Real Estate

Now that Patton Boggs is safely in the hands of Squire Sanders — minus a few notable defectors, such as Ben Ginsberg’s high-profile election-law team, which is leaving for Jones Day — observers of Biglaw are looking around for other possible trouble spots. And some of them are focusing on Bingham McCutchen.

Back in February, we covered some less-than-positive developments at Bingham: “tumbling profits, partner departures, and unfortunately timed staff layoffs.” What has happened since then?

As we mentioned earlier today, partner departures continue at the firm. Who are the latest partners to leave Bingham, and where are they going?

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Ronan Farrow

A few days ago, lawyer turned television personality Ronan Farrow commented on Twitter, “All my business meetings are like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and all my dates are like ‘Schindler’s List’, am I doing something wrong.” The tweet was widely retweeted and favorited by Farrow’s 250,000-plus followers (despite receiving criticism from some quarters).

It’s surprising that Farrow’s dating life isn’t going better. In addition to being extremely handsome, he’s a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate with his own television show and celebrity parents (Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra). What more could one ask for in a lover?

How about some solid real estate? Well, Ronan’s got that too — a New York apartment that he purchased for a seven-figure sum….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

In my article of two weeks ago, I threw out the proposition that if you are running a law firm — or a department or practice group in a law firm — the critical mission is to “attract, train, retain and inspire talent.” If you can do this, you are probably going to accomplish great things — and the converse. So the question now is, how do you do it?

Below is the best I have been able to come up with. It is (mostly) from a speech I gave at an IMN conference in 2011. (You can read the original speech here.)

First — and foremost — Talent wants to be with other talented people. They crave it in their souls. They will put up with major “not nice people” and even poor working conditions, if they are convinced that other very talented people are doing it with them in the trenches. Consider Apple and Steve Jobs. He wasn’t thought of as a nice guy; indeed, quite the opposite. But when people looked around the room, they were awed at the skill sets of those in the room with them, and boy did they want to stay in that room, in the worst way. So they put up with Jobs’s not–niceness. (Of course, I do not advocate being this way as a boss — far from it.)

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En garde, esquires of the Biglaw realm!

* Partners from Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders may vote on their merger sometime this week. Get ready to say hello to Squire Patton, House of Boggs, Hodorific of Its Name. [Reuters]

* “[E]xcuse me, sir, you may not be here in five years.” Biglaw firms are becoming more “egalitarian” about office space because attorneys have expiration dates. [National Law Journal]

* After a flat year in 2013, and much to Biglaw’s chagrin, “[i]t is going to be harder to sustain year-over-year profitability gains.” Oh joy, time to power up the layoff machine. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Tech giants Apple and Google have called a ceasefire in their dueling patent suits in a quest to reform patent law — and so Apple can concentrate all of its efforts on suing the sh*t out of Samsung. [Bloomberg]

* GM’s in-house legal department is being heavily scrutinized in the wake of the car maker’s ignition switch lawsuit extravaganza. You see, friends, people die when lawyers don’t even bother to lie. [New York Times]

* Donald Sterling found a lawyer willing to represent him, an antitrust maven who thinks the NBA should take its ball and go home because “no punishment was warranted” in his client’s case. [WSJ Law Blog]

Hilarious. I wouldn’t put it on my business, but still, it’s quirky.

– Matt McEntee, a resident of Bangor, Maine, commenting on the “imposing” signage — a life-size cut-out advertising the legal services of Stephen C. Smith — that stands “glowering” over the downtown area. After receiving several complaints about the lawyer’s portrait, city officials decided to review whether the sign violated municipal code.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

* If you want to become a Supreme Court justice, you can start by attending one of these three schools. The schools that produced the most justices are Harvard Law, Yale Law, and Columbia Law. [TIME]

* Many of the transactional practice areas that took a bruising during the height of the recession, like corporate work, M&A, real estate, and tax, seem to be coming back. Sorry litigators. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Following Oklahoma’s botched lethal injection, another death row inmate has been given a new lease on life — for the next six months — while an investigation is being carried out. [Associated Press]

* Members of the defense team for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not only want their client’s comments after arrest stricken from the record, but they also want the death penalty off the table. Good luck. [CNN]

* A lawyer was arrested after a school board meeting because he complained for too long about a graphic sex scene in a book his daughter was assigned to read for school. That’s typical. [New York Daily News]

This Lawyerly Lair is on a pleasant, tree-lined block in Chelsea (click to enlarge).

No, we’re not talking about “law clerk” as in judge’s aide. It’s hard to afford a seven-figure home on a public servant’s salary. We’re talking about “law clerk” as in someone who’s working at a law firm, essentially as an associate, but is not yet an admitted attorney in the jurisdiction.

This “law clerk” and his partner, also a law school graduate, just picked up a spacious Manhattan co-op for a little under $1.7 million. Their housing hunt was chronicled in the pages of the New York Times. Let’s read more about them, and check out the place they finally chose….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

Ed. note: Please welcome our new columnist, Bruce Stachenfeld of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP.

What is a law firm? Unlike a lot of businesses, there are really no assets except the lawyers and (in some instances) the brand name. For most law firms — especially newer firms and start-ups — there is no brand name; that leaves the lawyers as the only assets. And for brand-name law firms, if the talent starts to leave, eventually the brand dies.

As one of my partners once said to me: “Bruce, all of the assets of this business go down the elevator every night. Your job is to get them to come back up in the morning.” He just said it casually, but it hit me strongly later on as I realized he was completely right. The entire point of running a law firm was to keep the lawyers in the firm. You can always get more clients if you lose them, but without the lawyers, you have nothing to sell and it is game over.

Accordingly, to answer the question posed at the outset as to what a law firm is…. it is a collection of lawyers who are together because they wish to be together. If they don’t wish to be together any more, then they leave, and that is the end.

And what is a great law firm?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reinventing The Law Business: The First Mission — To Attract, Train, Retain, And Inspire Talent”

Bruce Stachenfeld

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Bruce Stachenfeld of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP.

By way of introduction, I am the founder and managing partner of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP. We are a 70-ish lawyer law firm in midtown NYC that focuses strongly on real estate; indeed, we refer to ourselves as “The Pure Play in Real Estate Law.”

As managing partner I have spearheaded numerous unique initiatives that have distinguished us from other law firms. Many of these ideas were very scary when we tried them out — there was always a fear that we would not only fail but, worse yet, be laughed at. Some of these ideas did not work out so well, I admit; however, the ones that succeeded have been the fulcrum to attract both lawyers and clients to our firm and indeed been the bedrock of our success.

As a relatively small firm playing with the big boys and girls, one would think that our size could be a disadvantage. But that would be incorrect. Smaller players can be flexible and move in different directions. We can take risks and seize opportunities that large law firms cannot logically capitalize on….

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* The $160K-Plus Club welcomes its newest member: Duval & Stachenfeld, a real estate firm in NY, is more than doubling its starting salary for associates to $175K. Look for them recruiting at your “tier one” school soon. [New York Law Journal]

* In this economy, bankruptcy firms are being hit hard: Stutman Treister & Glatt, a top L.A. firm that once assisted in cases against Lehman Brothers and Enron Corp. in their Chapter 11 proceedings, is closing up shop. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* It ain’t easy being dean at the law school with the best Biglaw prospects — oh wait, yes it is. Congrats to Gillian Lester, who will serve as Columbia Law’s fifteenth dean come January 2015. [Columbia News]

* “Do I think he thought he was gonna beat it? Yeah.” The district attorney who brought charges against Stephen McDaniel thinks the law school killer was too big for his chainmail britches. [Macon Telegraph]

* From catcalling to “jiggle tests,” NFL cheerleaders have to put up with a lot of really ridiculous stuff. Not being paid the minimum wage is one thing, but having to put up with being groped is quite another. [TIME]

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