Pay rifts, a partner divide, and a threat at the Ritz Carlton: 50 insiders reveal all on a massive shakeup at elite law firm Boies Schiller

boies schiller flexner law firm under fire 2x1

A massive transformation is taking place at elite litigation powerhouse Boies Schiller Flexner.
Over the past six months, more than 30 partners have exited the firm, which was founded by superlawyer David Boies — best known for his role in cases like Bush v. Gore and the fight for same-sex marriage rights.
Business Insider spoke with more than 50 people, including current and former Boies Schiller attorneys, about the key issues behind the turnover, and events that help explain the firm’s shrinking.
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In a Ritz-Carlton banquet hall in December 2019, famed trial attorney David Boies made a proposal to his law partners that caught a number of them off guard.

Speaking in front of about 150 lawyers at his law firm’s annual partner meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida, Boies suggested changing the firm’s compensation formula, according to five people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The change would have cut how much partners earned from their own hourly fees, which was how some lawyers — namely, those responsible for doing the ground work on cases — earned seven-figure paychecks without generating their own clients.

Instead, more money would go to satisfy top rainmakers, with a discretionary bonus pool set aside to pay other partners as they saw fit.

Boies proposed reducing partners’ cut of their hourly fees by as much as five percentage points.

Some in attendance did not see the move as being in their own interest, while others voiced concern because they wanted to better understand the implications of the proposal.

It was not something that had been discussed at an equity-partner meeting the night before, and some were somewhat taken aback by how casually the topic had been slipped into the partner meeting, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Those who voiced concern included Karen Dunn, a partner who represented Uber in a trade-secrets case with Waymo, as well as David Willingham, who had represented individuals charged in the Varsity Blues college-admissions case.

After receiving pushback, Boies tabled the topic.

All the pay talk was a sign of the times for Boies’ firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, which had for years been at the center of some of the world’s most high-stakes business disputes, including Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos in the fight against National Enquirer parent company American Media, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince in his defamation lawsuit against The Intercept.

Its attorneys had been discussing how best to transition the firm so that its future wasn’t as closely intertwined with that of Boies, who is currently 79. Pay was one of the central features that needed to change, many of those attorneys believed, given that Boies’ partners historically were paid to staff cases that he and other founding partners brought in.

Going forward, at least some inside the firm felt partners should be incentivized to bring in new clients.

“The proposal, by definition, was not in the short run economic interest of a partner who was not, themselves, generating business,” Natasha Harrison, one of BSF’s newly …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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