This year has seen a grim procession of law firm layoff news, which seemed to pick up momentum just yesterday with the Weil Gotshal lawyer layoffs and the Jones Day staff cuts. Are we looking at a 2008 redux, or is this just a bump in the road as the economy makes its slow recovery?
The Weil news was particularly stunning. If any firm seemed poised to thrive in the post-recession “new normal,” it was Weil, with its diversified practices and hegemonic restructuring group. Alas, with yesterday’s news of Weil’s decision to cut 7% of its associates and slash annual compensation for 10% of its partners by hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is clear that Biglaw job security is a thing of the past.
Let’s explore the reasons behind law firm layoffs, review a chronology of recent reductions, and obtain your views through a reader survey….
* Who will play starring roles in the Obamacare arguments before SCOTUS? A bunch of older white guys. Good thing this isn’t televised, because the ratings would probably suck. [Legal Times]
* The judiciary is on the cusp of a “financial crisis,” and some trials may be put on hold. That, or they’re just going to get rid of people. Which do you think it’ll be? [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* When rankings like these are available, who cares about U.S. News? Here’s a list of the law schools you should go to if you want to actually make bank as a lawyer. [Forbes]
* Covington & Burling is the latest Biglaw firm to sign up for an office in Seoul. Memo to partners: this is not the spring “bonus” your associates care about. [Capital Business Blog / Washington Post]
* The jury in the Dharun Ravi privacy trial is set to begin its deliberations this morning. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that room — or, more on point, a webcam. [Statehouse Bureau]
* Thomas Puccio, a former Biglaw partner known for his notorious clientele, RIP. [New York Times]
It’s April 29. Monarchists have long circled this day as an opportunity to praise the vestigial structures of imperial domination. But this day means a lot to people who earn their fortune through work instead of birth. Today is a huge day for Biglaw associates. For many, today is the day spring bonus payments hit their bank accounts.
Don’t spend it all in one place.
But as we all know, not every Biglaw associate will be enjoying a spring bonus this year. With the payments out, we’re no longer looking at which firms are “lagging” behind in their spring bonus announcements. Now we’re looking at firms that have simply decided they are not paying spring bonuses, regardless of what the market says. Apparently, keeping up with Cravath really will be ruinous to some firms.
So who has officially announced they will not be paying spring bonuses this year? We’ll tell you what we know about three Biglaw firms, and hopefully you can fill in any gaps…
* Yes, we have seen the excellent GW Law Revue video based on the Cee Lo Green song (embedded above). No need to send it to us again. In fact, please do not send us links to any Law Revue videos until we announce the start of our third annual Law Revue Video Contest (perhaps next month, but stay tuned). [YouTube]
* The SEC’s general counsel, David Becker, gets involved in the Madoff litigation — as a defendant, in an action brought by trustee Irving Picard. [Am Law Daily]
Some summer associates are ending their summers on a very positive note. Quite a few firms have already informed law school students that after this summer fling, they’re interested in a more serious relationship.
Since our last round-up of offices extending offers to 100% of their summer associates, we’ve heard from a few more contented summers…
We’ve previously covered a sticky situation involving an alleged drafting error by real estate lawyers at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. The dispute pits the buyers of luxury condos at the Rushmore, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, against the development company Extell, Stroock’s client. (Our prior coverage appears here, here, and here.)
When we last checked in, the New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, had sided with the buyers and ruled against Extell. But instead of just rolling over, which is what most folks do when attacked by the New York AG, Extell is fighting back. From the Real Deal (via Am Law Daily):
In a last minute and stunning move, the developers of the Upper West Side’s Rushmore condominium filed a federal lawsuit [on Monday] against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo seeking to reverse his April rescission order to refund more than $16 million in escrow funds to buyers.
The developers, Extell Development and Carlyle Realty Partners, operating under the name CRP/Extell, also filed a motion in U.S. District Court seeking a temporary restraining order that would block the release of the funds, which include down payments for more than $110 million worth of apartments.
In its moving papers, Extell kind of throws Stroock under the proverbial bus — but just a little bit….
Over the weekend — yes, we often publish over the weekend, so do check in with us — we wrote about the happy story of Jeffrey Fenster. Fenster, a 29-year-old lawyer who previously worked for a short time at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, was recently selected by Governor David Paterson to serve as executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board of New York State.
In the comments, a number of you wondered how Fenster landed this gig, despite what one former board commissioner described as “absolutely no administrative experience” and “no experience in workers’ comp or labor law.” One commenter speculated that Fenster might have been helped by Martin Minkowitz, a retired Stroock partner and expert in workers’ compensation law (which is what the New York Times hinted at).
As it turns out, it appears that Fenster was helped by connections — but not through Stroock or Marty Minkowitz.
Earlier this week, we wrote about a serious drafting mistake by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan — maybe a typo, maybe not — that could cost Stroock’s client millions.
Could Stroock look to its malpractice insurer for help? Maybe not, according to the New York Post:
The gaffe exposes Stroock to the real possibility of having to pay back Extell and Carlyle out of its own pocket because sources said that if the developers sue Stroock, it’s unlikely its insurer will pick up the tab.
The basis for this prediction is not included in the Post article. If you have thoughts on the insurance issue, please do share. Stroock didn’t comment to the New York Times, which first wrote about the error, but they did offer brief comment to the Post.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.