Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
From Q3 2012 through Q2 2013, we have seen approximately 7,500 lateral moves at the top 200 law firms. Approximately 4,500 (60%) were associates; 1,900 (25%) were partners; and perhaps most surprisingly, 1,100 (15%) of the lateral movement consisted of “counsel” or “of counsel” positions.
To clarify, some firms promote their senior associates to a “counsel” position based on seniority, but even excluding this pool of associates, that still leaves a significant number of counsel-level laterals finding opportunities within new law firms. From April 2012 to the end of the second quarter this year, Gordon & Rees had the largest number of lateral counsel transitions, with 34 (in large part due to the fact they opened seven offices in 2012 alone). Seyfarth Shaw, Greenberg Traurig, and Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker followed closely with 26, 23, and 22 counsel placements, respectively. Notably, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had 11 counsel transitions in that same timeframe, 8 of them from a group of more than 15 Skadden Arps product liability attorneys who followed colleagues Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo, two heavyweights in the product liability world….
If you’re a big corporate defendant hoping to be represented by Sheila Birnbaum and you head over to Skadden Arps, sorry — you’re out of luck. Your princess is in another castle.
The so-called “Queen of Toxic Torts” is about to leave her longtime realm. Birnbaum, the legendary litigatrix who currently serves as co-head of Skadden’s mass torts and insurance litigation group, is decamping to a rival.
So where is Birnbaum taking her talents — and her bulging book of business, estimated at more than $30 million? And is anyone else going with her?
(Multiple UPDATES, including Skadden’s internal memo, after the jump.)
On the transactional side, things seem to be going gangbusters for Skadden Arps. As we noted yesterday, the firm took the top spot in three separate rankings of 2012 M&A work. In 2011, a different firm sat atop each set of rankings, but in 2012, Skadden ruled them all.
On the litigation side, though, the new year has brought new headaches for Skadden. Earlier this month, a high-profile partner at the firm, along with another partner and an associate, got hit with a big benchslap. A federal judge issued an order to show cause, asking the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned, and set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.” Ouch.
Skadden recently filed its response to the OSC. Let’s review the benchslap, then see what the Skadden lawyers had to say for themselves….
It’s not just Pepper Hamilton. Email screw-ups are committed by even the most renowned lawyers — like longtime Skadden Arps partner Sheila Birnbaum, a living legend of the product liability defense bar. As we previously wrote, “Birnbaum, who heads Skadden’s Complex Mass Tort and Insurance Group, has a nickname reflecting her expertise: ‘The Queen of Toxic Torts.’”
Some of [Mississippi Attorney General] Jim Hood’s proneness to gaffes must have rubbed off on Sheila Birnbaum of Skadden, Arps, a lead counsel for State Farm, when she was down in Mississippi to hear Hood testify February 6….
Birnbaum accidentally replied to all the people on the distribution list for an e-mail Hood’s press spokeswoman sent out this morning to a number of people, including reporters. Birnbaum thought she was responding to other State Farm lawyers.
Ah, the perils of “reply all.” Perhaps a CLE course should be given on how to use it properly?
(Part of the class could be devoted to client confidentiality issues. I Can Haz Ethics Credits?)
P.S. Birnbaum, by the way, does very nicely for herself. Back in May 2001, Forbes published an interesting list of some of the country’s highest-paid corporate lawyers. Birnbaum reportedly earned $3.8 million a year — and that was back in 2000-2001, before the latest Biglaw boom.
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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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!