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    December 11, 2008  
 
 
FTC;
Lateral Trends;
Willkie Farr

 

The best and brightest of the FTC bar mingled last night at 701 restaurant (across the street from their offices) for the "Casto C. Geer Chapter of the FTC Alumni Association's Annual Business Meeting and Cocktail Reception." (We have no idea what that means, but the insiders all seemed to understand.)

 

At the elbow-to-elbow party sponsored by international firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, we spied popular current FTC Chair Bill Kovacic, center, who does not normally go around squinting. With him: former FTC Commissioner Tom Leary of Hogan & Hartson (who looks too distinguished to honor his request to "Photoshop some more hair on my head") and noted FTC practitioner Joe Simons of Paul Weiss. Joe's representing Fidelity Nat'l Financial in its attempted purchase of LandAmerica's title insurance business.

 

We couldn't turn around without running into former FTC commissioners. Here, we got a wink from former Chair Tim Muris, now teaching at GMU and serving as Of Counsel at O'Melveny & Myers. With him, former Commissioner Margot Machol (better known to your correspondent as wife of Bisnow publisher Mark Bisnow). This may also explain why you'll find no snarky remarks about this beautiful and talented woman in our caption.


Flight to quality
 

Our subhead above may normally mean capital fleeing to safe investments. But as Dan Binstock of BCG Attorney Search broke it down for us this week, it's also a good description of the current movement of lateral partners. A former IP attorney at Finnegan Henderson, Dan places partners with DC's top firms as managing director of BCG's local office. From the C.F. Folks lunch counter in Dupont, he told us why some rainmakers have wandering eyes. "Tolerance for risk decreases" in a bad economy, he explained, so partners feeling skittish about their firm's business model are more eager than ever to jump to a safe haven. He says the winners in the shakeout won't necessarily be those with the highest profits-per-partner, but with the greatest stability. The migration will ramp up in the new year, Dan predicts, as many partners wait to get their mid-January "hold-back" income before chasing greener fields.

 

We recommended a new biz development strategy for Dan: catching partners on their way out of The Palm. As for the associate market, he says there's selective hiring but it's way down across the board and virtually frozen in some practice areas. An even more troubling trend is "stealth layoffs"— associates getting nudged out for "performance" issues as a way to reduce headcount. Firms have given these associates severance packages and kept them on their website but, in exchange, ask for silence about being cut loose. "In essence, they're being asked to lie in interviews," Dan says. He says the smarter firms are coming clean, and praises McKee Nelson for its class in being among the first to publicly announce "economic-based" layoffs in 2007.


Girls' Night
 

Last week we peeked in on a National Association of Women Lawyers event at Willkie Farr to benefit Girls, Inc., which provides educational programming (plus goodies pictured here, donated by partygoers) to at-risk girls. From left: NAWL President Lisa Horowitz of McDermott Will & Emery, Amy Fitzpatrick of Willkie Farr, Christine Miller of Jones Day, Girls Inc. head Denese Lombardi, and Selene Edmunds, director of Lexis/Nexis Cares Global. In 2006 NAWL started an annual survey tracking progress of women in the profession; last month's report shows that women still account for just 16% of equity partners and that a gender gap in compensation exists at every level of practice ($7,000 at the associate level, $87,000 at equity partner).

John Ford, Bisnow's Legal Editor, is pleased there is now an online writing category for the Pulitzer Prize. Just a matter of time, people, just a matter of time. Submit your idea for an award-winning story to john@bisnow.com.

 
 
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