The current discussion regarding the decision by Dentons not to report its average profits per partner (“PPP”) to the American Lawyer is interesting. While I was at Greenberg Traurig, then-CEO Cesar Alvarez used to have a pithy statement on the whole PPP issue, along the lines of: The only thing partners really care about is “profits per me.” There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. In my experience it is true for existing Biglaw partners, potential laterals, and those (fool?) hardy associates aspiring to partnership.
At the same time, the popularity of the American Lawyer’s various charts and rankings can’t be denied. And PPP is one of the catchier columns on those charts. It is used as a proxy for determining everything from firm prestige, to strength of client relationships, to how well a firm is managed.
Savvy associates can and do use it to determine associate quality of life at a particular firm. Your firm has a blazing PPP and no big contingency windfalls feeding the flames? Good chance you are looking at a never-ending flow of “interesting work,” coupled with the partnership prospects of a diminutive drone buzzing around hoping to get noticed by the queen bee. In contrast, you might enjoy a better lifestyle if employed as associate #614 by a Biglaw 2.0 monolith, but you also run the distinct risk of making partner only to realize that the financial gulf between you and the “real” partners is a broad one….
When we last checked in on Patton Boggs, the long-suffering law firm was on the brink of a bankruptcy breakthrough. Its partners, and the partners of Squire Sanders, were in the middle of voting on a merger that would save Patton Boggs.
Alas, sadly for Patton Boggs, Squire Sanders has suspended the merger vote. What happened? Did Squire come to its senses get second thoughts about that hideous proposed firm name, Squire Patton Boggs?
Actually, no; the issue is more substantial than that. Here’s a hint: Patton Boggs might have saved itself by June, if it weren’t for those meddling… Ecuadorian villagers!
(The vote is back on. Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)
On Monday, we heard rumors of momentous events at Patton Boggs, the troubled law and lobbying firm. One of the rumors was that the partnership was holding a meeting to vote on something major — although what exactly was not revealed.
We reached out to Patton Boggs, which shot down the rumors of a meeting, so we ended up not doing a story. But there may have been some truth to reports of exciting goings-on at the firm — developments that could help the firm in its struggle for survival.
The firm just removed the albatross of litigation with oil giant Chevron from around its neck. As you may recall, Chevron sued Patton Boggs for PB’s representation of plaintiffs in an Ecuadorian environmental case that Chevron alleged was nothing more than a shakedown — a view that Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) vindicated in March.
But escaping from the Chevron quagmire did not come cheap for Patton Boggs. How much did the firm have to cough up to make this case go away?
As The Economist concisely explains, a verein is “a Swiss partnership that lets [law firms] maintain separate national or regional profit pools under a single brand.” For purposes of preparing its influential Am Law 100 rankings, the American Lawyer treats a verein as a single firm — a decision that some at non-verein firms object to.
Let’s hear some of the complaints — and then, interestingly enough, a defense of the vereins’ financial performance in 2013, which might have been better than Am Law suggested….
Biglaw firms have a problem. They can’t get their senior partners to retire. Or to pass along their clients to younger partners fast enough.
The reasons for this unwelcome phenomenon are straightforward. First, today’s Biglaw senior partners are making too much money. Would you retire if you were making seven figures and billing 1200 to 1500 hours a year? Of course not. Especially if you are helping to support your children. Or in this age of the 70-year-old rainmaker, a grandchild’s “education” as a communications major at the top party school in this year’s rankings.
Kidding aside, I know that many senior partners have very valid reasons for continuing to maintain their Biglaw practices. But that does not mean that what works for them at an individual level is what is good for Biglaw as a whole. In fact, I think the “sticky senior” issue is the greatest long-term threat to the continued viability of many Biglaw firms….
* Judge Victor Marrero orders MF Global to pay over $1 billion to customers. Serves those MFs right. [CNBC]
* The Second Circuit has punted on the question of whether defunct firms in New York have an ownership right to fees earned by former partners who took work to new firms. [Am Law Daily]
* Howard Morris, the former co-chief executive of SNR Denton, is joining MoFo as the head of the bankruptcy and restructuring group in London. [DealBook / New York Times]
* NBC has a new show about a criminal court judge who is a hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman. So basically a documentary about Justice O’Connor’s early years. [Deadline]
* So Detroit might be the worst place to work. Even with that caveat, it’s hard to believe this ad seeking someone to do, “whatever other crazy type stuff this (bastard) lawyer of ours thinks up.” A screenshot is provided after the jump in case the ad comes down…. [Craigslist]
* The rocky relationship between McKenna Long & Aldridge and Dentons is being doubted by everyone, and it looks like Dentons may be on the verge of receiving the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. [Daily Report]
* Stephen DiCarmine, Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former executive director and resident fashionista, just hired a criminal defense attorney. We trust this man — jailhouse stripes must be so hot right now! [Am Law Daily]
* Skadden cares about its people. The firm is trying to prevent a man who killed one of its legal secretaries, got high, and then ate six waffles from collecting any of the funds from her 401(k). [New York Daily News]
* Just imagine if this great profile were written in true BuzzFeed listicle style. It’d probably be called something like “3,742 Words on Why Mary Bonauto Is the Most Awesome Marriage Equality Lawyer Ever.” [BuzzFeed]
* “I think it’s fair to say the hiring plan is kaput.” As we previously reported, the Law Clerk Hiring Plan is dead, and the heat is on to figure out a way to lure federal judges back to OSCAR. [National Law Journal]
* Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in being one of the only justices to perform a same-sex marriage. No divas here: the wedding ceremony was held at the high court because “[t]hat’s where she was.” [BuzzFeed]
* “Proceed with caution.” David Kappos, the former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, isn’t too keen on the latest patent reform bill that’s currently before the House Judiciary Committee. If only the man still had a say. [National Law Journal]
* Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge have released a joint statement to ensure the public that the proposed merger is still on. Good news, everyone! The firm won’t be named McDentons. [Am Law Daily]
* Ralph Lerner, formerly of Sidley Austin, has been slapped on the wrist suspended from practice in New York for one year’s time after improperly billing car service to clients to the tune of $50,000. [Am Law Daily]
* It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy, and lawyers are still counseling their clients on how to muddle through the mess. Volunteer some pro bono hours and help out those in need. [New York Law Journal]
* Career alternatives for attorneys: rescuer of nerd relics. Head to this Brooklyn book store (of course it’s in Brooklyn) if you’re desperately seeking long lost science fiction tales. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* We bet that folks in Australia would like to tell the the High Court to bugger off after overturning this ruling. Sexual injuries that occur during work-related trips don’t qualify for workers’ compensation. [Bloomberg]
* Trouble in paradise, so soon? The proposed merger between Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge has been delayed. McKenna has postponed its partnership vote, and Dentons says no partnership vote was ever planned. [Daily Report]
* Wherein a firm fails to Latham an ex-employee’s baby mama drama: a legal secretary who was allegedly told her pregnancy complications “were not [the director of HR's] problem” will see her case against L&W move forward. [Blog of Legal Times]
* You know that relations have grown bitter between opposing counsel when attorneys from one firm refer to lawyers from the other as “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.” The legal fee dispute in the BARBRI antitrust case rages on at the Ninth Circuit. [National Law Journal]
* Paging ProudCooleyGrad: Kurzon Strauss, the firm that sued Cooley Law over its allegedly deceptive job stats, is trying to get records unsealed in the school’s defamation case that’s now on appeal. [MLive.com]
* Convicted murderer and jailhouse hottie Jodi Arias is accepting donations for her appeals fund. It could be worth your while — if you donate enough, maybe she’ll consider turning you into her next victim. [HLN TV]
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.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
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