Sorry, folks — we couldn’t make it two full weeks without a story about law firm layoffs. We continue to hear reports about them, which we publish as we get sufficient corroboration for each one. If you have information to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477; texts only, not a voice line).
Thus far, layoffs have hit support staff the hardest. Junior staffers often bear the brunt, since some of the layoffs are seniority-based.
But senior people, including law firm management, are not immune to the cuts. One law firm recently laid off two executives, along with about twenty staffers…
Here’s the thing about these “onshore,” “insourcing” operations: they are successful. Ridiculously successful. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter called the decision to open the Wheeling center “one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made for the firm and our clients.” And that’s coming from a man who made the smart decision not to merge with Dewey Ballantine.
That’s why every Biglaw managing partner, and every law student thinking of taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to law school, should pay attention to what’s going on in Wheeling…
* Global agribusiness group Monsanto Co was awarded $1 billion in a patent infringement case against DuPont for improperly duplicating some kind of crazy seed technology. [New York Times]
* For particularly thick-headed employers who don’t understand it’s a bad idea to ask employees for Facebook passwords, now Illinois will fine them $200 for doing so. [Chicago Tribune]
* A federal judge in Washington sanctioned well-known plaintiff’s attorney Joy Ann Bull for filing grossly inflated fee statements. She was consequently asked to resign her partnership at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. Welcome to the breadline! [LegalNewsline]
* Should a trial judge who is a Brooklyn Law grad recuse himself from a case against Brooklyn Law filed by Brooklyn Law alumni? Meh… [National Law Journal]
* As Ralph Baxter nears retirement, who will be chosen to lead Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe? [Am Law Daily]
* The Ninth Circuit already issued an injunction against Arizona’s new late-term abortion ban. Like they say, it’s all about shakin’ hands and killing kissin’ babies. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* The psychiatrist James Holmes was seeing at the University of Colorado was so alarmed by his behavior sometime before his alleged shooting spree that she notified the school’s “threat assessment team,” but apparently nothing was done. Looks like someone missed the assessment boat, by like, and ocean or two. [Denver Post]
You'd smile too if you got home in time for dinner.
Today’s New York Times has a front-page story by Catherine Rampell entitled At Well-Paying Law Firms, a Low-Paid Corner. The article focuses on the phenomenon of “career associates” or “permanent associates” at large law firms. These lawyers are not eligible for partnership consideration and earn less than traditional associates, but they do enjoy a better “lifestyle,” in terms of more-reasonable hours and greater control over their schedules.
These positions generally pay around $60,000, significantly lower than the $160,000 that’s standard at top Biglaw shops. They are typically located not in New York or Chicago or L.A., but in more out-of-the-way places — such as Wheeling, West Virginia, where Orrick has its back-office operations, or Dayton, Ohio, where WilmerHale has “in-sourced” much of its work.
We mentioned the Times article earlier today. Morning Dockette was not impressed: “Career associates get to have ‘lifestyle’ jobs at Biglaw firms — but really, what kind of a lifestyle is it when you have to live in a crappy city with an even crappier salary?” Elie has also criticized these positions, characterizing them as “barely legal” jobs.
But such criticism might be overly harsh. Let’s look on the bright side….
Well, that was fast. Last week we learned of preliminary merger discussions taking place between Akin Gump and Orrick. But this morning, spokespersons for each firm released the following joint statement (which differed only in which firm’s name came first):
[The firms] have mutually agreed to conclude preliminary discussions regarding the possibility of a merger. The firms appreciated the opportunity to have the discussions, which confirmed their mutual respect for one another. However, the firms have determined not to proceed.
For an assessment of the pros and cons of an Akin / Orrick union, see here.
Yesterday we discussed the merger talks that are currently taking place between Akin Gump and Orrick. We solicited your views on a possible combination, and we received some interesting feedback (in the comments and by other means).
Let’s start with the happy stuff. Here are some positive takes on an Orrick / Akin merger, from the comments (yes, positivity in the comments — it happens):
“I have been at both firms and I believe it would be a good fit both geographically and practice-wise. Orrick is almost all about finance, and finance is one key area that Akin lacks real depth.” [FN1]
“#1 Vacuum company in America + #1 brand of cocktail shrimp = unstoppable legal force.”
But it’s not all vacuums and cocktail shrimp, sunshine and puppies. Insiders with knowledge of both firms also identified downsides to a possible Orrick / Akin merger….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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