Now Winston has even more reason to be embarrassed by its former partner. Earlier today, Jonathan Bristol was both sued by the SEC, for aiding and abetting fraud, and arrested on federal criminal charges, for money laundering. The civil suit and criminal charges arose out of Bristol’s legal work for Kenneth Starr — no, not the former Whitewater independent counsel, but the money manager to the stars who stole money from his celebrity clients.
(Interestingly enough, Ken Starr the fraudster — he’s pleaded guilty, so no need for “alleged” here — is also a lawyer. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School.)
The indictment against Jonathan Bristol, brought by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, has some juicy details. For example: How much did Bristol earn while at Winston?
A Supreme Court clerkship is, in the words of Adam Liptak of the New York Times, “the most coveted credential in American law.” When SCOTUS clerks leave their posts at the Court to join private law firms, they get signing bonuses of as much as $250,000 (on top of normal associate salaries and bonuses).
But typically they join their firms as associates (or maybe counsel, if they have a few extra years of practice in addition to clerking). How many clerks come in to Biglaw as partners?
As reported yesterday — by Tony Mauro in The BLT and by Marisa Kashino in Washingtonian magazine, among others — at least one Supreme Court clerk from the Term just ended, October Term 2009, is going to straight into a partnership at a major law firm.
Meet Elizabeth Papez. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in OT 2009. Now she’s joining the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn, where she will practice in commercial and appellate litigation, with a focus on intellectual property and energy law, as well as government relations.
We interview Papez about her interesting career path, after the jump.
Snoopy works from home instead of going to the MetLife Building.
This morning we reported on bedbugs at Winston & Strawn’s New York office. Alas, the problem might be much larger than we initially anticipated.
That’s because Winston & Strawn is located in the iconic MetLife building, at 200 Park Avenue in Manhattan. After this morning’s post went up, a spokesperson from Winston told us that all inquires about the bed bugs were being referred to the building’s landlord, real estate giant Tishman Speyer.
Are bedbugs crawling around the whole MetLife building? We don’t know yet; Tishman Speyer hasn’t returned our phone calls.
But if bed bugs are a threat to all the tenants of the MetLife building, there are three other law firms that could be getting very itchy…
Here in New York, we’re not worried about hurricanes, we’re not worried about terrorists, we’re not worried about whether or not Derek Jeter “cheated” to get on base. We are worried about one thing: bedbugs.
Bed bugs are everywhere. Lat has this theory that we’ve reached bedbug epidemic stage and that everybody eventually will have them at same point. I’m retraining my Lhasa Apso to be a bed bug sniffing dog in hopes of making a little extra money. The threat of coming into contact with somebody who has been in contact with somebody who knows somebody who had bed bugs is real.
So you can imagine the horror felt by associates in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, when they received an early morning, pre-recorded phone message from the firm…
We’re doing our annual march through the Vault prestige rankings, to give ATL readers the opportunity to have their say about perks and pitfalls at these firms. If your firm actually let you swap your Blackberry for your iPhone, brag here. Or if your firm has such a strong stench that it makes you nauseous, vent here.
We’ve been doing open threads in batches of ten, but now we’re going to pick up the pace. Here are the Vault #41 – 60. This is when the prestige list gets a little more geographically diverse, with firms based in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Palo Alto and even Pittsburgh:
In case you haven’t been following the case of Kenneth Starr — not the one who brought us the delectable Starr Report, but the one who managed money for celebrity clients and now stands accused of a $30 million investment fraud — Jonathan Bristol did legal work for Starr. Bristol is referred to in the criminal complaint as “Associate-4″ — not as catchy as “Client No. 9,” but it’ll do.
Since the Starr story broke, Winston has refused to comment on the case or to clarify Bristol’s current status at the firm. On the latter subject, there are conflicting reports:
Bristol is a Winston & Strawn partner who arrived at the firm from the now-defunct Thelen. Bristol is not charged with any crime and faces no civil charges. But he appears to be gone from Winston, though firm higher-ups and a spokesman will not comment publicly on Bristol’s status. Two sources familiar with the matter say Bristol is indeed gone from Winston, though one source close to the case insists that Winston did not terminate Bristol.
Regardless of whether he’s still connected to the firm, Jonathan Bristol is definitely gone from the Winston website. As in really, truly gone.
Last week, Winston removed Bristol’s bio from the firm website. But that’s not all. Winston went to the trouble of taking the November 2008 press release touting Jonathan Bristol’s arrival at the firm (along with several other Thelen lawyers), revising it to omit any mention of Bristol, and then putting it back on the firm website….
We felt our report was fairly hard-hitting. But one Winston source thinks we didn’t go far enough:
In my humble opinion, you weren’t sufficiently critical of Winston. The real message here is that many associates, including those who make their hours, are getting little to no raise because the firm is re-drawing the rules after-the-fact to ensure that it only has to pay out what it wants, and making partner is basically impossible here from now on.
Morale is shockingly low. The firm’s closest competitors like Sidley and Mayer Brown do not appear to be acting nearly as devious (though I am sure they have their bad behaviors too).
Meanwhile, some incoming associates at Winston seem anxious about their fates — and how they’re going to make ends meet while waiting to start at the firm….
Life outside of lockstep is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. A lockstep system for compensating and promoting associates has its drawbacks, to be sure. But at least it offers the virtues of transparency and predictability.
Earlier this week, we covered the arguably amorphous definition of “merit” at WilmerHale, one of several leading law firms to abandon lockstep. Today we turn our attention to Winston & Strawn, another prominent firm that has moved to a more “merit-based” system of compensation.
Back in February, we described Winston’s compensation scheme not as a box of chocolates — that would be sweet and delicious! — but as a black box. Among associates, nobody really knows what anyone else is making. As stated in the firm memo, “Individual associate salaries will be determined on a case by case basis based on seniority, performance and productivity factors and will be communicated separately to each associate.”
We now have a better sense of what’s going on at Winston, thanks to the recent release of individualized salary info (and some comparing of notes among Winston associates). And not everyone is happy….
‘Think,’ one of the pieces on display at Agora Gallery.
This past weekend, two of your ATL editors paid a visit to Agora Gallery in Chelsea. We wanted to see for ourselves the LEGO brick sculptures of Nathan Sawaya, the lawyer turned LEGO artist.
As explained in our profile of Sawaya, the NYU Law grad left Winston & Strawn for a $30,000-a-year job as a builder at LEGOLAND. Several years later, Sawaya is now a world-renowned LEGO artist, whose works sell for thousands of dollars.
So, what did we get to set our eyes on? And how did we like it?
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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