A Christmas Carol

UK legal media lesson number six: Christmas is the season to be merry (translation: what happened to law firm parties?).

Back in London you can’t move at this time of the year for champagne. So thanks to Bingham, Mourant (Mourant?!) and (God bless him) Duane Morris’ Josh Peck, aka Mr LFMP (look it up) for today’s invitations to their Christmas parties.
Thank you, one and all.

But come on New York, you can do better. Much better. This is frankly a shocking performance in the city that never sleeps. More like a legal market that never drinks. Yes, I could hold my own party and invite my friend, but as one particularly well-informed Skadden partner put it yesterday, “Matt, you’re a goer, not a thrower”.

Of course, the real season to be merry (at least for bonus-packing lawyers and the city’s legions of recruiters) comes after Christmas. That’s when hiring season starts.
Right now, lawyers across the city are knuckling down to what could be their last few weeks in whichever Godforsaken hell hole they’re currently plying their trade, and hotly anticipating their escape come January. If you’re moving now, you really do want to get out.

Come January, everything changes. And next year more than most could see a wholesale switcharound as the credit crunch starts to bite.

Still, there might be an upside for some canny outfits. According to Alisa Levin, a partner at New York recruiter Greene Levin Snyder, some of the more forward-thinking firms may just spot an opportunity where others only see twiddling thumbs.

“It’s quite likely some firms will look to pick up a higher-level partner than they might previously had been able to attract by saying, ‘we don’t care about the levels of business you have now, we know the relationships you’ve got and we know things will pick up’.”

The hunt for those elusive positions, and the conversations leading to all those January moves are happening now. And you thought your partners were on the phone all day doing deals.

Thanksgiving cheer
19-Nov-2007

It’s Thanksgiving this Thursday (22 November) in the US, and I’m giving thanks mainly because it means this is a three-day week (a chance to spend some super-strength British sterling on my pre-Christmas shopping).

Of course, in the city that never sleeps, most lawyers are still rolling along looking for ways of making money, holiday or no holiday. I should probably give thanks for that too as it means I’ll have something to write about next week.

So while I shop, lawyers at Thacher Proffitt & Wood are giving thanks for the seasonal miracle of no redundancies, while those at McKee Nelson are showing their gratitude for their bosses being the most generous in town (most likely by grabbing their bonuses and heading for the ski slopes).

Thanks are still being given by lawyers at Dewey Ballantine for the fact that, despite their protracted and ultimately failed merger talks with Orrick, they somehow still managed to find a buyer. There’s hope yet, Watson Farley.

It’s more a case of fingers crossed than thanks over at Mayer Brown. This morning (19 November) I spoke to a selection of the firm’s senior management, including vice chairman Paul Maher and New York head Brian Trust. They laid out their vision for Mayer Brown’s future and specifically the plans for making New York competitive.

Meanwhile, on a more contentious note, the firm has until 3 December to file its response to a Weil Gotshal-lodged attempt to bin Mayer Brown’s motion to dismiss in the Refco fraud suit brought by private equity house Thomas H Lee.

Read more on this story next week in The Lawyer. Until then, happy holidays … (and if you’re in the UK, happy Thursday).

To read more of Matt’s ‘Byrne in the USA’ blogs, click here.