Friday, February 18, 2011

A Curious Design

AmLaw Daily just ran an article about Howrey's collapse.  Not much in the way of new information, but it does have a nice observation about Howrey management's lack of credibility:

That leads to a final lesson: leadership requires credibility. Only two weeks before the remarkable joint message from [Bobby] Ruyak and [Winston] Fitzgerald, Howrey spokespersons insisted that all was well: "The amount of costs taken out of the firm at all levels--which includes leases, partners, associates, and the like leaving the firm--have made the firm much more efficient," vice-chairman Sean Boland said. "It's done wonders for our cost structure, such that we're going to see some major advantages in 2011. We're very encouraged by the cost cutting that we've done."

Likewise, one of the firm's outside consultants said that the firm was "getting back to its strengths. What's happening at Howrey is largely by design."

Maybe so. But from this distance, the parade of top partner departures and Ruyak's involvement in Winston's outstanding offers make the design appear curious, indeed.

Uh, huh.  I am less charitable than AmLaw Daily and will just call it BS.


  1. The AmLaw Daily article is on the mark only in part. The fiascos of 2009 and 2010 lie right at the feet of Ruyak and his cronies. Hard to know whether to credit stupidity, dishonesty, meglomania, rapaciousness, malevolence or what. Maybe all of these and more.

    But what this misses is the reality that beginning in 2003 and continuing through 2008 and eally 2009, RR drove out a dozen or so strong and well known partners. People who he doubtless saw as rivals - people inside the firm who had major clients, millions of dollars in business, credibility among the partners, and who were not buying his brand of toxic but telegenic snake oil salesman BS. To mask all that, he recruited piles of laterals to keep alive his variation on a special Ponzi Scheme. He provided the illusion of growth but the relaity of new people who did not know not to believe anything he said.

    To believ Ruyak and Boland, it was part of their cunning and clever restructuring scheme to encourage the departure of the Executive Committe, virtualy all the office MP's, and all of the Practice Group leaders who were not his cronies. People who left were sneered at for "not being loyal to Bob," as if such loyalty would have helped the firm, as opposed to magnifying the damage.

    Visionary indeed!

  2. It was a firm full of visionaries. Here's another one:

    "In late March, at a meeting during Howrey's partner retreat at the luxe Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida, a Brussels antitrust partner, Stephen Mavroghenis, lobbed a series of questions at firm management: Why, he asked, had the previous year's financial forecasts been so off? And could management assure him that the 2010 projection would be any more accurate? "

  3. Allegedly, the vast majority of the DC antitrust partners have signed letters of intent to go to Winston, as have a bunch of the Houston partners. It seems as if the majority of associates will not get offers to come along, although one has to imagine that if they're doing a truly substantial amount of work for a partner with a large book of business, they ought to be okay in the short term (but see all the comments on ATL re: how Winston has a reputation for axing the associates brought with partners).

    Here's the other interesting part. (Allegedly) Winston doesn't actually have to take the Howrey partners. They vote on that within the next couple of weeks (someone said before March 18, although I have no idea where they got that date). So, it's not necessarily a done deal.

    Associates seem in trouble as a group, as do the handful of partners who weren't offered anything from Winston and don't seem to have anywhere else obvious to go. The staff, of course, seems to be in very bad shape. (Aside from Eileen, who is, apparently, going to Winston.)

    All of this information may be total b.s., of course, I got it 3rd hand and I'm just some anonymous guy on a random blog.

  4. I had a friendly chat with a Winston partner in L.A. within the last few day about an unrelated matter. I mentioned Howrey, and he said that they had been given no information about the Howrey situation. Assuming that's true, then either the Winston partners have yet to vote on the Howrey thing, or their management leaves them in the dark and makes those decisions for them, as Ruyak conducted mergers at Howrey.

  5. Saw this video and I'm thinking of moving my practice from the Mike Slocum Law Firm to Howrey. James Martin seems like one confident guy. I'll bet he runs the firm one day.

  6. "Most of the people who have left, particularly in the last month or two, really have been leaving due to [client] conflicts with respect to the other firms that have made overtures to Howrey," Boland said. "It's a real issue, it's a serious issue, and when you're with a firm like ours that is litigation oriented, it makes it much more difficult."

    Such a ballsy thing to assert, don't know whether to laugh or cry. Conflicts with staying at a sinking business, maybe.