Weil Gotshal

Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Earlier this week, the good folks over at Vault released their annual list of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. As we noted in our analysis of the list, the top 15 for this year don’t look very different from the top 15 from last year.

Wachtell Lipton topped the list for the 12th year in a row. But as Vault noted, Cravath isn’t far behind — and could retake the crown that it relinquished to Wachtell back in 2004.

Yes, that’s right — Wachtell hasn’t always been #1. On this “Flashback Friday,” let’s look back at the Vault rankings from 2008 and 1998 and see how things looked in the past….

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It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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Dr. Dre

* As you may have heard, Apple is buying Beats Electronics for $3 billion. Apple is being represented by Weil, but don’t worry, no one forgot about Dre — he’s got Munger Tolles and Skadden Arps on his side. [Am Law Daily]

* Haynes and Boone will have a new managing partner as of January 1, 2015, and to make sure he fulfills the good old Texas stereotype of things being bigger, he wants to grow the hell out of the firm’s Houston office. [Dallas Business Journal]

* Stephanie Avakian, a WilmerHale partner in the New York office, was tapped by the Securities and Exchange Commission to become its deputy director of enforcement. Yay! [DealBook / New York Times]

* “We can’t turn law schools into graduate school for the study of law,” says a law prof who thinks legal education is straying from being professional education. Aww, write a paper about it. [Harvard Crimson]

* A Los Angeles couple has been accused in the hit-and-run death of Judge Dean Pregerson’s son. The judge isn’t “looking for blood,” but some jail time would probably help. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]

* We already know that state prosecutors are very poorly paid, but let’s go one step further and see if women are paid less than men. Shockingly enough, women are getting the shaft in Texas. [Texas Tribune]

* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]

* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]

Want to see what it looks like when a fourth-year Weil Gotshal associate plans to marry a family law practitioner from a small firm? It looks like it’s going to rival the epic display of elegance and class that is the upcoming Kimye wedding.

Please save the date for the “Boss Wedding,” which is what they’re calling this dignified affair…

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* The federal judiciary is hiring for staff and public defender positions lost during the government’s sequestration throughout the better part of last year. Ready, aim, fire those résumés! [Legal Times]

* New York Biglaw firms always manage to find their way to the top of the Am Law 100 rankings. When all’s said and done, being so close to Wall Street definitely has its perks. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

* Absolutely no one should be alarmed about the fact that Kasowitz Benson’s profits per partner have dropped by 15 percent — well, no one but the equity partners, that is. Have fun with that. [Am Law Daily]

* The managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers is worried people will think his personal injury firm is going under, not Jacoby & Meyers Bankruptcy. Either way, those commercials won’t die. [New York Law Journal]

* A professor at George Mason University Law was pepper sprayed IN THE FAAAAAACE by an unknown assailant in his classroom yesterday afternoon. We’ll obvious have more on this story later. [ARLNow]

* La Verne is the first law school to offer flat-rate tuition. There will be no scholarships and no discounts. Students will pay $25K/year, nothing more, nothing less. This is, dare we say, wise. [National Law Journal]

* “Passion over pension.” Mekka Don, the Weil Gotshal corporate lit attorney turned rapper, just released his first CD, and it’s all about leaving Biglaw to follow his dreams. Go buy it here (affiliate link). [MTV]

* Lawyers from top New York City firms like Skadden, Proskauer, Stikeman, Weil Gotshal, Kaye Scholer, and Bailey Duquette took to the ice to compete for the Lawyers’ Cup. The team with Canadian imports won, obviously. [Forbes]

* Andre Bouchard was nominated to replace Judge Leo Strine as Chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery. We can only hope he’ll be as outspoken as his predecessor. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* UNC Law has been receiving fewer applications, and perhaps that’s the reason why its acceptance rates have gone up, up, up — from 36 percent to 45 percent — in the last year alone. Yikes. [Daily Tar Heel]

* A woman alleges her Uber driver “fondled [her] legs, groin area and breasts” as she tried to give him directions. That extra customer service is what makes it cost more during peak times. [Chicago Tribune]

* A watch repairman was so pissed about this Yelp review he sicced his lawyer on the man who handed out the two-star report. Of course his lawyer’s one-paragraph demand letter barely makes sense. [Gawker]

Kevin Trudeau

* “How many years would you put a TV pitchman in jail? 3 years? 5 years? Don’t answer yet…” [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* So there’s a sex tape of Chris Christie. Except it isn’t him. They should have known Christie could never be a porn star. You can’t get far in the porn biz by saying, “This lane is closed.” [Gawker]

* Dolt Duped By Date Sues OKCupid. [NY Post]

* Patents are a terrible measure of innovation. Hold on, I defy you to besmirch the Anti-Drowning Hat. [Concurring Opinions]

* Wage theft in fast food shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the role played by the franchise model in creating labor law violations is intriguing. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* A gathering of business development tips, including shout outs to Anonymous Partner and Mark Herrmann. [Corporette]

* What better qualification to challenge for the Vegas DA’s job than to be prosecuted by that office days before the election? [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* A Baltimore lawyer aggressively used the habeas process to release mentally ill girls to serve as personal slaves to the wealthy. [Slate]

* Weil’s Business Finance & Restructuring team is putting together a March Madness bracket based on quotes from bankruptcy decisions. Let the excitement wash over you. Having not seen the bracket yet, I’m reserving judgment on what an awesome array of bankruptcy quotes would look like. [Bankruptcy Blog]

* Kevin O’Keefe, who presented on my panel at our Attorney@Blog conference, left all of us touched with his tribute to Above the Law. [Real Lawyers Have Blogs]

Congratulations to Weil Gotshal on securing a significant role in the big Grupo Corporativo Ono / Vodafone deal. The firm is representing Ono’s principal shareholders, a group of private equity firms, in the $10 billion transaction. This comes not long after news of Weil’s representation of Facebook in the company’s $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

At the same time as it handles eleven-figure deals, Weil Gotshal continues to lose partners. Are these defections wanted or unwanted by Weil? If the latter, how significant are they?

Let’s find out which partners are leaving, and where they’re going….

(Please note the UPDATE added to the end of this post.)

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We’ve all been so transfixed by the Patton Boggs meltdown that we’ve temporarily lost track of some other law firms that are facing challenges right now. The most prestigious name on the list: Weil Gotshal & Manges.

After last summer’s layoffs and partner pay cuts, WGM experienced a rash of partner defections. Some of these were true losses for the firm, but others were chalked up to Weil’s strategy of becoming leaner, more capital-markets-centric, and ultimately more profitable.

Has this revamping of the firm manifested itself in the form of higher partner profits? Not yet. In fact, in 2013, revenues and profits at Weil fell….

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