McCarter & English has expanded its executive compensation practice in New York by hiring special counsel Joseph Bachelder III and Jerome Cohen from the Bachelder Law Firm, a shop known for its expertise in structuring pay deals for high-profile CEOs.
The move spells the end of the firm that Bachelder, who will mark his 80th birthday next month, founded in 1982 and served as senior partner for 30 years. Over time Bachelder Law became synonymous with the rise of executive compensation packages to almost unprecedented levels.
Along the way, Bachelder helped craft pay deals for such senior-level executives as Lawrence Bossidy of AlliedSignal; George Fisher of Eastman Kodak; Louis Gerstner Jr. at IBM; and Patricia Russo at Lucent Technologies, according to a 2003 profile in The Wall Street Journal. Bachelder also negotiated a $30 million severance package for current JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon after he was abruptly fired from Citigroup in 1998, according to The New York Times.
Now, Bachelder, a longtime New York Law Journal columnist who writes on executive compensation, is on the move himself.
“Joe and I have known each other professionally for 25 years, and we’ve worked on the same side of the table and the opposite side of the table,” said Daniel Pollack, McCarter’s New York office managing partner who is a corporate governance and executive compensation expert whose own firm merged with McCarter in 2009. Pollack said that being able to draw on that experience helped him persuade Bachelder to make the leap.
Bachelder, who lives in Princeton, N.J., said that in addition to Pollack, he has known “old friends and family friends” that have worked at Newark-based McCarter for more than 50 years, including former firm chairman Eugene Haring, who died in 2009. Bachelder said he negotiated with McCarter for about six months before deciding to come aboard, noting that the looming Dec. 31 expiration of his firm’s current office lease at 437 Madison Ave. helped spur his decision. Bachelder did not rely on a legal recruiter for the move.
With the additions of Bachelder and Cohen, McCarter’s New York office at 245 Park Ave. now has 42 attorneys, according to a press release issued by the firm announcing the hires. McCarter saw its gross revenues slip a little more than 2 percent, to $211.5 million in 2011, and its profits per partner fall 11.3 percent, to $590,000, according to the annual Am Law 200 financial data.
Bachelder, who began his legal career at now-defunct Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander said the current regulatory environment poses both challenges and opportunities in the executive compensation field.
“The challenges of meeting world competition here in the [United States] is leading to a re-examination as to our methods of compensation, such as its connection with equity,” Bachelder explains. “We have long been committed to fairly short-term equity results, but we’re going to have to go longer-term by designing agreements that tie compensation to drivers of long-term value creation rather than short-term market performance.”
Several of counsel affiliated with Bachelder Law will pursue their own endeavors, including Bachelder’s younger brother Stephan, who is a name partner at Portland, Maine-based Bachelder & Dowling; White Plains-based solo practitioner Colleen Westbrook; New York solo B. Roslyn Abramov; and Michael Katzke, a former Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz partner who left that firm to pursue a career in social work before returning to the law and joining Bachelder in 2009. Katzke also now has his own solo practice.
@|Brian Baxter, a reporter for Am Law Daily, an affiliate of the Law Journal, can be reached at email@example.com.