Saturday, February 5, 2011

Howrey's Greatest Hits?

It looks like news will be slow until the associates' call scheduled for Monday and the staff call scheduled for Tuesday, so why don't we take a weekend trip down amnesia lane to visit some of Howrey's worst ideas?  While every firm has its share of bad ideas and mismanagement, Howrey was something special in this department.  Awe inspiring, even.






5.  Maxiam.  With much fanfare, Bob Ruyak launched Maxiam (that's MAXimum Intellectual Asset Management, for the uninitiated) in the early 2000s at a partner's retreat.  Maxiam was a separate entity from Howrey (I think), but was clearly funded by Howrey, since Maxiam was an "affiliate" of CapAnalysis (see #4 below), which is an "affiliate" of Howrey.  Wait, according to Howrey's press release announcing Maxiam's formation, Maxiam is a direct affiliate of Howrey, even though the Maxiam logo doesn't identify it as such.  So maybe Maxiam was a direct affiliate of Howrey and CapAnalysis.  Got it?


The idea (I think) was that Howrey / Bob Ruyak misperceived a need to provide and bill for various services -- valuation of intellectual property, identification of licensing opportunities, patent portfolio management -- that are usually handled quite competently by in-house attorneys and MBAs.  Needless to say, it didn't work out so well.  The website (www.maxiam.com) has been abandoned.





4.  Capital Analysis / CapAnalysis Group.  This "Howrey affiliate" has been around a long time. According to its website:  "The CapAnalysis Group, LLC provides economic, financial, regulatory, and environmental consulting services to Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders."  So it was like a consulting firm, like Nera sorta.  This group had virtually no presence (or use) outside of the DC office.  How exactly would you use them in a litigation or dispute?  You can't use CapAnal folks as testifying expert witnesses in a litigation because of the obvious lack of independence.  So does it make any sense for clients to pay for such services from people who cannot actually testify on their behalf?  Howrey never explained to its own attorneys what this group was all about.







3.  Howrey Bootcamp.  Law firm summer programs are supposed to provide rising 3Ls the opportunity to spend enough time in their potential law firm home, meet their future co-workers, assess firm culture, and evaluate the kind of work handled by the firm.  And to be wined and dined.


But not at Howrey.


This is just freakin' insane.  After each summer associate (er, "Bootcamper") spent minimal time in the office in which the summer associate was interviewing for a position, Howrey sent their Bootcampers to the "National Conference Center" (a bomb shelter like dormitory complex linked with subterranean passageways) in rural Leesburg, Virginia, where they were sequestered with other summer associates to work on mock trial exercises critiqued by various Howrey attorneys.  Yes, that's right, Howrey wanted to see how these folks could perform in mock depositions and mock trial closing arguments.  (Let me tell you, baby, they ain't gonna have a chance at making a closing argument for 10 years, even on an aggressive career development path).  Oh, and accepting an offer to participate in Howrey Bootcamp often made it very difficult for summer associates to split their summers with another law firm because of Howrey Bootcamp's nontraditional schedule.  


Incredibly, there are Howrey partners who publicly claim responsibility for Howrey Bootcamp.  Like this guy.  And this guy.





2.  Ill conceived expansion.  Howrey has been a glutton for having entirely too many offices in too many places for no rational reason.  


  • In the early 2000s, Howrey had an insane southern California strategy, with offices in Irvine, Los Angeles, Century City, and San Diego.  
  • Howrey opened an office in Salt Lake City in 2005 because of one partner, and will soon close that office because that partner has left in the mass exodus.
  • The northern California strategy has also been a mess.  Howrey has offices in East Palo Alto and downtown San Francisco, and is holding the bag on Day Casebeer's old space in Cupertino.  In the last decade, Howrey has had six offices in California (or SEVEN if you count the Day Casebeer lease), but only three remain (LA, SF, and East Palo Alto).
  • I love Spain, and I'm a sucker for a good tapas bar.  But did Howrey really need an office in Madrid?  How many of Howrey's US clients were yearning for Howrey to have a footprint in the Iberian peninsula?  My guess is ZERO.
  • Howrey even announced that it was expanding into Pune, India in 2008.  I sure don't see an Indian office on its website.  To Howrey's credit, it apparently closed this office before it had the chance to open it.
Consider Bob Abram's explanation for why Howrey plummeted from #19 on the American Lawyer's A-List in 2007 to #48 in 2008:

"Poor performance in three out of the four scoring categories sent Washington, D.C.-based Howrey plummeting to 48th place in 2008, from 19th place on the A-List last year. Revenue per lawyer fell to $755,000 in 2007, down from $825,000 the year before, which sent the firm's rank in this category tumbling 38 positions. The firm's diversity rank was lower (though still high) at 26th, down from 17th, and the associate satisfaction rank tumbled from marginal (91st place) to basement dweller (148th). Robert Abrams, co-head of Howrey's litigation department, says the revenue per lawyer fall is misleading, because billings last year were up 12 percent, and that the drop is attributable to investments, including $18 million spent opening three new offices."

There are massive costs associated with opening an office, and the time that must be devoted to opening each office in a thoughtful manner is tremendous.  No law firm should even consider opening three offices in a year.  Or at least, not without a partnership vote.  


(And as aside, although the billings might have been "up 12 percent," what about the collections?  Perhaps that's how you accumulate $100M in accounts receivable... .  But that's another story for another time.)



1.  "Managing Partner & CEO" Bob Ruyak.  The true brains behind 2-5 above belong to Bob Ruyak, who does indeed call himself the CEO of Howrey.  Incredibly, I think Bob rarely asked his partners whether any of the above were decent ideas despite their cost and potential impact upon PPP.  Bob just sort of did them and took the money from his partners to make it happen, regardless of client need.  With Howrey about to explode, it seems fitting that the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the CEO for the last decade.  His profile picture also scares the hell out of me.

So there you have it.  If anyone else has any items to contribute, please chime in.

99 comments:

  1. Nice top 5, let's throw "Howrey Ghost Stories" in there as a top 10 contender, even if toward the 10 spot.

    Absolutely no client development justification, and with high production values that = high cost, this looks like the ultimate in corporate grab-ass at a time the firm was in the weeds.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, yes, the Ghost Stories debacle. Really, that was just a symptom of the whole "Competency" system, and the power and funding that went to the "professional development" department--especially when it was clear circa '08 and '09 that the firm was in serious decline--is mind-boggling. How much money was paid to Heather Bock? To Eileen Billinson? And good god, why?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I heard the firm once paid $10,000 so that Abrams and Moll could hire some professional golfer to play a foursome with them. They took along a client so that it could be billed to "business development," but got zero business out of it.

    Idiots.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also, there are the ridiculous PR expenditures. How much did the firm pay to get Ruyak on the cover of American Lawyer a few years ago? Was stoking his ego really worth the expense?

    I also vaguely remember management announcing some plan in the early 2000s to pay for Ruyak to be interviewed for the in-flight magazine or video for one of the major airlines. It was pitched as a major business development initiative, because of course most GC's choose their litigation counsel based on an interview they read while stuck on the tarmac at O'Hare.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The $1 million donation to tsunami relief in 2005. There's nothing wrong with charitable donations; it's even admirable. But just a month before making that donation, the firm told associates it was slashing bonuses and salary because the firm was short on cash. Many associates wondered why Ruyak was giving their bonuses to charity.

    And then just a month later, all the partners jetted off to Florida or the Caymans or some other resort for their annual "retreat." But the partner retreat expenses probably belong in their own category altogether ....

    ReplyDelete
  6. What about the money Howrey paid to have its name dropped in some movie that I have since forgotten the title of. There was a scene in which a bunch of lawyers were huddled around a conference room table, and one of the lawyers announced she had to leave the table to "take a call with Howrey." She said it so fast, that it sounded like she had to "take a call with Howie."

    ReplyDelete
  7. The whole Biovail fiasco. I don't know too much about it, but Howrey was involved in improper disclosure of protected documents. I wonder how much the firm lost in sanctions, settlements, and write-offs to deal with that screw-up?

    ReplyDelete
  8. The biggy would be how much the firm overpaid Practice Group heads and others on the Executive Committee, long after they stopped generating any meaningful business for the firm. That had to be a net loss of tens of millions of dollars per year.

    I sort of hope one of the disgruntled partners who gets screwed by this whole Winston acquisition files suit against the firm and Ruyak for bad faith and breach of fiduciary duty, so that all the books and records are subject to a public accounting by some court.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Forgive me for asking, but what's the deal with the ghost stories?

    ReplyDelete
  10. It was a very special experience. Does anyone have a copy of the video?

    ReplyDelete
  11. My faves include the One California initiative, the associate competency matrix (which was supposed to be for the benefit of clients who were never told what made up that matrix), and the "everything is fine" firmwide calls, right before layoffs.

    The movie, by the way, was Runaway Jury. Remember the movie posters in the offices? Never saw it, but I was told that the character who mentioned the firm got killed off shortly after saying the line. Nice association.

    ReplyDelete
  12. hi, CAP ANALYSIS was something i liked about howrey. Many (most?) IP litigators can't use Excel, much less Access, and can't sort data or run damages-case numbers. Other IP litigation firms I use have nothing like it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. In response to a prior post, please be clear that Howrey never paid a dime in sanctions or for any other reason in the Biovail Securities Litigation matter. If the prior commentator cares to read the hearing transcript, which is public, he or she would realize that the Howrey lawyers involved tried to correct the situation and were never the target of any sanctions motion. I'm sure there are a number of reasons for the firm's travails, but that case isn't one of them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. To the CapAnalysis supporter, I have been involved in several patent litigations in which we have simply hired an outside expert who could crunch the numbers, write an expert report, and then testify at trial and deposition. The need for and overhead required for an internal troupe of economists headed by their own highly paid leader are dubious. Virtually every other firm manages to get by without a CapAnalysis equivalent, which suggests that CapAnalysis is probably a bad idea for the bottom line.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ed han et al acted disgracegully in the biovail matter and are lucky they escaped with their licenses intact. For most of those involved it wasn't an intentional lapse, but the post hac justification was.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I know people love to hate through anonymous comments on blogs, but lets remember that the firm is made up of people and really good people at that. I was an associate there for a significant amount of time (left firm life for public interest work) and, while there are a number of issues with the firm, the people there are not one of them. The associates I worked with and the partners I worked for were amazing and its the thing I miss most about the firm. I know I am going to incur people's wrath for standing up for Howrey folks, but have some respect for them. They are mothers and fathers. Some are older and have devoted their life to the service of the firm. This is a sad situation. What is the point in kicking them while they are down? I learned a great deal in my time at Howrey and am thankful for the opportunity they gave me. And for the record, I loved bootcamp and the associates that summered with are some of my best friends today despite the fact that we have all gone our separate ways professionally.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Eddie, I agree with you that there were several good people there, and I also liked Bootcamp. But the firm also had a lot of real jerks, and many of those jerks were involved in poor management decisions. So I'd agree with you that it's unfair to tar all Howrey people with the same brush, but nevertheless point out that some of them deserve tarring.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I would guess that the point for most associates (I left for public interest myself) is to have a way to vent at the people who, whatever their good qualities, are directly responsible for landing the other posters here out on the street. While I respect the point you're trying to make, the people who devoted their lives to the firm had power and control and they screwed up and a lot of people are unemployed or soon to be because of it.

    I do feel for those who were good attorneys and had little control over any of this, but a law firm doesn't go from where Howrey was in 2005 to this because of good leadership and sound management.

    I also do not believe that they are all simply good people who screwed up; this spiral started when management gave a public and needless FU to Zwissler, et al. All 200 remaining partners aren't "management," of course, but most of the comments here seem pretty focused.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Have we already forgotten the "Power of Focus" debacle? Howrey had decided that would be its new motto and had a bunch of binoculars ("focus," get it) made up with the logo emblazoned on the box and passed out to all employees. Only THEN did Howrey run a trademark search on the phrase. Woops! Turns out someone already had it. So it became the advantage of focus. Good thing Howrey doesn't have a big trademark group or that would have been embarrassing. Wait, it does (or did)? Wow, great job folks, just an excellent display of competence there.

    Also, ghost stories? This must be a new thing, I never heard of it. Please, someone, explain this.

    ReplyDelete
  20. First of all, I am with Eddie. Howrey is one of those firms people love to hate. In reality, yes, there are some bad people there, but the majority are good--if not great--at what they do and are good people on top.

    Second, as a former Howrey guy, I don't see why Bootcamp is included on this list. It was far less expensive that what most firms spent on their summers and--at least according to the partners and senior associates I knew--associates who went through Boot Camp were consistently rated higher than associates in their class year who did not.

    Also, the write-up on the CapAnalysis Group and the office expansions are off base, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ghost Stories: Howrey hired some production company to create a series of vignettes featuring Howrey attorneys as the "actors." Basically showed what life is like at a big firm through the eyes of an associate/senior/partner. When I was there, we never had enough bandwidth to stream the episodes, so I never really watched it. Maybe others actually saw these and can fill in.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Re: "Howrey is one of those firms people love to hate." Not really. You know what happens if you wear an Orioles cap to a Yankee game? The fans will scream "Sox suck."

    Howrey is one of those firms people have to be reminded to consider briefly and disregard.

    Now Skadden, there's a firm you can hate with pride.

    ReplyDelete
  23. As a past participant, I've gotta disagree with the the inclusion of Bootcamp. More office time would have been nice, but I got more out of the two-week bootcamp than a semester of trial advocacy. Also, the short program allowed me to easily split the summer with another firm.

    As to bad ideas, I echo one of the other poster's reference to the firm paying for being mentioned in a throwaway line in Runaway Jury. It felt cheap and I really doubt it helped the firm bring in any business given the fact that the scene concluded with a disgruntled client shooting up the place.

    In my estimation, the downward spiral began when the swift boat sh*theads (John O'neil et al) joined the Houston office causing a great deal of discord resulting in the departure of several partners.

    The other problem was unfocused expansion--adding groups outside of IP and Antitrust in what became a mutt practice group referred to as Global Litigation that was narrowly tailored to cover everything under the sun except IP and Antitrust. Anyway, the reckless expansion for the sake of expansion combined with the loose adherence to its self-imposed "no assholes" might have had something to do with it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Although I disagree with the inclusion of Bootcamp, the description of the subterranean bomb shelter is spot on.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yeah, bootcamp, I've got mixed feelings on that. On the one hand, I get the mocking. But on the other hand, it was a great compressed trial ad program and the short length made it possible to split. But that was the first year. After that the program bulged up to six weeks and made it much harder to split the summer.

    The shortened term didn't bother me too much. On the firm side, I think four weeks is enough to figure out whether someone is going to cut it as a first year and on the associate side, I think four weeks is enough to figure out whether you want to work there. The real weeding-out process for both sides at virtually every firm really gets going in the first-year.

    ReplyDelete
  26. PART 1

    There are many reasons, but I think the overlap of the CA offices was one of the main ones. SD/OC/LA/CC could’ve + should’ve easily been combined into 1 office (LA), perhaps 2 (LA/OC). Also, Irvine Howrey should’ve never moved from 2020 Main to Park Plaza. The move was made @ the height of the RE boom, so Howrey paid top $ for a HUGE new office building and spent an ungodly amount of $$$ spending a year on a “moving committee”. The new office, while nice + while initially filled, frankly, was overkill w/its high $ rent, many conference rooms that sat unused more than used, etc. Howrey should’ve rented that extra floor out when the layoffs first started happening b/c now, it’s most certainly too late to do so and to do so profitably.

    The other main one was Howrey’s stubborn insistence on using Amex Travel/DC to plan every flight/hotel/etc. Seriously, it should never cost $1k to fly from LA to DC and there was no reason to spend that $ knowing that most clients likely weren’t (+ didn’t) pay the full flight cost and also knowing that way cheaper flights existed. Also, way too much time was spent on eating ‘cancellation fees’ + ‘flight change fees’ b/c esqs (usually partners) were too indecisive to book (and book well) in advance.

    Runaway Jury. WTF law firm pays for such promo when in reality, most moviegoers couldn’t remember the name of a law firm.

    Trivial expenses that added up quite fast. Staff appreciation week where staff got things like meals, gift cards, etc. the entire week….on top of weekly bagels/fruit every Friday, free sodas, free coffee, other free food, tvs in the breakroom, etc. Supposedly such things ‘boosted morale,’ but frankly, the expenses were out of control and reminded me of the bloated .com startup years. I guess that’s what happens when you have a non-businessman (Ruyak) running the ship and running it unchecked.

    Bloat. HRs had to have ‘HR assistants’ which meant you were paying say $100k for HR (who honestly wasn’t doing much b/c most of the decisions had to be run by DC) and were paying say $60k for a secretary to be your ‘HR assistant.’ Paralegals had to have assistants and of course, even the most basic case had to have 5-8 esqs working on it. Sadly, clients started catching onto the ‘padded/fluff billing’ + that’s when A/Rs started slowing. Secretaries were only working for 2 esqs for the longest time, something that’s been virtually unheard of in most big law firms for 5-10 years.

    ReplyDelete
  27. PART 2

    Wasted time/trainings. “IT training” on things most people w/decent skills already knew and of course, the trainings were long (+ filled w/training about things that WEREN’T relevant to how 99% of the staff would actually use the program) and of course, paid lunch was provided. I think I once suffered through a 2 hour long training on Interwoven + honestly, all the trainer really talked about (+ did so poorly frankly) was how to save and find files. Then there all the “rah rah, let’s listen to Ruyak spew BS” conference calls. It was a snoozefest that wasted 1-2 hours every time it happened.

    Trying to outjones Jones Day. Howrey tried to be bigger than it really was. Just b/c you hire a lot of people doesn’t mean you’re ready to compete w/the big boys…and it doesn’t mean you’ve hired quality people. Seriously, I worked with at least 2 people who should’ve been fired long ago b/c all they did most of the day was talk on the phone to their spouses/friends, take extended breaks, take long lunches, pass off their work to other people, etc. But of course, HR was too busy “being busy” to really notice, so these employees stayed on for 5-10 years basically doing little to no work + b/c they were ‘so stressed out,’ they often had to work OT and take ‘personal leave’ (paid of course). Howrey scattered its energy/diminished its productivity by diversifying into so many different practices w/o really having the best qualified esqs/staff to do so. Maybe that’s why so many associates didn’t have enough work.

    I could go on, but this is like beating a dead horse + soon, another firm will fall like howrey. Anyway, Monday’s and Tuesday’s calls will basically say “you’re SOL, esp. those in CA as all of our offices are closing, so good luck finding a job. Oh yeah, unlike those we laid off earlier who got 4 mos. severance, you’ll get very little. Thanks for playing, now here’s a nice Howrey sweatshirt for you. And please be packed and out of the office in 20 minutes b/c we can’t afford to call security to escort all of you out.”

    In closing, Howrey, you were very good to me and I made A LOT of $$$ off of you for a very long time. It’s a bit sad to see you fail b/c despite all the negatives (mostly stupid management tanking the ship), the firm culture (oh, I hate that cliché) really was “special” in certain offices and it’s rare to find that elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Let's not forget the 2009 gotcha that Ruyak handed out to the level one ( non-equity) partners. Level one partners are barely getting on their feet. They have all the pressures of partnership, but none of the benefits. No vote on anything. No equity if the firm does well. Level one partners are in the in-between time; something like overgrown associates without the benefits of being an associate (associates have good information on comparative salaries available on the net, paid medical benefits, etc., level one partners get none of that.)

    So, when the going got tough, who better than to take a swipe at than the level ones? When the 2009 financials started to look really bad, Ruyak came up with a "great" idea for fixing it --- force the young partners to "loan" 10% of their gross annual salary back to the firm. (Just to be clear -- you had to give them after tax dollars, but it was calculated on your pre-tax income. It's a lot of money for anyone to part with unless, of course, you're an equity partner like Ruyak!) If you didn't have the cash, no problem... Howrey's bank would loan it to you so that you could "loan" it to Howrey. Of course, a loan to Howrey in 2009 should have just been called what it was -- an extortion payment to keep your job for one more year.

    Associates may be thinking -- but hey, you'll get your loan money back. Hahahah. I don't know one income partner who has been repaid. Instead, Howrey is coming up with all kinds of excuses to delay and avoid repayment. And, when Howrey lands in bankruptcy, the income partners will be just like every other creditor Howrey has... screwed. Where did all of that "loan" money go? It doesn't look like it went to associate bonuses or paying for anything other than lining the pockets of Ruyak and his overpaid buddies to come up with the above-referenced brilliant ideas.

    Taken as a whole, it looks like the only plans Howrey was able to follow through on were those that fed big wig self-aggrandizement schemes, and/or screwed their associates and young partners. Anything that might actually have resulted in new business. Well, the record speaks for itself. No follow through on anything useful.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I agree with PP that the 10% forced loan was terrible and evil, but I also think it was Ruyak making a last-ditch effort to hide prior financial mismanagement by exacting tribute. At the same time, he increased the amount equity partners had to contribute too. I see this as more of an evil-bastard move than a lot of the other stupid-mismanagement moves discussed earlier.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Another top-10 dumb ideas -- the "Where Leaders Go" business card debacle.

    Somewhere wedged between "In court every day" and "Power of focus," there was another re-branding effort called "Where leaders go." To support this dumb idea, management gave everyone brand new business card emblazoned with the tagline. The big problem was that the entire back of the card was covered in some cheesy plasticized image of the NYC skyline, at a time BEFORE Howrey had opened a NY office. This led many people to comment that the new tagline should be "Where leaders go ... some other firm with a NY office." Needless to say, the cards and the branding effort were quietly dropped a few months later.

    ReplyDelete
  31. So reading all this makes me wonder why Ruyuk was allowed to stay. Or is this all only apparent in hindsight?

    ReplyDelete
  32. I think Ruyak was allowed to stay because he had the support of his cronies in DC. The firm had such a DC-centric vision, particularly where management was concerned. Now, why these cronies didn't kick him to the curb? I assume it's because he was taking very good care of them at compensation time and it wasn't about a team effort at Howrey; it was dog eat dog, every man (usually an old white man) for himself.

    Ultimately, that may be the best explanation for why Howrey failed; a strong firm needs to have a strong sense of community among senior partners. A firm comprised of senior partners with a lone ranger attitude is doomed to fail in the long term. The lone ranger dies, retires or, gasp, goes to another firm. Then what? The lone ranger may have one or two buddies he takes with him, but he's not called the "lone" ranger for nothing. In the end, it's all about him.

    Howrey's partners were living an "eat what you kill" lone ranger lifestyle in a time when success required them to band together like a cavalry. It's sad to see so many good attorneys being hurt by the greed and insensitivity of a few old white guys at the top. But, I suppose, that's a sign of the times too. Wall Street guys get rich off the backs of the little guys. Howrey's old white guys were just doing what's in vogue.

    In fact, to put a human spin on it, I know one of Howrey's attorneys impacted by this mess had to sell her house because of the financial mess Howrey created for her (fired without severance, warning or the return of that awesome 10% loan). When she explained her hardship to one of these old white guys, apparently he said: "Yeah, I've got a vacation home I've been wanting to sell, but the market is so bad now. I hate to lose all the money on it." Seriously, in the face of this young woman losing her ACTUAL home, that was his response?! He wants to sell his vacation home, but hates to lose the money to sell it now! What planet are these guys living on?

    ReplyDelete
  33. After spending some time at a non-DC office, it was immediately apparent that the only culture to speak of at Howrey was a bloated staffing scheme in the DC office. It just seemed like everyone there, to the extent their job was defined, only pushed one button. If you needed another button pushed, that was another person's responsibility. Staffers that spent any time in that office reported back that the junior partner would ask the senior associate for a binder. The senior would ask the junior, the junior would ask the paralegal, who would ask their assistant, and eventually collect the documents. Yet more people would get involved with labeling and actual binding. And that's just the actual legal work. Don't ask about the administrative side.

    ReplyDelete
  34. The "DC-centric" post was spot on - the entirety of that post. I was there.

    ReplyDelete
  35. ruyak was allowed to stay b/c no one really challenged him and those that did were shown the door or simply ignored. also, like the .com era, when things are good, few bother or desire to be the 1 standing 'against the grain.' many people just want to 'collect a check'; not many want to actually 'think'...and those who do, usually work for themselves. failure to retain 'thinkers' is part of howrey's problem.

    personally, i think rooklidge or another qualified partner should've replaced ruyak, but that didn't happen...nor did the logical option of 'hmmm, our PPP keeps declining, maybe we should bring in someone w/actual business knowledge.' Lawyers make great paper pushers, but NOT very good businessmen.

    adding the "senior associates" and non-equity partners was another circle jerk that doomed howrey. those esqs never made full partner and many "senior associates" were laid off shortly before partner review time...only to be called back a few months later and offered an "of counsel"/non partnership position. in some offices, howrey slashed/burned so deep during layoffs that all they had was basically "clueless newbie associates/new hires" and "partners"...neither of which really wanted to (or in some cases, knew how to) do the "meaty work."

    for all the $ howrey had in the "boom years" (early-mid 2000s), they didn't manage it very wisely.. the binder story above made me lol b/c it, along w/the "must have bloated teams even for the simplest matters" explains why so much $ and time was wasted. simple things like faxing or mailing letters...don't have your secretary do it, have your secretary fill out a copy/fax request form, have the copy guy copy it, and have the mailing guy mail it. really? the same thing happened with phone calls...caller gets the receptionist, receptionist puts the caller on hold while calling the esq's secretary, secretary has to transfer the caller to the esq or vm or back to the receptionist to handle. really, is such circle jerk needed? let the pampered esqs answer their own calls...or @ least cut out either the receptionist or secretary as the middleman.

    it always puzzled me why howrey would do things like not bat an eye @ booking $1k flights from LA to DC yet would make secretaries waste time filling out reimbursement request forms/ approval forms for say $30 lunches...almost all of which had to be run through an hr assistant, HR, and in some cases, DC.

    so much potential to be a great firm, so much bloat + wasted time being "yes men" w/o seeing the forest from the trees. and now, good people are going to hear "sorry, thanks for playing...good luck out there" on mon/tues.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I think we have a good Honorable Mention list:


    The Power of Focus debacle
    The tsunami donation
    The Runaway Jury product placement misfire
    Partner retreats in Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, and South Florida
    Forcing non-equity partners to contribute equity to the firm
    The business cards with the New York city skyline on reverse
    Howrey Ghost Stories

    Anything else?

    ReplyDelete
  37. How about the live broadcasts to the entire firm where the associate would interview the partner and fluff their career? Not really much $$ out the door but fairly useless. Not to mention Bunsow couldn't be located for his feature.

    Nominations closed.

    ReplyDelete
  38. More for the Honorable Mention List:

    1. The Ruyak Braintrust:

    Ralph Allen
    James Martin
    Peter Zeughauser

    2. Making partners with no business the managing partner of a major office, e.g., Joanne Caruso

    ReplyDelete
  39. Another addition to the greatest hits list: The 2007 Global Litigation Group Retreat.

    In perhaps the greatest single act of law firm masturbation in history, the global lit group convened at the Ritz Carlton in Lake Las Vegas in October, 2007. Highlights included: (1) Chairman Bob beginning every single meeting by listing every singly positive litigation outcome handled by the firm since the previous retreat, while speaking in front of some cheesy neon lights spelling "HOWREY"; (2) a panel of firm clients giving a presentation in which one said, "associate salaries are absurd, you are pricing yourself out of the market, for the billable rate of one of your junior associates, i can hire a senior partner at a highly regarded mid-sized firm to handle my matters," followed by Ruyak, Abrams, and Moll giving a standing ovation; and (3) associates getting rides from the hotel to the Strip w/black escalades and limosines with their names on them. Estimated cost: so much that the location for the Intellectual Property retreat scheduled for later that year was somewhere in rural Pennsylvania, then later canceled outright.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Ruyak ranted about associate salaries all of the time. I don't think he understood that the First Tier program's $45k reduction in salary was going to dissuade top law school grads from choosing Howrey. It's fairly simple math.

    ReplyDelete
  41. All the people who managed Ruyak left (Briggs and Nolan), retired (Lynch) or died (Gonzalez, Wegener). Ruyak replaced them with people he could manage and that was then ens. He could manage a few "yes men and women" but he could not begin to manage the firm by himself.

    ReplyDelete
  42. "I don't think he understood that the First Tier program's $45k reduction in salary was going to dissuade top law school grads from choosing Howrey."

    Top grads didn't choose Howrey in the first place. Look for Ivy grads or people with really good clerkships even in the good ol' days, and you won't find them. I went out with someone who got dinged from every other big firm and landed there. It was already middle-tier, and slashing salaries was the right thing to do in a really tight job market because they never attracted top-notch associates in the first place. There was never going to be another John Nields-caliber resume in that place.

    When is the Conference Call of Despair?

    ReplyDelete
  43. That was not always so. Pre-bootcamp, the firm recruited well from top schols and had dozens of fine law clerks and law review editors. They did especially well during the early 90's when opprtuities elsewhere were thin and they were booming. Bootcamp, whatever its successes, and they were few, certainly hurt the firm's reputation among the brightest law students, the very people demanded by IP and antitrust.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I left howrey 9 years ago because it was clear that there was zero management and no plan for the future. Howrey existed and operated solely for the attorneys who happened to be there in the early 1970's -- everyone else could go to hell. Seriously, the answer to anyone other than the 1970's bunch was 'screw you'. So many good people simply left long ago that the demise today is no surprise.

    ReplyDelete
  45. A few months ago Howrey's Matt Wolf was demanding that partners pledge loyalty to him as the future managing partner. How's that pledge stuff working out? Wait, Matt Wolf already bailed-out and left Howrey?

    ReplyDelete
  46. Where did Matt Wolf go? That guy couldn't manage a 5 attorney case team, not sure how he expected he would manage an entire firm.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Wolf left? no way, really?

    ReplyDelete
  48. There was still a pretty good mixture of resumes when I was there (not so long ago); maybe half folks from top schools, half people with interesting backgrounds who were local to DC. The notion that cutting associate salaries would have been a good move could only make sense to someone not familiar with the market for young associates prior to the past 24 months (and firm management was yelling and screaming about associate salaries long before then).

    Whatever one thinks about the sanity or insanity of paying 25-year olds with no previous experience massive salaries, the fact remains that (again, prior to the past 24-months) any remotely bright or talented law student could command those massive salaries from any one of hundreds of law firms. It's nuts to think that if Howrey underpaid other firms (I'm thinking DC & Chicago-based firms with more than a few hundred lawyers) that it would have been able to get anything approaching similar talent.

    (And whatever you think of the aggregate talent Howrey did get, paying less would not have increased that talent level given the competitive market for associates.)

    Also, the idea that Howrey was singularly crippled by paying roughly the same associate salary (less when you factor in bonuses) as every other AmLaw 100 firm, and many of the 100 firms right below that, makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  49. (Correction: above should have read "with at least a few hundred," not "above a few hundred.")

    ReplyDelete
  50. Getting back to the topic of greatest hits. What about the effort to re-decorate every office firm-wide the same way? (i.e., white walls, brightly lit, expensive conference room tables). How much did that cost the firm? For what benefit?

    ReplyDelete
  51. Matt Wolf has not left the firm. He's been here his whole career and he is loyal to his Howrey colleagues. And who said he couldn't manage a 5-person team needs to get a clue. He manages dozens of people and is a tremendous source of business for the firm.

    The false and ignorant statements about the people and culture here are ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Who gave Matt's mom the address to this website?

    ReplyDelete
  53. You've clearly never worked on a team for him, 1:23. Or you are one of his groupies. Either way, hope his loyalty has been deserved.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I happen to know that there are a quite a few people who are counting on Matt Wolf's loyalty -- he's made a lot of promises to his team & we'll just have to see if his word is worth anything after this debacle.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I've done some work with him. He's not a nightmare, but is generally dismissive of most people. He clearly thinks he is way, way smarter than the vast majority of all humans. Especially his clients.
    But, not much of a screamer, much more passive aggressive.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Let's get back to the Greatest Hits. I'm going to reign in additional comments about Matt Wolf (despite the fact that they are entertaining).

    ReplyDelete
  57. Back to Howrey's Greatest Hits: Number 1 on the list: Ruyak's Vanity. Ruyak's Vanity single-handedly destroyed this once illustrious firm. All the old cronies disgust me. You should see how they behave at the Partner's retreats. Dick Beckler is a joke; I wonder what his 30 year old trophy gold digger thinks of him now. Wish I had on tape the way she sat in his lap & fondled him at every public event. None of them deserve a peaceful sleep. They sucked out and chewed up everything that was decent about this firm. Vanity & Greed. Disgusting lot.

    ReplyDelete
  58. What ever happened to the discrimination suit filed against Howrey last year?
    http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/menns-v-howrey-final-complaint-1-27-10.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  59. Wow, 1:43, you sure make a good case. A man in love with his wife; the horror.

    ReplyDelete
  60. 1:50, the case was dismissed. A simple internet search would do.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I did search, but found nothing about a dismissal. Do you have a link to the dismissal?

    ReplyDelete
  62. Well, I typed "DC Superior Court Docket" into Google and searched the docket for the plaintiff's name.

    ReplyDelete
  63. 1:50 I guess you get off on seeing the "love" (if, indeed, lap dancing is considered love) between a young woman & a man who could be her grandfather. There are fetish sites for that kind of thing.

    ReplyDelete
  64. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Yes yes. Vanity thy name is Ruyak. Really the #1 reatest hit! Hard to count the ways..

    1. CEO of a law firm? What a joke.
    2. CEO, Chairman, and Managing Partner? Three jokes

    Why in the world did they keep him in charge after the debacle of 2009?

    1:23 was not Matt Wolfe's Mom. I betcha it was Matt his own self.

    ReplyDelete
  66. aw come on, 3:24 was hilariously awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Howrevisionist historyFebruary 7, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    I met Ruyak a few of times as an associate. He hosted an event at his home when I was a bootcamper. He seemed like a nice enough guy and has a nice family. I expected his kids to be stuck up, but they were courteous and friendly. At that time Howrey was receiving several accolades for everything from its status in IP litigation and Antitrust work to its in house training programs for associates. In the legal press, Ruyak was regarded as a visionary. Granted, Bob's decisions over the past few years have been questionable and maybe he was reading too much of his own good press believing he had the Midas touch, but the schadenfreude over firm's demise and vilification of its besieged managing partner is a bit over the top. I wish all attorneys and staff at the firm well.

    ReplyDelete
  68. All of the ideas posted above span over the previous decade. This was not merely a matter of Ruyak losing his step in the last couple of years. You're going to get a lot of press when you do wacky stuff, and I don't necessarily believe that all press is good press.

    As for Bob's family, I think there are plenty of nice ex-Howrey families and current families that have been or will soon be financially agonizing over the demise of Howrey. Level I partners on the hook for too much financial liability and who have no hope of seeing their contributions to Howrey's capital account repaid. Level II partners who took out loans to pay for their buy-in to the firm and will never see their buy-in repaid by Howrey as they continue paying off the loan and their partnership liability. And the secretary or receptionist who is suddenly out of a job in a very difficult legal market.

    Bob's family, enjoying significant income over the last ten years and probably about to receive a payout from Winston & Strawn, merit no concern.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Is there any way to get advances on paychecks to hedge against insufficient funds over the remaining pay cycles?

    ReplyDelete
  70. ain't gonna be no remaining pay cycles honey

    ReplyDelete
  71. somebody please inform the world what todays phone call said

    ReplyDelete
  72. I enjoy a lot of the information in this post and in the comments (glad I wasn't the only one amazed at the sight of Ruyak, Moll, etc. giving a standing ovation to a client's speech about how we weren't that good and were way too expensive), but I must also echo several others and say that Bootcamp does not deserve to be on the list of mistakes. I'm thrilled that I got out of Howrey last spring, and there's little about the place that I miss, but I thought bootcamp was a genuinely rewarding and instructive experience.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Going back to the Matt Wolf thread -- Matt is nothing compared to Ed Han - the most boring, rude, cold, arrogant -- need I go on? who was put in charge of the associate affairs? I remember going to a few of the meetings as a class rep and all he wanted to talk about was how over-payed Howrey associates were . . . not exactly the point of the meetings Ed?!?

    ReplyDelete
  74. what now Ed's mom is posting too?

    ReplyDelete
  75. Ed Han is autistic. Give him a break. He was a very difficult child. Signed, Ed's Mom

    ReplyDelete
  76. Ed Han is carrying around the guilt his mother loaded him up with for never learning to speak Chinese. Chinese Mother Guilt = Profoundly Burdensome.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Another former class rep here. In hindsight, the fact that management put Ed and Matt in charge of associate affairs should have clued us in on any number of things.

    ReplyDelete
  78. (I don't mean that as a comment about either of them personally or as lawyers; I have no basis of knowledge there. Rather, I mean the fact that they both seemed to view associates as a problem with which to be dealt rather than as part of one team. Lots of partners think that way, not many firms pick those particular partners to run something like associate affairs.)

    ReplyDelete
  79. Many in the know truly blame Howrey's demise strictly on Ruyak's attempt to run a firm like a Fortune 500 Company. Howrey has wasted millions of dollars on a billing system just to save face with a vendor/potential client. The firm also focused too much on expansion rather than weeding out partners who aren't bringing in a dog ball lick of business! Shall we name names? ;o) What about the huge waste of resources from having a Northern VA office?

    It's sad that too many great people lost/about to lose their jobs at this firm!

    ReplyDelete
  80. Uh, yeah name names.

    ReplyDelete
  81. you know what's funny? everyone on here posts as "Anonymous." Anyone want to grow a pair and stand by their comments? Im guessing a lot of you commenting are those whose "names" need to be named as 3:11 said. So sad a lot of you can't get over you were pretty bad at your jobs and are now probably "working from home" haha.

    ReplyDelete
  82. "james"=matt wolf=needs to get laid=needs to lose about thirty pounds first.

    ReplyDelete
  83. "James," your challenge will have more credibility if you use your full actual name. I could login as "Jim H" or even "Bob Abrams," but that doesn't make me any less anonymous.

    ReplyDelete
  84. On a firm-wide call of the Associate Affairs Committee members in about 2001-ish, we were discussing various issues of concern. Annual bonuses had just been paid. I remember Ed started yammering about how associates were ungrateful, should not point out issues in the firm that might need to be addressed, and how (and I am close to quoting this a decade later) "the firm has just paid five to six million in associate bonuses, and it just seems like we aren't getting any bang for the buck!" Like the firm was supposed to buy our silence or something?

    We had some fun email threads during and immediately after the call.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I'm trying to remember other Greatest Hits. What about those Forbes Magazine covers? I never understood them. We all got copies of the magazine with some fake Howrey cover that did not actually get distributed to anyone else buying Forbes Magazine. So what was the point? I guess maybe the firm was buying subscriptions to Forbes for certain clients, so they could see the ads too? Meh.

    And I also remember some sort of commemorative book that the firm created. I'd see copies lying around in the DC library. Does anyone know the story with that?

    ReplyDelete
  86. Alan Grimaldi's MoustacheFebruary 10, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Helen Kelly is a greatest hit. I have nothing against her personally, but I have no idea what her job was.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Helen was Jack Howrey's secretary; turned Legal Assistant Typing Department (LATD) supervisor; turned Computer Resources supervisor; turned Facilities Manager, which morphed into what she does today. 'Good thing Mr. Howrey is not around to see today's mess.

    ReplyDelete
  88. "Never saw it, but I was told that the character who mentioned the firm got killed off shortly after saying the line. Nice association."

    A lot of people get killed off shortly after associating with Howrey.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THE FORBES MAGAZINE WRAPAROUND COVERS! (Those were so intensely stupid.)

    ReplyDelete
  90. The problem is that you people have no vision. The Forbes covers showed the Power, er, Advantage of Focus by highlighting those historical figures who achieved great things through focus. Clients beat down our doors as soon as they saw them. Most. successful. advertising. campaign. EVER.

    ReplyDelete
  91. As one famous partner who left not long ago used to say, HELEN KELLY had photos of Ruyak -- with sheep. Of the unflattering kind. That may be a joke, but it must be close to the truth. Otherwise, that woman (?) would not have made it more than a single day at any firm, even Howrey. She was actually fired once for incompetence, several years ago on a Friday, and when Ruyak heard of it over the weekend, she was immediately re-hired that same Monday. Ridiculous. She did nothing but make everyone's life harder and a hassle. The most purpose-less and mean-spirited role at the firm, and hence a Greatest Hit.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Another greatest hit, Mark Ferragamo, the most idiotic, mean, incompetent, and fat paralegal the world ever saw. Period. Only kept on board because he would suck a certain someone's cigar(s). Hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worked for Mark, and your assessment of him couldn't be further off. He was uber competent and indispensable to the team's he worked on. It wasn't a coincidence that some of the most powerful partners in the firm came to him when their trial prep began.

      Delete
  93. Another greatest hit: the initial press release announcing the opening of the Madrid office, which touted Madrid as the gateway to LATIN AMERICA.

    ReplyDelete
  94. I have another nominee for the Greatest Hits list: Howrey's (can you say "Ruyak's") 2/7, 1:38 declaration that he's going to "reign in additional comments about Matt Wolf." Wow, is his Freudian slip showing or what? Like, sure, dude, you rock and REIGN, but ain't nobody never tot you to spell? It's R-E-I-N, you know, like they do to a horse's ass.

    ReplyDelete
  95. OMG...this reads like a Mel Brooks script...LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  96. Here are three more "greatest hits":

    1. The mass Exodus of Houston partners in 2003, 2004 and 2005, which made Houston look like the Titanic.

    2. The pro bono list bragging about how many hours attorneys and paralegals gave back to the community and an award for one such partner, then the prompt demotion of said partner for having too many pro bono hours and not enough billable hours.

    3. Morons who didn't practice IP law trying to land all of Coca-Cola's business after they decided to consolidate their trademark portfolio with one firm. They even took the Coke execs to a restaurant that only served Pepsi! The associate who saved the day was passed over for partner. She left the firm and took all of Coca-Cola with her!

    BTW, has Ruyak ever not been an absolute douchebag? The first time I met him he was in the elevator with Tom Miller (also an ass), Tom Arnold and a few others. Arnold's hearing aid was making a loud whistling noise. Instead of telling Arnold to turn down his hearing aid, Miller made some "joke" at Arnold's expense and Ruyak and one of the senior paralegals laughed. What a way to treat one of the greatest IP attorneys the industry has ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  97. The Houston office was screwed by Howrey in just about every way. Right after Arnold White & Durkee "merged" with Howrey & Slime, the precipitous ride downhill began. The Howrey culture is fairly toxic and entirely DC centric. The young talent and their A-List clients walked, leaving behind little more than old fogies riding it out until retirement and toadies of the DC office. Howrey moved the Houston office from its long-time home in the Galleria to a soulless downtown Houston office space, a large chunk of which is vacant and had to be subleased. The Houston office "management" never stood up to or pushed back on DC for anything, including the moronic Clements O'Neill acquisition. Miller, Cagle, Norris, and Invisible Lynch were horrendous managers and couldn't have given less of a damn about the long term prospects for the office or making it a pleasant place to work.

    ReplyDelete