Vicious Infighting

Major law firms select their leaders in different ways. Some have a committee of partners do the picking, for example, while others have the outgoing leader designate her successor.

Rank-and-file partners often have little to no say in the selection. And, perhaps because the process is frequently run by a small group of people at the top, it doesn’t often come with much public drama. Yes, some firm leadership struggles boast intrigue worthy of Game of Thrones, but it’s generally kept under wraps.

At one prominent law firm, though, the entire partnership selects the managing partner in a firm-wide vote. This year’s election was contested — and not everyone is happy with the results….

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused.

Please convey my congratulations to Bryan Garner on inventing a new form of arbitration. Two parties have a dispute; one appoints an arbitrator to resolve the dispute; the other disputant is not consulted. How beautifully that simplifies arbitration! No need for the parties to agree on an arbitrator, or for the American Arbitration Association to list possible arbitrators and the disputants cross out the ones they don’t like.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, in response to the latest barb dealt in his long-running dispute with Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. In June 2012, Bryan Garner co-authored Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (affiliate link) with Scalia, and Posner criticized it for “misrepresent[ing] case rationales.” Garner recently hired Keker & Van Nest partner Steven Hirsch to evaluate those criticisms, saying he wanted an “objective third party.” Posner wasn’t particularly impressed.

South Park metaphorically linked the 2004 election to a matchup between a turd sandwich and a giant douche. As bad as the Bush era had become, John Kerry came across as such a self-righteous tool it was hard to get swing voters psyched up to vote one way or the other. I think of this episode today as I approach the tale of two lawyers sniping at each other over Facebook about whether a woman deserves to have her parental rights terminated. It’s not that I think either is really wrong, as much as both of them exhibit the worst of their respective positions in their online feud.

So what did one entitled Biglaw lawyer say about a poor client, and what did a self-righteous public interest lawyer say in response? All bets final once you read past the jump….

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In battles between university presidents and law deans, the university president always wins. The university presidents have the backing of boards of trustees who barely know what is going on. Law deans usually don’t have the ear of the powerful people who actually make decisions about how universities are run.

But not this time; this time everybody loses. The dean who challenged his president is no longer the dean, but the president is now no longer a university president. And the law students… well, they were probably screwed a long time ago…

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Welcome to today’s episode of everyone’s favorite Biglaw drama, As The Weil Turns. Today brings word of another Weil coming off the wagon — specifically, another partner defection.

And no, it’s not in Texas, where Weil Gotshal’s offices — which have lost about 15 partners in the past few weeks — are starting to feel as besieged as the Alamo. It’s up here in the northeast, closer to WGM’s headquarters in New York.

Who is leaving which Weil office?

(Please note the UPDATES added below regarding where this partner is going.)

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If the Houston office of Weil Gotshal & Manges ends up shutting down in the wake of the recent partner defections, management in New York might not shed a tear. In fact, it might have been part of their master plan.

As one Weil source told us, the Houston litigation defections were “not a surprise,” since the June layoffs “took away all but one assistant and all of the associates. The associates that were allowed to stay were switched to contract positions and have since left. Basically, it was an elimination by New York of the Houston group from the bottom up.”

Dallas, however, is a different story. It’s more of a standalone office, with a more diversified mix of practices, and it makes a bigger contribution to the firm’s bottom line.

But the latest partner departures do raise serious questions about its future. Which Dallas partners just left, and where are they going?

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Last Friday, we broke the news of four partners in Houston leaving the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges. This news came just a week after eight partners in Dallas announced their move to Sidley Austin.

In today’s episode of “As The Weil Turns,” we’ll reveal the identities of the Houston defectors, then explore the possible reasons for their leaving Weil….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this story.)

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It seems that Weil Gotshal & Manges enjoys the title we recently bestowed upon it: “the reigning drama queen of Biglaw.” The juicy news and novel plot twists just keep on coming.

For those of you just tuning into “As The Weil Turns,” here’s a quick recap. Last week, eight prominent partners left Weil’s Dallas office for Sidley Austin. There was lots of speculation for what motivated the move. The Boston office of Weil instituted an unusual policy for raising attorney morale. Weil in Houston lost another partner to a rival.

Today brings more news: fresh partner departures from Houston, additional drama out of Dallas….

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“Who shot J.R.?” That was the question that everyone (hi Mom!) was dying to know on the wildly popular prime-time soap opera of Dallas.

“Who drove out Yvette Ostolaza?” That’s the question everyone is dying to know on the wildly popular prime-time soap opera of Weil Gotshal.

Okay, “drove out” is probably not the right phrasing here, for reasons we’ll explain below. But there’s no denying that people are keenly interested in the drama surrounding the departure of eight Weil partners to Sidley Austin in Dallas.

Let’s take a closer look at the situation, shall we?

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Some of our older readers may, like me, remember the television show Dallas. This deliciously dishy, prime-time soap opera was packed with suspense, drama, and conflict.

Suspense, drama, and conflict have also haunted the high-powered law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges this year. In June, the firm conducted major layoffs, which shocked the legal world due to Weil’s profitability and prestige. In April, Weil lost some prominent litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C., amid significant controversy.

So it’s fitting that today’s juicy story comes from the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal, which just lost a slew of partners to a rival firm under interesting circumstances….

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

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