This Week in BigLaw – 5/28/10

by lawshucks on May 31, 2010

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for business, if not for astronomers, and with that comes the arrival of the summer associates. Most years, it’s a months-long party, but lately it’s taken on a veneer of respectability as young gunners put on their best face and try on professionalism. Gone are the days of cruising through, knowing that you’d really have to screw up to not get an offer. Offer rates have plummeted from the high 90s to little better than a coin flip at some firms.

If you think you need advice on how to behave during the summer program, there’s plenty out there whatever your role.

Bitter Lawyer has the best list, with nine simple things to avoid. It’s not just the summer associates who need advice on summer programs, though. BL’s Unethical & Amoral Matthew Richardson provides the lecherous associate’s perspective.

Corporette has some practical advice on keeping the weight off while being tempted left, right, and center with the city’s finest food. Even Jones Day’s hiring partner has some advice.

The highest-profile incoming summer associate is probably Sara Hallmark (nee Albert), a competitor on America’s Next Top Model, who will be summering at Hogan Lovells’ DC office. Not that she in particular needs fashion advice, but the newly merged firm did feel the need to publish a dress code for the legacy Lovells lawyers who are about to be freed to enjoy their first casual Fridays. Even with everyone on their best behavior these days, and no clash of culture excuse, other firms still send the dress-code memos out. Weil Gotshal is one of the latest – at least they illustrated their version.

Of course, we expect common sense in abundance from those smart enough to gain entry to BigLaw. But it’s good to know that if someone can fail out of medical school and get disbarred, there’s always business school.

After the jump, we hit the recent highlights and lowlights in BigLaw.





Deals

This week, we’ll go all international.

  • Prudential rights issue ($21 billion) – Only two US firms got roles on the UK’s biggest insurer’s rights offering to fund its acquisition of AIG’s Asian insurance business AIA Group. Cleary Gottlieb is handling US securities issues for the issuer, which Debevoise is handling for AIA. Slaughter & May is lead counsel for Prudential, and Herbert Smith represents the underwriters.
  • Perenco reserve-based borrowing ($2.8 billion) – Herbert Smith represented the borrower, Allen & Overy the banks on what is reported to be the largest facility of its kind.
  • Merger of three Spanish banks ($5.2 billion (revenue)). In the first of a pair of nice deals for the Iberians, Cuatrecasas and Garrigues handled the three-way merger and kept all the work en el país.
  • Spanish telecom ONO refinancing ($4.3 billion) – Weil Gotshal (with an assist from Garrigues) for the equityholders, Clifford Chance for the debtor, and Uria Menendez for the consortium of SIXTY lenders.
  • UIL acquisition of assets from Iberdrola ($1.3 billion) – In yet another Spanish deal, Connecticut-based UIL acquired three New England natural gas utilities. Sullivan & Cromwell for UIL, Chadbourne & Parke for Iberdrola.
  • Man Group acquisition of GLG partners ($1.6 billion) – Weil Gotshal and Clifford Chance for the UK-based hedge fund on US and UK issues, respectively (although each has strong presences in both jurisdictions). Chadbourne & Parke for the target, Winston & Strawn for the special committee, and Allen & Overy for twothree individual directors.
  • Astellas Pharma acquisition of OSI Pharmaceuticals ($4 billion) – It only cost Japanese Astellas $500 million to switch this deal from hostile to negotiated. Morrison & Foerster represented the buyer on the initial unsolicited offer, the litigation, and the negotiated deal, while Skadden handled the defense and acquisition for OSI.
  • National Grid rights issue ($4.8 billion) – Linklaters for the issuer, Herbert Smith for the underwriters.
  • Vedanta acquisition of zinc mines from Anglo American ($1.3 billion) – The Indian company bought mines in Namibia, Ireland, and South Africa with the help of Dewey. Linklaters represented the seller.
  • Onexim Sports’ investment in New Jersey Nets ($200 million) – It doesn’t meet the dollar threshold, but you know you tell your friends about every deal involving a major sports team. Hogan Lovells for the Russian investor, Simpson Thacher for the sellers – and here’s hoping Eric Swedenburg gets to enjoy the holiday weekend – it will have to be better than his 4th of July weekend in 2007, which led to the United Rentals/Cerberus litigation.

Suits

Unlike deals, which are less interesting when firms are involved (see, e.g., the SNoRe Denton merger), litigation is a whole lot more entertaining when the firms are the actual parties. That’s why the fracas arising out of BDO Seidman tax shelters is so fascinating. Four firms duking it out with all sorts of allegations of malpractice, conflicts of interest, and good old fraud. Morgan Lewis, DLA Piper, Bingham McCutchen, Gibson Dunn, and Vedder Price have all stepped into the ring.

And when it’s former-associate v. firm, that’s all the more interesting. Publicity hound/former A&O associate/porn writer Deidre Dare is back in the headlines. She’s suing her former firm for almost $5 million for wrongful termination and discrimination. Not content with that, she also went and spewed some random nonsense about men’s propensity for rape.

Laterals

The past two weeks have been interesting for the number of groups that have been poached.

Despite all that movement, recruiters are getting squeezed, especially when they’re trying to place laid-off lawyers.

If you’re thinking about making that jump inhouse, we’ve started a column that has an absurd amount of insider information on transitioning from BigLaw to inhouse. 2,000+ words (in four parts, so your eyes won’t glaze over) just on compensation issues. So far we’ve also hit the crucial, but misunderstood and/or underappreciated, banding system and explained how titles work.

No matter what kind of move you make, follow Hiring Partner’s advice and keep the departure classy.

Layoffs

It’s been a while since we’ve had new entries for the Law Shucks Layoff Tracker, but firms continue to layoff handsful of people here and there. Most recently, Linklaters laid off six associates in its Lisbon office.

Deidre Dare isn’t the only lawyer claiming wrongful termination. Eversheds is still having trouble with its layoffs. The firm spared a woman on maternity leave, which led to a bias judgment in favor of a man who otherwise scored higher on the firm’s calculation. That will cost them $177,000 – but is it money well spent? The public vilification they’d have gotten probably would have been worse, and spread beyond the legal media niche, if word got out that they were the high-falutin’ law firm that fired the pregnant woman. Damned if you, damned if you don’t.

McDermott Will & Emery is facing a similar issue. A billing specialist claims she was laid off due to her age. MWE is not the only one. ALD also notes:

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is facing at least three employment-related suits; separate claims have been filed against Covington & Burling, Turocy & Watson and several other firms, according to our prior reporting.

It hasn’t started yet, but the other trend (beside layoff-related litigation) to keep an eye on is firms engaging in legal process outsourcing (LPO). CMS Cameron McKenna signed an $852 million, ten-year deal to outsource its back-office functions. Current firm employees will be transitioned over to Integreon, the LPO provider. As Integreon “right sizes” the organization and offshores the work, the layoffs will fly under the radar.

LPO is typically outsourced by clients directly (see, e.g., Microsoft). They typically don’t want or need the overhead of having a firm in the middle, and if they have a relationship directly with the LPO provider they can mix-and-match whichever firm they need the LPO to interface with much more readily.

RollOnFriday is reporting that DLA Piper is in negotiations to outsource its 1,000-person global IT department. IT outsourcing has already been done or considered by most major enterprises, so lawyers are just late to the party on this one.

Considering most of those deals, which can exceed a billion dollars in cost over a decade, often involved outside counsel, you have to wonder how it is that fewer lawyers didn’t go back to the office and wonder if all the benefits being discussed could be applied to the lawyers’ own businesses.

Leave it to lawyers to shoot an angle, though: one Rio Tinto lawyer outsourced her company’s work then went and joined the provider.

Sui Generis

Usually, it’s BigLaw putting fear into the hearts of those in its path, but it turns out there’s one man, who makes less than $200,000 per year, that has Cleary Gottlieb, Davis Polk, and Wachtell quivering in their Crockett & Joneses: SDNY Judge Jed Rakoff. The three firms co-authored a passive-aggressive letter designed to minimize their chances of ending up in his courtroom on the Bank of America suit.

Major firms have laid off

  • 6 people this month (all lawyers)
  • 491 people this year (192 lawyers, 299 staff)
  • 14,702 people since January 2008 (5,778 lawyers, 8,924 staff)
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  • http://www.sexcrimedefenseattorney.com Joe

    All that competition by the summer associates can only be a good thing for law firms. Now people will really be motivated to be on the right side of that coin toss percentage.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/lawshucks lawshucks

      It's a step in the right direction, but firms are still basically hiring two years ahead of start dates based on one year's grades. So not only can they not predict their needs accurately, they're picking based on little relevant information. Totally retarded system.

  • http://www.sexcrimedefenseattorney.com Joe

    All that competition by the summer associates can only be a good thing for law firms. Now people will really be motivated to be on the right side of that coin toss percentage.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/lawshucks lawshucks

      It's a step in the right direction, but firms are still basically hiring two years ahead of start dates based on one year's grades. So not only can they not predict their needs accurately, they're picking based on little relevant information. Totally retarded system.

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