Silicon Valley

Not cool, bro.

Californians tend to be quite protective of the state’s reputation as a progressive paradise. Where equality is important for everyone, no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, whatever. Where organic food is simply better, no matter how much it costs. Where the earthquakes are a fine price to pay for an entire year of temperate weather.

So, when the New York Times ran an extensive article this weekend about an accomplished female attorney who sued the major venture capital firm where she is a partner for sex discrimination, it puts a real fly in the state’s — and specifically the tech industry’s — collective ointment.

The Times’s extensive story concerns Ellen Pao, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former associate at Cravath. She has sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a major VC firm.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of the suit, as well as what it might mean for attorneys who work within the emerging “brogrammer” culture in Silicon Valley…

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* Dewey know how deep in the red D&L’s international operations were? Enough to make you shout bloody hell and sacré bleu: the U.K. and Paris offices had liabilities of at least $175M. [Financial Times (reg. req.)]

* “To the extent that we the estate have claims, we would like to settle those claims sooner rather than later.” The joke’s on you if you thought you’d be able to keep your Dewey defector money. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* According to the allegations in former Cravath associate Ellen Pao’s sex discrimination suit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, the “Mad Men” culture seems to be alive and well in Silicon Valley. [New York Times]

* Who will be the first to puff, puff, pass the vote — Obama or Romney? It looks like the path to the White House in Election 2012 might depend upon the legalization of marijuana in key states like Colorado. [Reuters]

* Apparently you can’t take the “duh” out of “Flori-duh” when it comes to voting laws without a fight in the courts. A federal judge has blocked portions of the Sunshine State’s “onerous” voter registration law. [Bloomberg]

* “People want to go to our school, and why should we say no?” Because they can’t get jobs? Northwestern Law is considering shrinking its class sizes; John Marshall Law, not so much. [Crain's Chicago Business]

* Stop crying about coming in second in the U.S. News rankings, Harvard, because you can still brag about beating Yale in having the most-cited law review articles of all time… for now. [National Law Journal (reg. req.)]

* Gloria Allred is representing one of the Miami “zombie’s” girlfriends for reasons unknown. Maybe the zombie apocalypse is truly upon is and she saw an opportunity to stand up for undead women’s rights. [CBS Miami]

The revolving door continues to spin, quite furiously, at the rapidly collapsing Dewey & LeBoeuf. We mentioned some of the latest partner departures in last night’s post (which we updated again this morning).

These are major defections, which strike at the heart of what was left of the firm. In case there was any doubt after last Friday’s WARN Act notice or yesterday’s big layoffs, it may soon be time to stick a fork in LeBoeuf.

So what’s the latest word on who is going where?

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On Friday, we broke the news of Dewey & LeBoeuf issuing a WARN Act notice to its U.S. employees. As explained by the U.S. Department of Labor, the WARN law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”

We noted, however, that employees shouldn’t be lulled into complacency by the 60-day requirement. As Elie wrote, “Dewey employees shouldn’t expect to just show up to work every day until Independence Day. Remember, we’ve learned from the Heller dissolution and other firms’ dissolutions that things tend to happen very quickly.”

Very quickly indeed. We are now hearing reports that this Friday, May 11, will be the last day for an unknown number of D&L employees….

As usual with the fast-moving Dewey story, we have multiple UPDATES, including some from Tuesday morning, after the jump.

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In August of 2009, while driving around Silicon Valley after speaking at Santa Clara Law, I saw an office park in East Palo Alto with a sign that jumped out at me. Being a Biglaw groupie, I stopped and snapped a picture:

I parked, got out of my rental car, and walked around. I was struck by the beauty of the overall office complex, with its expansive plaza, immaculate landscaping, and fountains. It was a veritable law firm Xanadu!

Or maybe an old Indian burial ground….

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(Plus more potential partner departures.)”

Happy Valentine’s Day to you if you have a date lined up tonight! For the rest of you, Happy Staying-In-To-Watch-A-Movie-And-Drink-With-Your-Single-Friends Day. Last year, two Washington lawyers actually let me set them up on a V-Day date. This year, with my pool of Chicago candidates, I didn’t bother. I wouldn’t wish the boring Chicago dating scene on my worst enemy. Playing matchmaker and condemning more lonely souls to a yawn-inducing evening is as cruel as running a dog-fighting ring. At least the latter leads to a little biting and scratched backs for the participants.

So Courtship Connection is moving on and heading West. Hey San Francisco, do you have any single types willing to put their love lives into ATL’s not-so-capable hands? Fill out our survey! I will try to send you out on a blind date with a seemingly-compatible fellow legal type. You will dish the dirt afterwards. I will write about it, keeping you anonymous. And ATL commenters will provide their sincere, caring, and helpful commentary.

While waiting for the California girls and boys to jump into our dating pool, I will share with you the final Chicago date. Like the others, it did not go well. Why? Someone’s inferiority complex killed the mood….

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Today everyone’s talking tech, thanks to Facebook’s upcoming IPO. In light of how Silicon Valley is dominating the news cycle, it seems fitting to discuss the recent bonus and salary news from Wilson Sonsini — one of SV’s top firms, and counsel over the years to many startup companies turned tech giants.

(But not Facebook, at least with respect to the IPO. That’s being handled by Fenwick & West and Simpson Thacher.)

So what kind of bonuses did WSGR just announce? Let’s find out….

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Tom Wallerstein

For some, the phrase “small law firm” implies certain stereotyped practice areas, clients, and attorneys. At its worst, the stereotype invokes unsophisticated clients and matters that are routine and uninteresting. I doubt the stereotype is wholly true anywhere. I know for sure it isn’t true in San Francisco or Silicon Valley.

I know many attorneys in small firms who have specialized, high-end practices. These specialized practices are often called boutiques, and they are perfectly suited to serve the entrepreneurial, high-tech client base that abounds in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even in the down economy, a number of new ventures were launched in Silicon Valley. Geographically, the high-tech corridor also seems to be expanding, thanks to Twitter, Zynga, SalesForce.com, and the like setting up shop in San Francisco. You don’t even need a Visa or traditional office space to launch a startup anymore; now you can enjoy Peter Thiel’s “Visa-free entrepreneurship and technology incubator on an ocean vessel in international waters.”

It remains to be seen whether we’re experiencing a boom or just another bubble, but I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not an economist and I’m not making predictions. I am only remarking on some great practice opportunities for smaller law firms which exist here, maybe because we are fortunate to have so many imaginative, passionate, and savvy entrepreneurs working on exciting projects in so many different industries….

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Tom Wallerstein

When I started my firm, several mentors gave me the same advice: Don’t work for free. It’s easy to see the problem with working for free. Giving away what you’re trying to sell isn’t exactly in the business plan. Unfortunately, this sage advice can only really be learned the hard way, through experience.

Working for free can arise in many different ways. The most obvious example is a client who wants you to represent him but can only promise to pay you later.

Even if your gut tells you that taking on that client is a bad idea, this can be surprisingly tempting to a new firm or solo practice. For starters, there is such a thrill with getting your first client, or your first “real” client, or your first big client, or your first whatever client, that the excitement can cloud your better judgment. You will be tempted to overlook the red flags that you will not be paid for your work….

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Can a Westlaw or Lexis print-out hide your booze stash? I didn't think so.

* Are Asian American lawyers too nerdy to climb the Biglaw or corporate ladder — or is this just an outdated stereotype? [The Careerist]

* Does having your law school sob story featured on national television count as “employed upon graduation”? (Or, more seriously, here’s an opportunity for an unemployed law school grad.) [Inside the Law School Scam]

* A Notre Dame law professor, Mark McKenna, offers some courageous and deeply personal commentary on the Penn State scandal. [Slate]

* How will SCOTUS vote on Obamacare? Two political science professors, Michael Bailey and Forrest Maltzman, offer predictions. [The Monkey Cage via How Appealing]

Ted Frank

* Congratulations to Ted Frank and CCAF on a big win in the Ninth Circuit. [Center for Class Action Fairness]

* Following in the footsteps of its former employee, Gregory Berry, Kasowitz Benson seeks to conquer Silicon Valley. [Am Law Daily]

* In the age of Lexis and Westlaw, hardbound law books still serve a valuable purpose. [Kickstarter]

* It’s a briefcase branded with your favorite team insignia. But real subtle-like, so other people won’t immediately know you are an alpha jock fan boy. But you will. You’ll always know. [The Fandom Review]

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