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Whose Making and Breaking Client Relationships??

It's clearly a war zone. There is an ongoing tug of war situation between corporate counsels and their outside law firms. While companies are reducing their use of outside firms, these firms, on the other hand are trying to strengthen their connections with key clients to make their portfolios look pretty with important clients pinned up on them.

In the end, 'Service' is going to be the key deciding factor in who ends up making and breaking client relationships.

According to Douglas Woloshin, D.C. managing partner at Duane Morris there is so much competition in the market that one has no choice left but to be customer-friendly.

The legal market is showing growth and buoyancy. BTI held a recent study on law firms and had this to say - companies are shrinking their in-house counsel teams to cut costs but other firms are enjoying as this is a clear sign of larger business market for them. This observation excludes some of the biggest companies which are, instead, growing their in-house teams.

But Peter Zeughauser, a principal at the Zeughauser Group said that we can expect a shakeout between clients and outside counsel in the coming year. Some firms are 'going to strengthen their client relationships at the expense of those who don't".


Three attorneys from McGuireWoods honored as 2006 Rising Stars

Three attorneys from McGuireWoods honored as 2006 Rising Stars Sally E. Edison, David I. Swan and James H. Joseph, three associates with McGuire Woods' Financial Services Department, were named 2006 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Rising Stars, an annual honor awarded to only 2.5 percent of Pennsylvania attorneys.

Rising Stars are chosen by Pennsylvania's Super Lawyers and the independent research team at Law and Politics magazine. The Rising Stars must be lawyers under 40 with more than 10 years' of practice. The list is published annually in the December issue of Pennsylvania Super Lawyers.

Nine Attorneys Depart from Akin Gump to Form New Partnership Six associates and three real estate partners have jumped ship from Akin Gump's San Antonio's office and joined 14 lawyers at Drenner Stuart Wolff Metcalfe von Kreisler.

These lawyers will form a new firm, Drenner & Golden Stuart Wolff, with offices in San Antonio and Austin, says former Akin Gump partner Steve Golden. Golden adds that former Akin Gump partners Ami Gordon and Andrew Cohen made the move with him to the new Drenner & Golden.

Golden announced his plans to his Akin Gump Partners in June 2005 but waited until January to initiate the move. Golden was eager to practice with Steve Drenner, founding partner of Drenner Stuart. The two previously shared the client H.E. Butt Grocery Co. Drenner states the two will continue to do so at their new firm.


Clinton is back to Practice Law

This week, President Clinton will be eligible to reclaim his law license, which he was obliged to surrender as a result of the inaccurate responses he gave under oath before a Grand Jury. He has been banished from the legal profession for five long years.

Mr. Clinton's suspension from the Arkansas Bar expires on Thursday, which he formally agreed to a day before leaving office in 2000. Bar officials in Arkansas have been preparing for his reinstatement, but it remains unclear if the President will seek it.

Executive director of the Arkansas Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct, Stark Ligon, told The New York Sun, "There are people who have had this date marked on their calendar." He said he is prevented by the rules of the court from confirming or denying whether Mr. Clinton has filed an application to be reinstated until the committee takes some action in the case. However, Mr. Ligon added that such applications are routinely approved. "The presumption fairly would be that reinstatement should be granted unless some good cause could be shown why it should not," he said. Mr. Ligon said any request from Mr. Clinton would be sent by fax or mail to a seven-member committee panel, which usually acts promptly. "We can generally get a turnaround within a week to 10 days," claimed the bar official.


Keker Hikes Associate Salaries, too

  • San Francisco's Keker & Van Nest announced that it will match the big L.A trend by raising the first year associate pay to $135,000.

  • In order to compete with the three L.A firms that announced hikes in the past month, Keker partner Christopher Kearney said last week that the 50-lawyer litigation firm would increase the base pay for first-year associates to $135,000

  • "To get the top people, we need to pay at market," Kearney said, adding that the firm competes for talent against San Francisco firms and the Northern California offices of L.A.-based firms. Keker also matched increases in the salaries of other classes. Fourth-year salaries are up $5,000, to $170,000, and seventh-years' are now at $210,000.

  • L.A. firms O'Melveny & Myers and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker said last week that they'd bump first-year salaries to $135,000 to match Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's December increase.

  • Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliott just raised first-year associate salaries to the national average of $125,000 effective Jan. 1. Managing Partner Scott DeVries said that's a "good place" and the firm intends to stay there. "We think this is the consistent prevailing rate in the community," he said. "Of course, if there are material moves throughout the San Francisco marketplace, it's something that we'd need to assess."

  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been paying $140,000 to first-years nationwide, including those in California.


Baker & McKenzie's Bay Area Office Announces Three New Partners in Tax and Global Equity Services.

Baker & McKenzie LLP announced the election of three new partners, which sums the total number of partners in the San Francisco/Palo Alto office to 41. The new partners are: Diana Hickey - Tax, Jennifer Kirk - Global Equity Services, Margreet Nijhof - Tax.

Peter J. Engstrom, Managing Partner of Baker & McKenzie's San Francisco/Palo Alto office, commented: "Diana, Jennifer and Margreet are extremely talented attorneys, whose specialty expertise is highly valued by our global clients. Their continuing success is a testament to their hard work and commitment to clients. It gives me great pleasure to see their excellence recognized."

Diana Hickey specializes in corporate international tax planning. Hickey advises U.S. and foreign multinationals in connection with international tax planning, taxable and tax-free mergers and acquisitions, and tax-effective financing strategies. She represents clients in a wide variety of industries including software, semiconductor, e-commerce, biotechnology, manufacturing, and retail. Hickey received her LL.M. in Taxation with distinction from Georgetown University Law Center in 2000 and her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1997. She received her B.A. from Columbia University in 1993.

Jennifer Kirk's practice emphasizes international stock plans and employee benefits, including executive compensation for multinational corporations. She regularly counsels clients on the U.S. securities and tax issues related to equity plans and advises multinational corporations with respect to the international implementation of their equity compensation programs. Kirk also advises companies on the impact of corporate acquisitions, spin-offs and restructurings on their equity compensation programs. Kirk received her J.D. in 1997 from the University of California at Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Cornell University in 1993.

Margreet Nijhof focuses on domestic and international tax planning with an emphasis on corporate reorganizations and restructurings as well as transfer pricing. Nijhof represents multinational corporations in all facets of tax law with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, global tax minimization planning and transfer pricing. She works with a wide variety of industries, including established and emeremerging hi-tech companies, and "traditional" retail and manufacturing companies. Nijhof received her J.D. from the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1997. She received her bachelor's degree summa cum laude from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993.


Alston & Bird Pay Hike Makes Things Crazy

December 20th Alston & Bird LLP announced it was raising salaries for its associates. The first year associates salary was increased to $115,000 which is the highest raise since 2000. And the seventh year associates pay, from $137,000 was zoomed to $165,000. This shows that Alston hiked its salaries by $15,000.

Alston's raise was only effective in its Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. offices and not in Washington and New York where their first-year associates were already being given $125,000.

In Atlanta and Washington, its two largest offices, Sutherland currently pays first-years, respectively, $100,000 and $125,000.

It's an expensive decision to make. Sutherland, for instance, has about 110 associates in its Atlanta office. A minimum pay hike of $15,000 per lawyer in the Atlanta office alone would cost the firm about $1.7 million, said some.

This created a bustle in the legal market.

Within two weeks most law firms around were planning their respective salary raises to meet with the competition.

The very next day of Alston & Bird's salary hike, King & Spalding announced a hike in their first year associates salaries which was earlier $15,000 but now has become $115,000. King & Spalding's managing partner, Robert D. Hays Jr., said his firm, Atlanta's largest, immediately met Alston's raise so it would continue attracting and keeping top legal talent.

King & Spalding was not the only firm disturbed by this sudden raise in salaries. Troutman Sanders also acted fast to this move and on Dec 22, without wasting much time announced that it would matching up to the new, especially first year figures, set by Alston & Bird. "We saw no reason to delay," said Troutman's managing partner, Robert W. Webb Jr. "We are in the same market with Alston & Bird and King & Spalding, and it did not seem like something to agonize over."

Pay will go up for all of Troutman's Atlanta associates, but the amount will vary on a case-by-case basis, according to the firm's merit system, instead of lockstep by class, Webb said. Alston, by contrast, upped pay for each class by a uniform amount.

At this moment, many of the other firms had started showing signs of raising their firm salaries as well.

Morris, Manning & Martin also increased salaries for its employees within two days of Alston doing so. Morris Manning is raising pay by $15,000 for first-, second- and third-year associates and $20,000 for the subsequent classes.

At this juncture, Paul Hastings was also considering paying its associates by the new set standards.

Jones Day, another international firm claimed it had started paying its first-year associates $110,000 back in 2000 which had taken Alston & Bird a while to catch up with. But they were still contemplating whether to follow this new set trend or not.

Powell Goldstein has not yet announced any raises but is still working on it.

At Smith, Gambrell & Russell, managing partner Stephen M. Forte announced a pay increase to his firm's associates Dec. 5.

Sutherland Asbill raised salaries for all of its Atlanta associates Jan. 6, meeting the new minimum of $115,000 for rookie associates.

In Washington, Sutherland upped third-year pay by $5,000. So sixth-year pay went up by $20,000. In New York, the firm upped associate pay, starting with third-years, by $5,000 across the board, which Wasserman said gets salaries up to the going rate for the New York market. Sutherland's third-year associates in New York now make $155,000.

Miami-based Greenberg Traurig has also raised associate pay in its Atlanta office.

Kilpatrick Stockton is still working on this year's associate pay package, which the firm will announce within the next few weeks.

Litigation boutique Bondurant Mixson & Elmore will match the big firms but is waiting until June 1 to see how the market shakes out.

Some members of the legal community are aghast at Alston's pay hike, which they say is excessive. Local legal recruiter Lee Ann Bellon criticized the hefty salary increase in a Wednesday commentary in the Daily Report.


L.A. Firms Lift Associate Salaries

Gibson Dunn Bumped Up First-Year Pay to $135,000.

Gibson is increasing all base salaries by $10,000 and other class salaries by $5,000 for its non-New York associates.

That would lift fourth-year base pay to $170,000 and seventh-year pay to $210,000.

O'Melveny & Myers and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker are lifting associate salaries to match Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, raising first-year base pay to $135,000.

At those firms, other years saw a hike of $5,000: Fourth-year salaries are now at $170,000, and seventh years' are at $210,000.

O'Melveny's salary structure applies to all U.S.-based lawyers, while Paul Hastings' hike will affect lawyers in California and Washington, D.C.

Paul Hastings is waiting to see what New York firms do before taking action there, Nitzkowski said. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been paying $140,000 to first-years, including those in California, and other Wall Street firms throw in guaranteed bonuses that lift annual compensation well above the $125,000 that has been the national norm. Some California-based firms, including Morrison & Foerster, have a higher salary schedule for New York associates.

In September, smaller Los Angeles firms Irell & Manella, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, and Munger, Tolles & Olson lifted salaries in a market that had been largely frozen since the dot-com days.

Seth Aronson, O'Melveny's managing partner in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. In a prior interview, though, he acknowledged the firm would "strive to be competitive in the market."

Late last year, John Sherrell, the chairman of Latham & Watkins' associates committee, said his firm is "very sensitive to being sure our associates receive top compensation." On Tuesday, Sherrell said he had nothing new to add.

Other California-based firms reacted with interest to the news.


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