End of the Day: 9/18/2008

Well at least when you’re busy you don’t have much time to dwell on all that’s going on at Heller. And by busy I don’t mean actual constructive work, but work just as important. As Hellerites, we know it is still important that we meet our client servicing objectives and make sure they are getting what they need. In addition, we need to handle internal requests for reports and other information.

And then you need time to work on your own resume, research job listings, maybe pop out for an interview at lunch. Oh yeah, also need to shop for interviewing clothes either after work or online at home.

What has also been busy is this blog. As of today, over the course of three short days there have been 20,000 hits and lots of notice by non-Heller people and the media. We’ve also seen an uptick in comments – perhaps some Heller staff are feeling more comfortable making comments and realize how therapeutic it can be to just talk.

Tomorrow is Friday and will hopefully bring some further clarification as to the direction in which management and the remaining shareholders intend to take Heller Ehrman. It remains to be seen whether they can resolve their squabbling in time for next Tuesday’s shareholder meeting and come to the realization that agreeing to an orderly evacuation is one of the best ways to honor the commitments that come with retaining a loyal support staff as well as the commitments to everyone still here waiting for leadership.

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12 Responses to “End of the Day: 9/18/2008”


  1. 1 Stunned in SF 18 September 2008 at 11:14 pm

    While I am not being naive or unrealistic, dissolution is not the only option here. To wish simply for an “orderly evacuation” is a little short-sighted and fatalistic. Come on, let’s hope for the best (but prepare for the worst.) Who’s to say they won’t be able to salvage a down-sized firm, at least in San Francisco. While I know your intent is to ease the stress, the fact that the only option here is complete failure (i.e., firm ceases to exist completely) is ridiculous and premature.

  2. 2 Former Heller Lawyer 19 September 2008 at 2:08 am

    A Heller that includes VLG cannot stand. A Heller that retains the VLG contagion is not worth saving. What a gracious and genuine place it once was! And could yet be? It is likelier, though, that a management team that lived by the sword will end the firm by it as well. Barry, Matt and Phyllis – what can one say? We all know how this happened, and many spoke against those changes along the way. Shame.

  3. 3 hellerdrone 19 September 2008 at 3:21 am

    Thanks all for the comments!

    About VLG – I didn’t have to work directly with the VLG attorneys or some of the staff brought over but I agree it was not an easy merger. Proof that mergers are really not always ideal.

    My experience in working in BigLaw and mergers: as a the dominant firm you’d be better off waiting for the smaller firm to get desperate and then cherry pick what you really want. This is what it appears Baker is doing to us at Heller now that our merger dance with them is off. Ever play the version of gin rummy where you have to take the ENTIRE discard pile even though only a few cards might work for you?

    Overall I liked and continue to like the VLG people – smart, driven and had some great ideas. But they also didn’t like the change that came with moving to Heller. And Hellerites thought they were smug and needed to be knocked down a few notches.

    Was the merger worth it? I think from a marketing standpoint, yes. Did the branding of a sub-group within Heller work? Not really. Are there really that many VLGers left to worry if they left as a group? Let’s ask Cooley Godward for a count when they take in the group in a few days.

  4. 4 Former Heller Lawyer 19 September 2008 at 4:03 am

    The VLG folks imported Wilson’s attitude of “every practice “pod” for itself.” This contrasted with Heller’s previously high level of cross-practice and cross-office cooperation. While it is true that this tradition already may have been diminishing somewhat with growth, VLG was allowed to put an end to it. And they did. The more decent half of VLG departed for Orrick, leaving…the rest. To be fair, the Brobeck guys were no gems, and their savaging of SD showed their colors as well. But Barry and Matt entrusted VLG to lead a modest but high-quality corporate practice. VLG’s inability to play well with others, and their client base of occassionally charming but typically low-value clients, killed any chance of growing a substantial corporate practice. Absorbing VLG was like mainlining the dot-com bubble: an embolsim was certain to follow. And it has.

  5. 5 Legal Secretary 19 September 2008 at 8:22 am

    I have a dream – and I don’t believe it is unrealistic. This dream, however, requires the willingness to choose it.

    My dream is that Heller will not dissolve but remain standing. It will spin off the East Coast offices, plus Anchorage, London and San Diego, but keep the Asia offices (what are left of them). Heller would then return to what it once was and can still be again – a respected and excellent West Coast law firm based in San Francisco with offices in Seattle and Los Angeles.

    It goes without saying that the bloated middle management would be booted. The support staff would remain – but pared to half its size. (Those let go would hopefully have severance packages to tide them over as they look for a new job.) The remaining staff would, of course, be left with a higher workload, plus they would almost surely forego their raises and Christmas bonuses for this year, possibly including their year end profit sharing contribution. That, however, is not an unreasonable demand on the staff since the partners themselves will surely take a mean hit to their pocket books as well when they make the courageous choice to keep this firm afloat.

    Well, that’s my dream.

  6. 6 hellerdrone 19 September 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hey Legal Secretary

    I love your dream and I hope it comes true – or I hope that at least the shareholders and get together, agree on something, and perhaps it will be forward-thinking and out of the box like some of the stuff you suggest.

    Would I give up my year end bonus, my 401k profit-sharing> Probably, but since we are dealing with attorneys I’d want it in writing with some minimum guarantees. I keep reading about all the reductions and concessions that pilots and flight attendants go through with airlines and then they are asked for more and more of them.

    I’m pretty sure that support staff at Heller would be willing to pitch in somehow. We’ve shown that in the past when we’ve rallied around many things and many people.

    Great suggestions. Mind if I quote some of them in a post later today? Some comments tend to get buried . . .

    Heller Drone
    Cruise Director

  7. 7 Legal Secretary 19 September 2008 at 9:29 am

    Heller Drone, you may indeed quote my ‘Legal Secretary’ posting, with my blessings.

    I sincerely hope that the Partners read it and know that there are people in this Firm who sincerely wish for it to survive. I am definitely one of them.

  8. 8 Yet another ex-Hellerite 19 September 2008 at 9:40 am

    Hey Drone- don’t know where to post this, but I got a call from Liz at Davidson Legal who wanted me to pass on her info to any Heller employees looking for new jobs. Her ph. is (415) 296-8700. I worked with Davidson after my departure from Heller oh-so-many years ago, and they seemed pretty good.

    Chris Crowley at Pathways Personnel is another guy who’s placed a lot of ex-Hellerites over the years. Their # is (415) 391-2060.

    Good luck. Great job on the blog.

  9. 9 former client 19 September 2008 at 9:54 am

    As a former Heller client, I am not surprised. The billing practices, attorneys’ attention to my company and bad advice cost me and my company dearly. Frankly, the support staff was the best part of this law firm. I wish the staffers the best of luck.

  10. 10 HellBoy 19 September 2008 at 10:54 am

    The staffers are going to need luck. It’s all patent & corporate out there.

  11. 11 Snowflake 19 September 2008 at 11:10 am

    It really is going to be every man for himself. I love the idea of an orderly evacuation, but that’s not what you hear when you put your ear to the wall. The powers that be are still posturing exactly as they have been for the past 18 months!! They (ML and cronies) are the only ones that know where the lifejackets are. Don’t count on getting anything from them.

  12. 12 HellerAnon 19 September 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Information on benefits can be found online at arlengroup.com/benefits. Also CareCounsel is available to answer benefit questions. Good luck everyone.


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Last Modified: September 14, 2008

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