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15 posts from April 2012

April 10, 2012

From Russia with Love

Bons-baisers-russie-ital-4FWhat happens when a high-profile partner airs the dirty laundry about his former firm? Well, it's likely that someone will dig up some dirt on him too.

That's what appears to have happened to former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner John Altorelli, who recently joined DLA. Last week, Altorelli gave a rather candid interview to The Am Law Daily's Sara Randazzo. He did offer some kind words about his former firm, but that's not what's sticking. He's more likely to be remembered for voicing doubts about Dewey's survival: “I’m not sure how they can weather the departures."

But here's where things get even more interesting: The day after that interview, the New York Post ran a rather embarrassing story about Altorelli's relationship with a hot Russian spy:

Before she was arrested and deported, Russian spy Anna Chapman was living with powerhouse New York lawyer John Altorelli, who told friends she gave him the “best sex” he ever had.

According to sources, the legal eagle and the sexy spy shacked up in his West 37th Street apartment. He threw a party at his home with Chapman in June 2010, just days before her arrest, and introduced her to friends as “the woman in his life.” Altorelli also boasted to pals that Chapman was very adventurous in bed.

926588_1259197375Obviously, this is a fun one. There's sex—actually, make that "best sex"—plus all that 007 stuff. (Question: Was Chapman using Altorelli to get spy-worthy info about corporate deals?) And how interesting that an Am Law 100 partner would be shacking up with his honey on West 37th Street. I know the area is trendy now, but it's still a bit seedy, no?

All of this fits neatly into the profile of a middle-aged man who's dying to bust out of his middle-aged shell. It also reminds me of the Post story on Ira Schacter, the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft partner who was involved with the former Playboy model. Like Schacter, Altorelli (pictured at left) allegedly showered his love with jewels.

Which brings me back to my original point: Is Altorelli paying the price for talking out of school? He certainly violated one of the golden rules: Never say anything negative about your former place of employment.

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the timing of the Post story seemed curious to me. I mean, Altorelli's romp with the Russian spy took place almost two years ago—and it's coming out now? Not to be paranoid, but is someone out to get him?

I asked Dewey point-blank whether the firm had anything to do with the story, and here's what firm spokesperson Duncan Miller says: "I can confirm that the New York Post story on John did not come from a source at or connected to the firm."

As for Altorelli and DLA, they wouldn't comment either.

Which leaves us with a cliffhanger.

Related coverage: Above the Law; Wall Street Journal Law Blog.


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April 9, 2012

Law School News—Baylor Law's Big Fiasco and Job Openings for Deans

 © imagehit - Fotolia.com1. Baylor Law carries transparency too far. I don't know if this will invite a lawsuit, but Baylor University School of Law has made a rather spectacular mistake. The National Law Journal  reports that the school "accidentally sent [accepted students] a spreadsheet detailing each of their scores on the Law School Admission Test, undergraduate grade-point averages, and the amounts of any scholarship awards." What's more, names, addresses, telephone numbers, undergraduate institutions, and ethnicities were also included.

Above the Law got its sticky little hands on the spreadsheet, which it posted—though it redacted the names and other identifying marks about the accepted students. Check it out if you're curious about the range of undergraduate GPAs that a law school ranked 51 in U.S. News & World Report expects these days. Most of the undergrad institutions were Texas-based, though there were a fair number from Brigham Young University (Who knew Mormons and Baptists had so much in common!). The Ivies and other elite colleges were barely represented.

Baylor vice president of media communications Frank Raczkiewicz requested—make that begged—that accepted students "act professionally, and treat the information as if it had been given to them by one of their future legal clients," reports The Baylor Loriat, which broke the story, according to the ABA Blog. “We’ve also asked them to please keep that information confidential and to please delete it from their files,” Raczkiewicz told the Loriat.

Yeah, good luck with that. And good luck too that no one sues for breach of confidentiality, gross negligence, and infliction of pain and suffering.

2. Why slave at a law firm when you can be dean? The job market for law school graduates is still shaky, but the one for law school deans seem to be hot. Here is the latest news:

 - Stanford Law School dean Larry Kramer is leaving to become president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Before assuming the top spot at the nation's number two law school, Kramer was an associate dean at NYU School of Law.

- University of Texas Law School is still in market for a dean. As you might know, Larry Sager was booted out of the deanship at the end of last year (though he's still listed as a faculty member at UT—awkward!). So far, UT has been making do with an interim dean, Stefanie Lindquist. So toss your name into the ring.

- Meanwhile, not-so-hotsy-totsy law schools are looking beyond academia for their deans. Brooklyn Law's new dean is Washington insider, Nicholas Allard, chair of the lobbying, political, and election law practice at Patton Boggs.

- Similar story with the much-maligned New York Law School, which recently hired Anthony Crowell as its new dean and president. Crowell is a battle-hardy veteran of New York City politics, reports The National Law Journal. Most recently, he was counselor to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, overseeing city agencies and government reform efforts.

- Other moves: Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law names Douglas Sylvester as its new dean. Arizona's previous dean, Paul Schiff Berman, is now dean of George Washington University Law School, reports the NLJ. (Nice upgrade, Paul.)

- More job openings for deans: University of Michigan Law School and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Personally, I don't think being a law school dean is a lot of fun. If you are at a high-ranking school, the pressure to kiss up to rich alumni and raise money is relentless. And if you are at a mediocre law school, you have to deal with a bunch of angry, depressed, jobless (or underemployed) graduates—and then perform the ridiculous and pathetic task of extracting money out of them too.

Really, wouldn't being a funeral director be a lot less stressful?


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April 5, 2012

Skadden Hits a Record for Female Partners


I must be delirious. This isn't normal for me. But for the third time this week, I have good news about the state of women in the profession. (For the other two pieces of positive news, click here and here.)

This time, the cheer comes from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which just announced 11 new partners, including five women. According to the firm, this is an all-time record for new female partners, pushing women's equity stake to 20 percent! (The five, pictured above, from left to right: Emily Lam, Karen Hoffman Lent, Penny Madden, Tatiana Monastyrskaya, and Erica Schohn.)

I'm not sure how Skadden hit this high note—and I'm not sure it knows either. (I've asked for the firm to comment, but so far, it has not been able to come up with a commentator.) So I'll just offer my own theories.

First, Skadden has always been known to be pretty progessive about women. Even back in 1993, when few firms had female equity partners in the double-digit percentage range, Skadden already had 15 percent. Skadden is also just one of three highly profitable Am Law 100 firms that reached Women in Law Empowerment Forum's "gold standard" for promoting women (the other two are Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett). More recently, it brought in Chicago lawyer Sheli Rosenberg, who's a powerhouse legal figure, to play den mother to the young female lawyers at the firm. That combination of history and ongoing vigiliance about promoting women could not have hurt.

Here's the complete list of new partners at Skadden:

 Robert Fumerton - litigation, New York  
 Alejandro Gonzalez Lazzeri - corporate, New York  
 Scott Hopkins  - corporate, London
 Emily Lam - tax, Washington, DC  
 Karen Hoffman Lent - antitrust, New York  
 Penny Madden - international arbitration, London
 Steven Messina - banking, New York  
 Tatiana Monastyrskaya - energy and infrastructure projects, New York  
 Erica Schohn - executive compensation and benefits, New York  
 Peter Serating - mergers and acquisitions, New York  
 Dwight Yoo - corporate finance, New York 

Look, I think it's wonderful that Skadden has this bumper crop of women in its new partner class this year, but let's not get carried away. This might just be a fluke year (you might recall that  Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr made eight female partners out of 11 in 2010 but only two women out of 11 this year). Also, let's not forget that it's been a long haul for Skadden to finally reach that 20 percent female partner mark.

Still, let's celebrate while we can.


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April 4, 2012

It's Official—Women Trump Men on Leadership

© Maridav - Fotolia.comTo be frank, I don't buy a lot of the folklore out there about how women—particularly, working moms—make better leaders. You've heard the pitch: Women have more empathy, more emotional intelligence, a wider array of life experiences. And if they're mothers, they're also supposed to be more patient, more versed in handling tantrums, and more resilient to competing demands—all which come in handy when you're in the messy business of leading the troops.

I think those are overblown stereotypes, but women—for whatever reason—are getting respect as leaders. According to the Harvard Business Review blog, women are beating out men on the leadership front—often by a very healthy margin.

According to a study of over 7,000 leaders in an array of occupations, women outperform men across the board, from forepersons to senior managers. In the category of top management (including executive and senior members), for example, women got a 67.7 percent rating for being effective leaders versus 57.7 percent for men.

This is a nice surprise—especially since so much chatter tends to be focused on how female bosses are dreaded. (Remember how legal secretaries preferred male bosses?)

Indeed, female bosses seem to be gaining traction. Here's how the authors of the study (Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy) describe the unexpected findings in the HBR blog:

The women's advantages were not at all confined to traditionally women's strengths. In fact, at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts—and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.

The authors elaborate:

At all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree—taking initiative and driving for results—have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey—the ability to develop a strategic perspective.

And what about women in the legal profession? In a follow-up post in the HBR, women outperformed men as leaders in law too—59.4 percent and 54.7 percent, respectively. (Interestingly, men beat out women in the category of administrative/clerical work. Go figure.)

With all the stellar reviews that women get, why aren't there more female leaders across the board? The reason is simple: They're not getting picked by those in power, who are, of course, men. Saythe authors: "Clearly, chauvinism or discrimination is an enigma that organizations (and the business culture) should work hard to prevent."

So the secret to getting more women in leadership positions is to fix those subtle forms of sexism. Easy, right?

But back to my original point: I'm still not convinced that women naturally make better leaders. I do think, however, that if given the chance to lead, women will work their buns off. Believe me, they will.


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April 3, 2012

Your Gray Hair

Grey CharmLadies, you'll never guess what senior-level men notice about women's appearance. It's not the latest fashion trend that unnerves them—like sexy leather suits or sky-high heels. No, what men really notice (and abhor) are the gray roots sticking out of women's hair. The horror!

Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett mentioned that finding at a Flex-Time Lawyers luncheon at Clifford Chance a few weeks ago, and you could hear the gasp among the women in the audience.

"Senior [executive] men have strong opinions on this issue,"  Hewlett tells me about her forthcoming study about the attitudes of men and women ages 25 to 55. "You think certain things aren't noticed, but women are held to a higher standard in grooming."

If women's gray roots signal sloppy grooming, why don't women just stop coloring their hair all together? Wouldn't that be so much more liberating?

Not so fast, says a recent Associated Press article. Though gray hair is now in vogue (think Christine Lagarde, the chic chief of the International Monetary Fund chief and former Baker & McKenzie head), women are not quite ready to show their true colors in the workplace. Reports the AP:

For regular working women, it's a trickier issue.

"I don't think a woman in the workplace is going to follow that trend," David Scher, a civil rights attorney in Washington, said with a laugh. "I think women in the workplace are highly pressured to look young. If I were an older working person, the last thing I would do is go gray."

Indeed, more women are coloring their hair than ever. In 1950, only 7 percent of women colored their hair, while now, "it's closer to 95 percent or more, depending on geographic location," says the AP. The advent of home hair color kits in the 1960s changed "the follicle landscape for good." (To quote Nora Ephron: "There's a reason why 40, 50, and 60 don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye.")

But there's also a gray movement afoot. One 44-year-old manager who stopped coloring her hair told the AP: "It's a bold statement to be gray because it's saying, 'You know what? I did let my hair go, but I'm not letting myself go.' . . . People take me more seriously now."

Whether it's a good career strategy to go gray depends a lot on the job and the location, says the AP. "The [gray] color might be easier in academia over high-tech, for instance, and in Minneapolis over Los Angeles."

And what about being a gray lady in the legal profession?

"I don’t dye my hair, and I don’t think it’s always necessary," says a 50-ish female partner at an Am Law 100 firm in New York. "I call my gray 'sparkly silver highlights.' " 

But another lawyer who's now in-house at an entertainment company in Los Angeles strongly disagrees. She says going gray is "basically a bad career move—especially now, when the job market is so tight and favors the young. Women with gray hair, no matter how well dressed or groomed they are, tend to look much older than their age."

So what's the verdict about going natural in the office? Are there advantages for women to go gray—like gaining gravitas? Or will it just make women look like corporate grannies?


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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