.

Interestingly enough, the division of the world into “haves and have-nots” continues even into the world of major law firms. Partners at super-top-tier firms are putting even more distance between themselves and partners at less high-powered or less profitable firms.

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

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Defections continue at Dewey & LeBoeuf. On Tuesday, the WSJ Law Blog and Thomson Reuters reported on the departure of four M&A lawyers for DLA Piper. As we mentioned on Monday, antitrust litigator Eamon O’Kelly just flew the Dewey henhouse for Arent Fox. The recent departures take the number of partners who have left Dewey in 2012 to at least 40 (a decrease of about 13 percent in partner headcount).

The four attorneys who just jumped to DLA are John J. Altorelli and Alexander G. Fraser, who were partners at Dewey, and Patrick Costello and Gerald Francese, who were counsel. All four will be partners at DLA, and Altorelli will serve as co-chair of DLA’s U.S. finance practice, as well as a member of the executive committee. Although DLA is not a paradise, presumably the Dewey defectors determined DLA Piper to be more stable than Dewey (unless they took an “any port in a storm” approach, which is certainly possible).

In other Dewey news, the American Lawyer is revising the 2010 and 2011 financial results for Dewey — downward. And we’re hearing rumblings about some of the firm’s international offices….

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(Plus information on international offices.)

If you think this economy is just kicking the asses of recent graduates, associates, and support staff, you are forgetting one critical group: partners without portable books of business. Those who make it rain are getting soaked with wealth, but everybody else is just trying to get a drink.

We’ve heard many stories about partners without business quietly being “pushed out” or de-equitized. But we rarely see an entire group of partners publicly “demoted” en masse.

Well, on Monday a Biglaw firm did just that…

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There were a few rough patches last year for O’Melveny & Myers. The elite firm, founded in California but now international in its coverage, experienced a significant number of partner departures. It conducted some staff layoffs. And there was turnover at the top, with New York litigator Bradley Butwin picked to replace D.C. power broker A.B. Culvahouse as chair of the firm (ending Culvahouse’s leadership term about a year early.)

Has OMM turned a corner under the new leadership? Butwin and the other new leaders at the firm have started implementing a new strategic vision for the firm, and thus far, things seem to be going well. The firm’s latest financial results were healthy, with the key metrics of profits per partner and revenue per lawyer hitting record highs in 2011 (reaching $1.73 million and $1.02 million, respectively).

What have these financial results meant for O’Melveny associates? The firm recently announced its 2011 bonuses….

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(And other OMM developments.)

In terms of firm finances, Paul Hastings had a perfectly decent 2011. Revenue and profits were fairly stable, according to Am Law Daily. Gross revenue fell by 2 percent to $884 million, and profits per partner fell by 1.3 percent to about $1.97 million. On the brighter side, revenue per lawyer surpassed the $1 million mark for the first time, hitting $1.01 million.

So how are those revenue-generating worker bees being compensated? Bonuses are out at Paul Hastings. How are PH associates reacting?

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The absence of spring bonuses makes cute animals sad.

Today is March 1. By this time last year, about a dozen firms had announced spring bonuses, as you can see from our prior coverage.

This year? Crickets.

Perhaps there’s no cause for worry right now. Things are going just as my colleague Elie Mystal predicted: “You’re going to get your money. My prediction: an extra $10,000 to $20,000 depending on class year, starting with third-year associates. It might be announced really late, end of February or early March, once firms realize they need to keep their talented midlevels.”

I can’t say I share Elie’s optimism….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Show Them the Money: Where Are the Spring Bonuses?”

We’re getting the sense, based on anecdotal evidence showing up in our inbox, that law firms are quietly making cuts to the ranks of attorneys and staff. They’re doing so somewhat stealthily, however — in dribs and drabs, spread out over decent stretches of time, often invoking performance reasons. So we’re having a hard time obtaining enough information on any one firm to issue a report.

We need your help in keeping law firms honest. If you have layoff news to report, please send it our way, by email or by text message (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS). As you’ve probably already noticed, we do not name our sources.

One firm that’s being commendably upfront about its reductions is Bingham McCutchen. This afternoon, the firm announced some staff layoffs….

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