Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

If unlike me you did not grow up on the Shores of Lake Superior, you are not a fan of '70s folk music, your name does not end in a vowel or your law degree is from an institution that could get you in the door at a once-fancy "silk stocking" firm, let me tell you a little about the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Launched on June 8, 1958, The Mighty Fitz, as it was known, was the largest working vessel on the Great Lakes for almost 20 years. 730 feet long and 75 feet wide, it carried taconite from Duluth, Minnesota to Detroit.

On November 10, 1975, while carrying 26,000 tons of cargo, the great vessel encountered 50 knot winds. And then things got nasty. Bottom line is, the boat broke in two and sank, and all 29 crew perished.

No one knows exactly what caused the sinking of this mighty vessel, but one published theory contends that an already weakened structure and modification of the structure allowing heavier loads contributed to too much stress on the infrastructure causing a stress fracture in the hull.

Which takes us to Cadwalader and Robert O. Link.

Bob earned his law degree at the University of Tennessee.

Bob arrived at Cadwalader in 1987 and made partner in 1990.

Bob was made leader of the firm in 1994. At the age of 39. Of an international law firm, with 200 years of legal experience, that many considered relevant. But, as they say...

Cadwalader had fallen behind other New York firms in stature but more importantly in revenue.

Bob wanted to fix that.

Bob took the "structured finance" practice group to new heights.

Bob installed what he called a "meritocracy," awarding partners who brought in business with increased compensation (Bob's like Einstein, eh?)

Under Bob, where you'd never want to be, the firm posted record revenues and profits in the years that followed. By 2006, profits per partner hit an all-time high of $2.9million, with gross revenues at $556 million.

Until 1997 hit, the economy slowed down and government regulators got snoopy.

Bob made Cadwalader the first fancy firm to engage in large-scale layoffs, in January 2008.

Bob fired 35 associates.

Bob fired 96 more lawyers.

Bob got sent to London.

Bob left Cadwalader - and the practice of law (does that mean he resigned his bar license?) on July 1, at 55 years old.

And now, Bob's judgement:

"Speaking from one of his homes in Vermont, Link said the retirement was his choice. He said he has no plans to return to the practice of law, though he may take a job in the public interest arena.

"I don't have to work if I don't want to," Link said. "But I will."

Bob - can I call you Dick? - who is your PR person? Or maybe you handle your own PR....

Read the article here.

Bob says he is proud of what he built during his tenure. Which as far as I can tell, is absolutely nothing.

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