Archive for the ‘Kellie Schmitt’ Category

China Experts Handicap a Complex Market

October 11, 2006

The latest round of changes in China’s financial regulations have left a lot of potential investors — and their lawyers — confused about how they affect the chance to play in one of the world’s hottest markets.

Lawyers from O’Melveny & Myers’ China practice joined other experts in San Francisco on Wednesday to discuss how the emerging nation’s economic opportunities will shape up.

While the panelists were generally optimistic about China in the longer term, they said the next few years might be harder to predict.

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Survey: Corporations Really Need Lawyers

October 10, 2006

It’s a bad time to be a big American company, but a pretty good time to be its law firm, according to a new survey. The average American company — average in the nine-figure range, at least — faces 305 lawsuits worldwide and spends 70 percent of its overall legal budget on litigation, according to Fulbright & Jaworski’s annual survey of U.S. litigation trends.

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At HP, Time to Move On

September 12, 2006

HP threw itself into the spin cycle Tuesday morning, issuing a series of announcements related to the news that Patricia Dunn will give up her post as board chair at the end of the year.

In the first release, Dunn defended the need to investigate leaks, then shifted the blame elsewhere (while still saying sorry): “Unfortunately, the investigation, which was conducted with third parties, included certain inappropriate techniques. These went beyond what we understood them to be, and I apologize that they were employed.”

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Pellicano Name Unlocks Ire in Miller Departure

May 3, 2006

Let the mudslinging begin.

As news of Skip Miller’s departure from Christensen Miller made the rounds around Los Angeles on Tuesday, firm representative Patricia Glaser kept the reasons for his departure vague, saying only that there were longstanding circumstances surrounding the decision.

But when a source close to Miller brought up Anthony Pellicano, the tone soured. The source claimed that Miller's departure was motivated by tensions stemming from the firm's use of Pellicano, the celebrity private eye indicted for wiretapping. That's when a Christensen Miller representative decided to dish more dirty details. In an email to CalLaw.com later that day, a firm representative said the firm had asked for Miller’s resignation as co-head of the litigation department in November.

(UPDATE: CalLaw.com has learned that a major client of Miller's, billionnaire Alec Gores, has been talking to investigators in the Pellicano case.)

“It is unfortunate that someone has attempted to mask the facts by attributing Mr. Miller's departure to a completely unrelated and later-occurring circumstance,” the statement read.

But, in the he-said-she-said spirit, Miller’s spokesman fired back a statement of his own, saying Miller voluntarily relinquished management responsibilities to concentrate on his trial practice almost a year ago.

“He is surprised and saddened by the retaliatory and false characterizations by his partners,” the statement reads.

According to a firm insider, the strains between Miller and other name partners — including Glaser — are nothing new, and his departure is simply heating up long-simmering tensions.

Kellie Schmitt

Gender Diversity: It’s Harsh in the Spotlight

April 21, 2006

It’s a mixed bag when it comes to women entering the partnership ranks this year, according to the Project for Attorney Retention, an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law. While more and more firms have partner classes that are 25 to 33 percent female, that’s still less than the percentage of women entering firms, according to the project’s report.

Among the firms getting kudos for their proportions were three based in
California: Four of the six members of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s newest partnership class were women; five of the nine new partners at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe were women; and half of Thelen, Reid & Priest’s eight new partners were female.

The report also cites firms with the lowest partner proportions. These include Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; White & Case; Holland & Hart; Shearman & Sterling; and Dewey Ballantine — all of which have no women in their recent partner promotions.

Gibson, Dunn partner Karen Bertero, a member of the firm’s diversity and hiring committees, said that the firm’s strides in creating a viable part-time policy, as well as mentoring and retention efforts, have boosted the percentage of women entering the partnership.

“We always try to focus on retaining people we think are successful,” Bertero said. “Often, it’s more of a struggle to keep women because a lot of people make choices based on lifestyle.”

This year’s numbers are part of an increasing pattern of more women entering the firm’s partnership ranks, all of whom will be equity partners, she said.

“I think this is going to be a regular event here,” Bertero said.

— Kellie Schmitt

Arnold & Porter’s Not-So-Greedy Associates

April 6, 2006

An associate in Arnold & Porter's Washington D.C. office was watching a CNN program on Darfur when he learned of his salary raise. "The contrast between getting all this money and the people who needed it was jarring," Joshua Kaplan said.

So Kaplan, a second-year, is asking fellow associates at A&P to give back a portion of their 2006 raises, which ranged from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on their class. He talked to a partner in charge of the firm's pro bono efforts, and came up with the Web site www.givealittle2006.org

The site asks associates to give back a portion of the money with the goal of raising $250,000. The featured organizations include Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross, Care, and the Clinton Foundation. Since the effort launched about two weeks ago, they have received about $10,000.

The associates are also hoping to entice donations with something any co-worker could support: a party.

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‘So, What’s This About an Indictment?’

March 9, 2006

A key part of reporting on the Los Angeles U.S. attorney’s ongoing probes of big shot lawyers is the “So … I hear you’re going to be indicted? phone call.

They’ve become a rather common occurrence over the past few weeks, as federal prosecutors step up their inquiries of entertainment lawyers connected with celebrity private eye Anthony Pellicano.

When the rumor mills turn, reporters have to follow, even if it results in blindsiding lawyers who may not be involved.

While some hard questions can be couched, there’s really no way to subtly ask someone if they’re going to hauled into court.

The general reaction to such phone calls is a denial. But those denials take many forms, ranging from the high road (“That’s not true, I face no exposure?) to the low (“don’t call me again?) to the full panic (“click?).

Sometimes the necessary follow-up question (“Well, everyone’s saying you’re under investigation. Why is that??) is seen as an attack on someone’s integrity.

“I am honest,? one defensive partner countered.. “I am not a liar.?

When another partner was presented with the question, he responded with shock (but at the charge, or that we found out?). “Uh … no.? Then proceeded to go on a rant about his private investigator preferences and why he has never worked with Pellicano. Nervous much?

Of course, we get awkward questions too … most often a panicked, “You’re not going to print that, are you??

Kellie Schmitt & Justin Scheck

More Salary News, More Associate Grumbling

March 1, 2006

The most popular e-mail forward this week among associates at top Los Angeles firms? Salary complaints.

One memo that was making its way through terminals across the city calls on the partners of Latham & Watkins, O’Melveny & Myers and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to match the $145,000 starting salary and $20,000 increases that some New York firms have adopted.

“My office is usually the last to hear about things like this, but this memo got around the office pretty quickly,? writes one associate in an anonymous e-mail to The Recorder. “Considering the mileage these ‘Memos to Partners’ are already getting in the L.A. law firm community, a certain sense of bitterness and disdain is bound to follow if the ‘Big 3’ doesn’t up the ante fairly soon.?

Another “open memo? posted on message boards hit the e-mail circuit last week. It highlights increasing law school debt, high salaries for counterparts in investment banking, and soaring profit-per-partner numbers.

“In short, when you give $5,000 raised to all but first-years and fail to match modest $20,000 raises (which I believe I have shown are inadequate), you decrease moral [sic] and make me (and many others) want to leave a job that has been at least tolerable and at most satisfying,? according to the memo, signed “anonymous.?

Salaries were also a hot topic at an alumni event for Ivy League schools held in Hollywood this week. When one second-year law school student learned of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges jump to 145K, word spread around the swanky bar faster than a fresh bowl of pretzels.

Explained one unknown law student as she sipped her coconut mojito: “Why not go with the firm that’s adding $10,000 more? Are they really that different??

— Kellie Schmitt

L.A. Firm Pursues Hollywood-Level Technology

February 23, 2006

In the city that brings you “CSI,” “Alias” and a dozen sci-fi movies a year, maybe it’s no surprise that a law firm wants fingerprint scanners on its attorneys’ laptops. Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory, a 200-lawyer Los Angeles firm, is deploying the biometric security measure in its new IBM Thinkpad Tablet PCs.

It’s not the first time Allen Matkins has been a law firm leader when it comes to introducing cutting-edge technology, asserts Frank Gillman, the firm’s IT director.

“What’s rare is for a corporate real estate firm to be a leader in new types of technology,? Gillman explained. “What forces most law firms into technological change is that they have to. Otherwise, they tend to be risk-averse and conservative.?

Riverbed Steelhead Appliances even did a case study on the firm’s recent implementation of its wide-area data services technology, which uses a distributed network to allow faster remote access for its attorneys and clients. Even if firms increase bandwidth, there are often latency issues when running a product from another location. With WDS, the software uses block-size distribution to send data in parts. When a document is changed, it only sends the changes, much like a Web page loads faster if it has already been loaded previously.

“From an attorney’s productivity standpoint, it means the ability to provide local access, regardless of location, without having to invest in a ridiculous amount of bandwidth,? Gillman explained.

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Sing Your Praises, or Hide Your Raises?

January 21, 2006

The way firms have handled news of the recent salary wars has ranged from assertiveness to secrecy. While some firms have publicly announced the raises and their strategy behind them, other firm leaders have refused to discuss the increases.

The first Los Angeles-based firms to announce the raises — Irell & Manella and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges — were open about the decision. Several months later, larger Los Angeles firms such as Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers were tight-lipped about the pay hikes.

Quinn partner Bill Urquhart said it was an easy decision to be forthcoming, especially since the word was already out that Irell was lifting starting salaries.

“With the advent of the Internet, once something becomes public, it seems everyone finds about it relatively quickly,? he said last month. “We didn’t want that firm to have a competitive advantage over us in the middle of recruiting season.?

While Urquhart acknowledged that clients pay attention, he said that, for the most part, they understand why.

“All of them exist in a competitive environment — when they go out and hire, they know what is going on in the marketplace,? he said. “What we’re dealing with is no different — it’s just a different industry.?

Consultant Peter Zeughauser agreed. “I don’t think it will be a client issue this time around. It was in the dot-com era when there were several years of increases, then the Gunderson raise. But now, they’ve been frozen so long.?

Consultant Richard Gary pointed out that some of the first firms that upped the salaries may have been keeping quiet to preserve the competitive advantage, even though, “you can never keep things like that secret for long.?

The tight-lipped approach could also be a response to internal debates on whether to up the salaries, Gary said last month.

“Who wants to be the market leader in associate salaries?? he said.

— Kellie Schmitt