Trusts and Estates

It looks like the trusts and estates department at Debevoise & Plimpton needs a last will and testament. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the firm is pulling the lifeline on its T&E department.

The move surprised some, given the kind of place that Debevoise is. As Peter Lattman put it, “it seemed to run counter to Debevoise’s reputation for a strong partnership culture. At a time when many large law firms have discarded the traditional partnership model and embraced a more bottom-line approach, Debevoise has been seen as retaining an old-school ethos — a genteel law firm known for its camaraderie and decency.”

We have some additional information about the wind-down process. On the bright side, it’s being conducted in a genteel, decent, Debevoise sort of way….

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* Oh my God, Debevoise & Plimpton is dropping its entire trusts and estates practice. Was the economy the cause? What about the eight soon-to-be-unemployed lawyers? And most importantly, what would Josh Lyman’s father think?! [DealBook / New York Times]

* Major props go out to everyone at O’Melveny & Myers for hitting an all-time high in terms of both profits per partner ($2.06 million) and revenues per lawyer ($1.1 million). Here’s hoping the bonus situation reflected those incredible numbers. [Am Law Daily]

* We probably should’ve known when Pepper Hamilton acquired the Freeh Group back in August that exciting things would happen. Say hello to Louis Freeh, the firm’s new chair. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Are we supposed to be surprised that the Millennials who are considering applying to law school are more self-confident than those who preceded them? They’re all special little snowflakes! [National Law Journal]

* If you’re taking the LSAT on Saturday, here are some tricks to keep yourself focused. But don’t worry, it’s only one of the most important tests you’ll ever take. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Sorry, George Zimmerman, but even though you’re poor, your trial isn’t going to be delayed. Perhaps Judge Nelson made this announcement to serve as a poetic birthday present for Trayvon Martin. [Orlando Sentinel]

“Sucked balls can make millionaires” — Powerball management and/or Hugh Hefner

In the wake of a record-breaking $580 million Powerball jackpot that none of us won, we all returned to our soul-crushing legal jobs and forgot about the dream of owning an island or riding a partner around the office like horse until the next big jackpot.

But some lawyers are making a living off the lottery. One law firm in New York, Certilman Balin, has even registered the domain name thelotterylawyer.com to tout their expertise in estate planning for lottery winners. That’s some quality SEO. Professional legal advice for lottery winners is a growing cottage industry as the public becomes more familiar with jackpot winners squandering their money.

But estate planning isn’t nearly as entertaining as the crying and gnashing of teeth from litigation. And lotteries have spawned some wild cases because wherever there are deep pockets and petty people there are legal fees just waiting to be collected.

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A 43-year-old trust fund baby?

Talk about #RichPeopleProblems. And #DaddyIssues.

A prominent Manhattan lawyer is suing his own daughter. For libel. Because she allegedly harmed his reputation. By seeking an accounting of her trust fund. Which he set up for her and reportedly administers. Got that?

Yes, Dad v. Daughter. How could something this messed-up not be our Lawsuit of the Day? Especially given the claimed size of the trust fund, stocked with such goodies as Hamptons real estate?

It’s hard to get one’s head around these allegations, but the litigation is for real. Let’s take a look at the competing claims. And how much the trust fund was supposedly worth at one point — we’re talking seven figures here….

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When doing research for my columns, I spend a lot of time thinking about how small-firm attorneys can get the right kind of attention. I can easily find examples of getting the wrong kind of attention: Kim Kardashian, Conrad Murray, and that child-bride who married the guy from Lost. Then, I received an email from a young small-firm lawyer practicing in Winston-Salem who provided me with a positive counter-example.

Michael Wells, Jr. practices personal injury law, litigation, and estate planning at Wells Jenkins Lucas & Jenkins PLLC. Wells is the youngest lawyer at this ten attorney firm. One of the other ten is his father, Michael Wells, Sr. Early on in his career, Wells set out to distinguish himself from his highly successful father and he has succeeded. The lessons he learned along the way can provide a useful road map for young attorneys….

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Almost half (48%) of Career Center survey respondents said they were too busy billing on the Labor Day holiday to fire up the barbie. That’s more than the 35% of survey respondents who reported working on the Fourth of July, but less than the 73% of respondents who worked on Presidents’ Day, and the 66% of respondents who worked on MLK Day.

The most popular reasons given for skipping out on the Labor Day celebrations were:

56% said that nobody specifically asked them to do work, but they had work they needed to get done. 29% said a partner or associate asked them to do work. 14% said a client asked them to do work. 10% said they needed the hours. 7% said everyone else in their office was working. 3% said that Labor Day is not recognized as an official firm holiday.

Now let’s find out in which practice areas and at which Biglaw firms associates were most and least likely to work on Labor Day….

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Mon dieu, je déteste mon propriétaire.

* Led by Cleary and Wachtell, five Biglaw firms were involved in the $12.5B Google/Motorola deal. Talk about a total prestige orgy. [Am Law Daily]

* Casey Anthony will be appealing her check fraud probation order in Florida. WHERE’S THE JUSTICE FOR THAT GIRL’S CHECKING ACCOUNT!!?!? [CNN]

* Those pushing for a law school at Indiana Tech admit the state doesn’t need another law school, but “another kind.” The kind that doesn’t exist, amirite? [Chesterton Tribune]

* Your pets don’t need millions from your estate after you go to the big dog park in the sky. But if you feel so inclined, Fifi will probably use the money to dye her hair back. Pink is so not her color. [Reuters]

* For some young lawyers in Nevada, passing the bar is easier than getting a job. Meh, I guess I should’ve considered moving to Nevada. [Fox News]

* Lawyers in Texas are excited about a Twitter Brief Competition. All filings should be under 140 characters. Just imagine: @Appellant Ur lawyer sucks, ttyl #affirm [Tex Parte Blog / Texas Lawyer]

Joseph Flom

Back in February, Joseph Flom — name partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and one of the nation’s most successful and prominent lawyers — passed away, at the age of 87. During his life, Flom earned well-deserved renown as an attorney, philanthropist, and mentor. He was also a wonderful father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, many times over.

Joe Flom, R.I.P. — and R.I.C.H. As you might expect from the name partner of one of the world’s largest and most lucrative law firms, Flom left behind a vast fortune.

It might seem tacky to talk about this. But that hasn’t stopped us before given Flom’s commitment to charity, it’s actually heartwarming to see all of the worthy causes that will be receiving much-needed funds from the Flom estate.

So how much are we talking about? And who are beneficiaries of his will?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

As I have previously discussed, one thing I wish to accomplish with this column (in addition to the instant boost of self-esteem I receive whenever I read a comment) is to provide specific information to attorneys considering small firms. To that end, meet Ray Prather and Daniel Ebner, principals of Prather Ebner LLP.

Ray Prather was a successful solo practitioner specializing in estate and trust planning. Dan Ebner, an HLS grad and former district court clerk, was a Kirkland & Ellis associate. Realizing that their backgrounds complemented each other — that Prather had experience in running a small firm, and that Ebner had a valuable referral source in Biglaw connections — these partners in life decided to become partners in law.

So how did they make it happen?

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Let’s face it: the best thing about dying is that you are reunited with your loved ones on a puffy cloud get to control people from beyond the grave. I don’t look forward to dying, but the one thing that brings me comfort is knowing that my funeral playlist will be epic, as I’ve taken the liberty of including it in my will (Thong Song, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Red Red Wine, Mambo #5, etc.).

Elizabeth Edwards, who died on December 7th after losing her battle with breast cancer, didn’t exactly pull a Leona Helmsley, screw her children and leave nearly everything to her dog. But she did exact revenge on her cheating, megalomaniac estranged husband:

Elizabeth Edwards left everything to her children, with no mention of her estranged husband, John Edwards, in her will.

“All of my furniture, furnishings, household goods, jewelry, china, silverware and personal effects and any automobiles … to be divided among them …” Edwards says in the document dated December 1.

Yowza. Not even an “I acknowledge my husband, John Edwards, whom I intentionally omit from this will” put in for good measure. In the words of MTV’s best dating show: John, You Are Dismissed…

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