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In October 2000 roughly 150 partners at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison traveled to the Ritz-Carlton resort in Cancun, Mexico, for their annual retreat. After a day of leisure, they gathered in a hotel ballroom for the weekend’s main event — a presentation by their chairman, Tower Snow Jr. Snow showed a video made especially for Brobeck by CNN. Star anchor Willow Bay welcomed Brobeck partners to Cancun and congratulated the law firm on being the first in the United States to embark on a national television advertising campaign on CNN (at a cost of $3 million a year). After the video, Snow and the firm’s managing partner, James Burns Jr., stood behind lecterns on the stage and recapped Brobeck’s recent performance and its prospects for the future. Riding the wave of the technology boom, it would soon become the first San Francisco Bay Area firm to break the seven-figure mark in profits per partner, at $1.17 million. With those numbers, it looked as if Snow’s strategy to make Brobeck a world-class firm was working. When Snow finished, his partners responded with a standing ovation. A few months later, those partners rewarded Snow with a $750,000 bonus, the largest in the firm’s history, lifting his compensation above $3 million for the year. A year and a half later, on May 17, 2002, Snow stepped off a London to San Francisco flight, and a United Airlines representative handed him an envelope. Snow was returning from a trip to talk to leaders of Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, the London-based global law firm, about opening West Coast offices for that firm, and bringing a big contingent of Brobeck partners with him. The letter, which Snow opened at the baggage claim area, read: Dear Tower: You have been expelled as a partner in Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP pursuant to [Brobeck's] Partnership Agreement. You are not to go to the offices of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP unless accompanied by a person designated by me. Your access to the firm computer network has been shut off and your building and office access cards have been deactivated. The letter was written by Richard Odom, Snow’s successor as Brobeck’s chairman. By the time it was handed to Snow, Brobeck had already issued a press release announcing Snow’s expulsion. And back at Snow’s office, someone had broken a key off in the lock of Snow’s door to prevent anyone from entering. The plummeting of Snow’s star at Brobeck was stunning. The previous autumn, he had stepped down early as Brobeck’s chairman, his strategic plan unraveling. Last year Brobeck’s revenue fell 9 percent, to $447 million, and its profits per partner plunged to $660,000, a stunning 44 percent decline. Most damaging to Snow, his support within Brobeck had eroded. The rise and fall of Tower Snow at Brobeck — one of San Francisco’s biggest, oldest and most prestigious law firms — is the story of an institution that turned itself over to an outsider with a grand vision. To reach his ambitious goal of transforming Brobeck from a very good regional firm into an elite national firm, Snow asked Brobeck to change its business model and its culture. He pushed his partners to focus on more profitable practice areas and tried to distinguish Brobeck by branding it as the go-to firm for technology clients. He ran the firm as a business, with the strong hand of a CEO and a distaste for complaints and dissent. Most of Snow’s partners were willing to live with the new regime when profits rose. But when they slid, Snow’s base of support evaporated. And an extraordinary round of revisionism and recrimination began. As law firms worldwide seek new ways to gain an edge in the increasingly competitive market, Brobeck’s story stands as a parable reflecting the successes and excesses of the late 1990s. In a world of prudent, often gray, law firm leaders, where the hiring of a new consultant is seen as a daring move, Snow stood out in technicolor. Charismatic, handsome, articulate and visionary, he flaunted his talents. He believed that a law firm could be run like a successful company, and, influenced by clients such as Cisco Systems Inc., he emulated the growth, management, marketing and sheer boldness of Silicon Valley’s highfliers. But in the end he failed. Because of mistakes he made, as well as forces beyond his control, his grand plan dissolved. In part, Snow and Brobeck were victims of the technology market crash, which caught so many businesses by surprise. Many law firms, especially those in the Bay Area, have suffered from the bursting tech bubble. But none has gone through anything like Brobeck’s wrenching upheaval. The problem at Brobeck was that the ambition of Snow — a lateral partner then on his third firm — outstripped that of the firm he led. Brobeck partners were, deep down, resistant to so much change. And Snow, convinced that he knew what was best for Brobeck, lost touch with, or didn’t care, what his partners wanted. For a man at the center of one of the ugliest law firm controversies in recent years, Tower Snow looks amazingly relaxed and upbeat on a bright San Francisco day in mid-July. From his new fourth-floor Clifford Chance office overlooking the Ferry Building and the bay, the 54-year-old lawyer begins an interview by relating an amusing story about how the locksmith who had just installed the locks in this office had weeks earlier been hired by Brobeck to get the broken key out of his old office door. Mostly, though, Snow is enthusing about his new mission: building his new firm, largely at the expense of his former partners. “We can’t begin to hire the number of people who want to join us,” Snow claims. He picks up from his desk a handwritten tally of people who have joined Clifford Chance’s West Coast offices in recent weeks, including 16 Brobeck partners (besides Snow) and 30 associates. “I think by Dec. 31 we will have 100 lawyers,” he predicts. (He expects many, but not all, to come from Brobeck.) He says that Brobeck clients Cisco, Broadcom Corporation and Intel Corporation have already moved securities class actions matters from Brobeck to Clifford Chance; Sun Microsystems Inc., has transferred intellectual property litigation; and Catellus Development Corp. has brought its real estate work. Snow has the unnerving ability to talk in sentences that are so well-formed that they sound rehearsed. But as he describes the extraordinary events at Brobeck, his voice at times betrays anger and sadness. He’s usually so self-confident that he can seem impervious to criticism, but when he hears some of the attacks leveled at him, he winces. For much of the interview, he holds his hands still in a perfect pyramid position. The nails have been bitten down to stubs. Does Snow wish he had handled things differently at Brobeck? “Not materially,” he says. “I did my best. I put my soul into the firm. … I had nothing more to give. I might have made different individual decisions, but fundamentally I would not have done anything differently.” WHEN IT ALL BEGAN When Snow joined Brobeck in 1995 as a lateral partner from Shearman & Sterling, his arrival was celebrated as a recruiting coup. Snow was a marquee name among securities litigators, and brought a substantial book of business. Still, one lawyer who helped recruit Snow to Brobeck admits to some concerns at the time: “He’d hopped around a bit in the past, and he did seem a bit egotistical.” Although his name suggests an aristocratic upbringing, and he dates his immigrant past to ancestors aboard the Mayflower, Snow grew up in a middle-class home, the son of a life insurance salesman. He went to Dartmouth College on a Navy ROTC scholarship. Because of his objections to the Vietnam War, he resigned from the program and never served in the military. After attending the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, Snow began his career at San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “As an associate, he was a hard charger, incredibly smart and focused, and never in doubt,” recalls former Orrick Herrington litigation partner Ronald Malone, now at San Francisco’s Shartsis, Friese & Ginsburg. Three years after Snow made partner, he was named head of Orrick Herrington’s litigation group. Not only was Snow an excellent technical lawyer, says Malone, but was also “awesome” as a partner in beauty contests. And he brought in tons of business. Orrick Herrington partner Jeffrey White recalls how as an associate the entrepreneurial Snow early on spotted securities litigation as a hot area and how as a partner he aggressively pursued clients. “He got to the point where he would do the flip side of what plaintiffs would do,” says White. Whenever a stock went down, he would call a company and say, ‘You may want to think about getting counsel.’” Snow’s talents included charm. “You sat in a room with him, and he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” White says. The Orrick Herrington lawyer notes that when someone is that charismatic, those who fall within his glow feel like the chosen, while those who don’t feel like have-nots. Malone, who co-chaired Orrick Herrington’s litigation group with Snow, points out that Snow can be harsh with those who displease him. “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he doesn’t have a lot of patience for babying people.” Malone adds, “Shades of gray don’t exist. … Once he’s decided something, that’s it.” In 1989, after 16 years at Orrick, Snow left for the San Francisco office of New York’s Shearman & Sterling. Several other prominent Orrick partners exited around that time because of issues with firm management. Snow says that he departed because the firm started to go in a different direction and was dividing into special interest groups. At Shearman & Sterling, Snow’s securities litigation practice continued to flourish, and he helped build the San Francisco office. He scored a huge victory for Apple Computer Inc. in 1991 in one of the first securities class actions to go to trial. He convinced the trial judge to throw out a $100 million verdict against his client, Vice President John Vennard, and enter a judgment in his favor. (Snow did not handle the trial.) But after six years at Shearman, Snow grew frustrated because he believed the firm was focusing on European expansion, to the detriment of growth in California. When Snow joined Brobeck, he immediately made the firm a contender in the lucrative area of securities litigation. “When Tower arrived, all of a sudden Brobeck was on the map,” recalls Thomas Bevilacqua, a former Brobeck partner who is now managing general partner at ArrowPath Venture Capital. “It was kind of remarkable.” Snow’s leadership stood out as he developed the securities litigation group. “He was very much a team builder,” says Gerard Walsh, a former Brobeck partner who moved to Clifford Chance. He recruited some of the best young associates in the firm and built a loyal following as he shared clients with younger lawyers. Snow impressed his Brobeck partners so quickly that some considered making him chairman in 1996, less than a year after he joined the firm. At the time, Brobeck was reeling internally from a long-running power struggle. John Larson, the firm’s pugnacious chairman, who had led Brobeck for eight years and helped jump-start its technology practice, had publicly battled with corporate star Robert Gunderson Jr. over control of the tech practice and the firm. In September 1995 Gunderson left with five partners and a portfolio of technology clients to form the boutique Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian. “John was quite wounded within the firm by the Gunderson stuff,” says one former Brobeck partner. “I believe he was perceived as having lost some of the franchise.” The history of Brobeck has been punctuated by battles like that. In fact, the firm was born of a war between two camps of partners at a San Francisco firm called Morrison, Dunne & Brobeck. In 1924 Herman Phleger, a partner at that firm, decided that business would be more profitable if certain partners were eliminated. Phleger and his followers proceeded to boost their bottom line by literally locking those partners out of their offices. The expelled partners returned with an ax, chopped down the door, and took their files, according to a Brobeck firm history. The expelled partners continued at a firm that would become San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster. In subsequent decades, the firm developed a reputation as a tough guy’s firm. “It has the Wild West firm culture,” says former Brobeck partner Bevilacqua, who left the firm in 1998. “It’s a terrific law firm with terrific lawyers, but it’s devoid of any warm and fuzzy feelings.” To follow Larson, Brobeck partners picked Stephen Snyder, a well-liked litigator. Snyder’s conciliation skills seemed like the right tonic for the time, although he wasn’t the most dynamic leader. After a single, two-year term, Snyder opted not to run again. SNOW AT HIS PEAK Snow was elected chairman in 1998 with the enthusiastic backing of Snyder and Larson. Untainted by the firm’s historic rifts, he looked like a fresh face who could steer Brobeck on a new path. “I thought he was a visionary kind of person,” recalls Larson, who says that Snow’s first two years as chairman were “quite beneficial.” Snow selected as his managing partner James Burns, a fellow litigator with a steady temperament and an eye for details. Snow laid out an ambitious agenda for his partners, which he reiterated at nearly every partner meeting. He would transform Brobeck into an elite national law firm by focusing on high-margin areas where the firm could differentiate itself, including its tech practice, securities litigation, and intellectual property. Previously Brobeck had been known as yet another diversified full-service firm. It had a strong litigation department that handled big-budget product liability cases, including the defense of asbestos makers. Its corporate lawyers had gained an early toehold in Silicon Valley, but the firm wasn’t as concentrated in the technology space as such competitors as Palo Alto, Calif.’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Cooley Godward. Snow worked every angle. He poured money into marketing, spending millions on the CNN ad campaign and buying ads in The Wall Street Journal. He hired top administrators, including executive director Abe Isenberg from Howrey & Simon. He courted the press, and got more coverage for the firm, and himself. Brobeck became much more profitable, thanks in large part to the flourishing high-end practices. The securities litigation group tripled its revenues, from $16 million in 1998 to close to $50 million in 2001; intellectual property, headed by lateral catch James Elacqua from Arnold White & Durkee, zoomed from less than $10 million in 1997 to more than $60 million. The revenues of Brobeck’s corporate group, called Business and Technology, more than doubled. When it came to the firm’s biggest client, Cisco, Snow cultivated a relationship with its CEO and president, John Chambers, and two years ago began attending the company’s board meetings. Last year the San Jose, Calif., company accounted for more than $20 million of Brobeck’s revenue. The firm also courted companies at the opposite end of the tech spectrum, snapping up work for startups, as well as their stock. Snow also decided that Brobeck’s culture needed overhauling. The firm was known as a bare-knuckles place, where powerful partners got what they wanted, and associates and staff often felt unappreciated. He treated staff members as valued professionals and built a loyal core of upper-level administrators. The firm handed out $1,000 checks on Valentine’s Day to all staffers for two years, increasing the bonus to $1,500 in the third year. Snow opened up communications with staff and associates by holding monthly brown-bag lunches, where he shared information about the firm and took questions. “He treated the staff with a great deal of respect at all levels,” says David Geyer, Brobeck’s former marketing director, who is now at Orrick Herrington. “He set a very good standard in how he empowered the staff.” It was hard work. Snow logged 3,500 hours a year at a minimum, most of it management time. (He still devoted a few hundred hours a year to practicing.) He often worked from his home 40 miles north of San Francisco in the wine country town of Napa. Traveling for the firm, he flew more than 100,000 miles a year. Snow’s game plan didn’t please everyone. As the firm increased its billing rates, some partners feared they’d be priced out of their clients, especially those whose practices struggled to support premium rates (including some employment, litigation, and banking work). “[Snow] wanted to practice law on a different scale and level, and [some partners] were scared that they might not fit into his vision. He was taking the firm out of their comfort range,” says Sara Brody, a former Brobeck partner now at Clifford Chance. Snow’s tighter management also alienated some partners. They had to be more disciplined about time sheets, billings, and collections, and offenders had portions of their draws withheld. A partner who didn’t get his bills out by the end of the month in which services were performed would have 10 percent of his monthly draw withheld, for example. If an associate in a partner’s group was tardy with his time sheets, that partner would see 10 percent or more of his draw held back. Snow also stripped away special privileges that had become common during Larson’s tenure. Most glaring was that well-connected corporate partners had been allowed to cut their own deals for valuable equity in startup clients. Under Snow, those investment opportunities had to be shared with the whole partnership. “In the days before Tower, favoritism and cronyism existed,” says ex-partner Bevilacqua. “He put an end to it.” Some powerful partners grew resentful. “They felt they didn’t have the freedom to manage the way they used to. They wanted to retain their fiefdoms,” observes one of Snow’s supporters. The San Diego and Palo Alto offices in particular chafed under Snow’s mandates. Snow and Burns jokingly referred to the San Diego office as “the Republic of San Diego.” San Diego partner Richard Parker, who is now Brobeck’s managing partner, says that that office was no more critical of Snow than any other. “Tower never treated partners in a good way,” complains San Diego partner Craig Andrews, who chaired the Business and Technology group from 1998 to 2000. According to Andrews, who left the firm in 2000 and returned this year in the newly created position of vice-chairman, Snow imposed “a Russian-style centralized management system.” There was also the matter of Snow’s style. He acted as if he couldn’t see how any reasonable person could differ with him. “He was not rude, but he had his vision, and his vision would rule the day,” says one Brobeck partner. Former Brobeck partner Michael Torpey, who is a friend of Snow’s and followed him to Clifford Chance, recalls one operations committee meeting last year in which he and Snow had a heated exchange over Torpey’s suggestion that the busy securities litigation group, which Torpey headed, take underused associates from the corporate group. As Torpey recalls it: “Snow said, ‘I think you’re being stupid, and it’s absolutely the wrong move. You’ll populate your group with people who don’t know what they’re doing.’ ” But Snow told Torpey that he could make the call, and Torpey says that Snow later agreed with him. “Tower is relentless in terms of direct, open communications, regardless of who the partner is, regardless of how senior, and how big a book of business you have,” says Torpey. He adds that Snow has been known to take a complaint he’s received on his voicemail by one partner about another, and forward the message to the offending party. “There were no secrets,” says Torpey. PUSHING THE ECONOMIC BUBBLE Brobeck vice-chairman Andrews claims that Snow created such a “culture of repression and vindictiveness” that partners feared to speak their minds. Others reject that notion, although those who challenged Snow had to brace themselves for verbal combat. “He is an agile and formidable arguer,” notes Torpey. “Few … were prepared to take him on.” Another partner who is close to Snow indicates how intimidating he can be: “I think people are afraid of him in a very primal sense.” When Snow ran for re-election in 2000, a few challengers emerged, but Brobeck partners voted to keep their chairman in office. The firm was, after all, doing very well. Its revenue soared from $214 million to $314 million during Snow’s first term, with profits per partner rising more than 50 percent, to $855,000. Snow’s partners rewarded their chairman richly. In fact, every year that Snow was at Brobeck — regardless of whether he was chairman — he was the firm’s highest-paid partner. Emboldened by this success, Snow pushed the boundaries even more. He predicted that law firms would soon go public, and pronounced that West Coast, tech-oriented firms like Brobeck had created a new paradigm and would challenge the New York firms for dominance [see " Radical Redesign"]. “Those that don’t get it are already dead. They just don’t know it,” he told The American Lawyer two years ago. During this time, Brobeck ballooned in size. In one year, from the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2000, the firm grew 40 percent, from 540 lawyers to 754. Nearly 250 laterals, including partners and associates, joined the firm. These hiring decisions were not Snow’s alone. Recommendations started with department heads, and were evaluated by the firm’s two principal management groups, the operations and policy committees. Brobeck’s Business and Technology group, led by Andrews and then Austin partner Carmelo Gordian, doubled in size in less than two years. “The decision to expand the Business and Technology group from 200 to 400 lawyers by the end of 2000 was widely known and discussed,” notes one person involved in management. “There was no outcry I heard of, ‘How could we be hiring all these lawyers?’” Real estate decisions, likewise, involved many partners. The partnership approved every new lease, as Brobeck’s partnership agreement requires. The operations committee, which consists of all of the office heads and department chairmen, also scrutinized each new request for space. Current managing partner Parker pushed for Brobeck to commit to a second building in San Diego, which it now must sublease. Palo Alto partner Warren Lazarow, who now sits on Brobeck’s policy committee, advocated for so much new space in East Palo Alto that Snow and managing partner Burns had to rein him in. The firm now has 200,000 square feet of space there that it doesn’t need. Firmwide, Brobeck is sitting on close to 500,000 square feet of excess space, according to one former Brobeck partner. The firm declined to comment. When the economy started sputtering in April 2000, Snow predicted — as many did — that a recovery would come quickly. “In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think [the downturn] would be as deep or as long,” Snow admits. “I thought we would come out of it no later than the second half of ’01.” But the technology sector stayed moribund. The initial public offerings that had generated so much work dwindled, then evaporated: Brobeck went from handling 74 IPOs in 1999 to 47 in 2000 to a pitiful three in 2001. Instead of retrenching, Snow raised the stakes. In January 2001 Brobeck boosted starting associate salaries by $10,000, to $135,000. A few, but not all, firms followed. The move angered some clients, who didn’t want to subsidize those salaries by paying higher rates. Silicon Valley competitors such as Cooley Godward and Fenwick & West, which had grown almost as fast as Brobeck, laid off associates in the summer of 2001. Cooley’s profits per partner would end up falling 21 percent in 2001, less than half Brobeck’s decline. And at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which recently announced layoffs, partner profits fell just 11 percent. Snow, however, told reporters that Brobeck wouldn’t lay off associates as long as he was chairman, believing it would be wrong and a bad business move. “I and everybody in management agreed we had substantial overcapacity,” says Snow. He figured they had 20 percent more lawyers than they needed — about 160 too many. Still, he argued that the problem would resolve itself through attrition and performance reviews sometime in 2002, and that partners should shoulder the financial hit in the meantime. Some Brobeck partners were angered that Snow went public with that pledge, locking the firm into an inflexible position. San Diego partner William Sullivan, who heads the securities litigation group, maintains that Snow squelched any discussion of the overcapacity problem. “People who wanted to discuss this were basically shut down,” he claims. But several partners who were on Brobeck’s policy or operations committees at the time contradict Sullivan (who wasn’t a member of those groups then). They say that overcapacity was discussed at length at every one of those committees’ monthly meetings, starting in the spring of 2001. “The subject was discussed at great length every month,” says Karen Johnson-McKewan, the former managing partner of Brobeck’s San Francisco office, who sat on the operations committee. (She has followed Snow to Clifford Chance.) Another partner notes that the minutes of the September 2001 operations committee meeting show an extensive discussion of layoffs. At the end of each of those meetings Snow asked the 21-person group if anyone wanted to lay off associates. Until August 2001, no one spoke up. That month partner Richard Parker, who then headed the San Diego office, said he might be in favor, but he was the only one. Over the summer of 2001 Snow had signaled to friends that he might not run again when his term expired at the end of January 2002, although he now says he hadn’t decided. The job had exhausted him, and his marriage, his second, was in trouble. He also had a 2-year-old daughter to think about. Soon after Sept. 11, a group of influential partners decided that the firm needed to change course quickly and that Snow had to go. “He was not listening to people telling him how much the economy was turning,” says Sullivan. Support coalesced around Dick Odom, 58, a Los Angeles partner who then headed the litigation group. He was considered solid, thoughtful, and trustworthy. He also had another big asset going for him: He is the anti-Snow. Low key, selfless, and without a drop of charisma, Odom’s blandness was a selling point after four years of Snow’s grabbing the spotlight. A few years back, Odom had briefly left Brobeck to join Howrey & Simon, but that defection wasn’t considered a major blemish on his record, especially at a firm with so many lateral partners. Parker, a 48-year-old tax lawyer, led the campaign to elect Odom. In mid-October, Snow told his partners by videoconference that he would not seek another term. Parker and Odom maintain that Snow was pressured by partners to step down. Snow insists that this wasn’t so: “Not one person, not one person — not Rick Parker or Dick Odom or John Larson or anybody else — had ever had a discussion with me about not running. Nobody suggested to me that I should not run, or that I would not win.” Snow says he opted not to run after Sept. 11 because the uncertainty of the business climate had panicked a segment of the partnership, and he realized that he wouldn’t be able to pursue his strategy. EAGER TO OUST SNOW After Snow made his announcement, he left for a 10-day vacation with his family. (After the vacation his wife filed for divorce.) Within days of Snow’s return, Parker launched a recall campaign to toss Snow out of office before his term ran its course at the end of January. The tax lawyer had latched onto rumors that Snow had told associates at a brown-bag lunch that any partner who would lay off associates was “morally bankrupt.” According to Parker, more than half the partners signed the recall petition. Snow insists that he didn’t say this, and an associate who was present at the lunch confirms Snow’s account. Clifford Chance’s Torpey offers an explanation as to why Parker was so eager to oust Snow: “Rick Parker had this very, very focused position that he would not give Tower the opportunity to resign over layoffs and take the moral high ground.” Parker responds that he was acting consistently with what the “vast majority” of his partners wanted. Snow, who had given so much of himself to Brobeck, was deeply offended. “In my four years as chairman, I never worked less than 3,500 hours, some years 4,000 hours,” he says in a measured but angry tone. “Those work hours cost me my marriage and cost me at least 50 percent of my time with my daughter, watching her grow up. I was working nearly 16,000 hours [over the four years], and some people were pushing to have me recalled based on what I said at a brown-bag lunch? I thought it spoke volumes about the values of a segment of the partnership, and I was appalled.” Parker and Odom maintain that when Snow was confronted with the recall effort, he agreed to step down early. Again, Snow disputes that account. He says that his decision wasn’t prompted by the petition. Instead, he and Burns simply didn’t want to be lame-duck leaders. In November a firmwide vote made Odom chairman and Parker managing partner. To hear Snow describe it, he was practically blindsided by what happened. “I never had the perception that I didn’t have the support of a majority of the partners, nor did others in management,” he says. “Up until I announced that I would not seek another term, it never occurred to me I would not be re-elected.” Clifford Chance partner Johnson-McKewan, a member of Snow’s management circle, says that she, too, was caught off guard. “It was not just Tower who didn’t see this coming. … A lot of us were surprised by the partners’ reaction to Tower,” she says. She notes that Snow’s opponents “played it very close to the vest.” The end of the year — collection season — isn’t a great time for a management coup. Several partners say that Brobeck’s collections suffered because of the upheaval; some partners were distracted, and the new management didn’t have Snow’s and Burns’s experience. One partner speculates that Odom and Parker wanted to defer income to 2002, to make their first full year look good. Parker calls these claims “bullshit,” and says that collections ended up in the “same range” they’d been for years. After Snow resigned, the firm started cutting bodies. In November it offered a voluntary buyout program to associates, which 82 accepted. (Parker notes that the buyout program cut into profits, by adding $3 million of expense in 2001.) In February, Brobeck laid off 54 associates and 85 staff. Nearly all the departed were from the Business and Technology group. Already disaffected by the way that Odom and Parker had taken over, Snow grew angrier in the following months. He says that the two broke a promise not to disparage him or Burns publicly, pointing to a Dec. 3, 2001, article in California Law Business, a local legal publication, in which Odom criticized Snow for portraying Brobeck partners as being more in love with making money than with serving clients. “They set about demonizing us in the press. … That left a bad taste in my mouth,” he says. Snow also felt insulted that the new leaders never sought his advice. Furthermore, some partners even attempted to interfere with his relationships with clients, he claims. “The message was loud and clear: ‘We don’t want you here.’” As Odom and Parker built their management team, they included people who were hostile to Snow. Former chairman Larson, whose relationship with Snow had deteriorated during Snow’s tenure, was named cohead of the Business and Technology group at age 67, giving him a seat on the operations committee. Larson had grown resentful of the attention Snow sought and got for the firm’s successes in the tech arena. “The idea that Tower Snow was driving this firm [in the technology area], I don’t know if it’s ridiculous or what,” said Larson in a recent interview. “It was the people in the Business and Technology group.” In early February one of Snow’s old adversaries came back to Brobeck in a high-level post. Craig Andrews, the former San Diego partner who had left the firm after clashes with Snow, rejoined as vice-chairman of the policy committee. (Andrews had spent time at a startup, then moved briefly to Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins.) According to three former partners, Brobeck agreed to pay the 49-year-old lawyer a $500,000 signing bonus and guarantee him $1 million a year, even though he didn’t bring a book of business. Brobeck management declined to confirm these details. Andrews doesn’t hide his animus toward Snow. He notes that he and Snow had some “violent disagreements” when Snow was chairman, and complains that when he left Brobeck in May of 2000, Snow refused to pay him any income for that year. “That cost me a lot of money,” he gripes. (It’s Brobeck’s partnership agreement, however, that prevents departing partners from getting any income if they leave before the firm breaks even for the year. That agreement is now being applied to Snow and his fellow defectors.) Soon after he gave up the top job at Brobeck, Snow says he was contacted by many firms. In January he called James Benedict, a fellow securities litigator he knew who was Clifford Chance’s managing partner for the Americas. By April rumors about Snow’s discussions with Clifford Chance had popped up in the U.S. and British legal press. Some articles claimed that more than 50 partners might defect with Snow. During the week of May 13, Snow, Burns, and Torpey traveled to London to try to seal the deal. But on May 16 the British firm issued a press release announcing that discussions with Snow had ended. Snow suddenly looked vulnerable, and his detractors jumped into action. The next day, May 17, several partners went office to office asking people to sign a petition that would immediately expel Snow from the firm. Before the end of the day, roughly 75 percent of Brobeck’s partners had signed, according to the firm. Ex-Brobeck partner Walsh says the firm’s method for collecting signatures was heavy-handed. “If you’re a young partner and the managing partner comes into your office and tells you to sign … that’s a lot of pressure,” he says. Walsh, a Los Angeles real estate lawyer, refused to sign because he didn’t think Snow’s ouster was in the firm’s best interest: “What are we trying to accomplish if the goal is to stabilize the firm?” He suggested that Brobeck instead negotiate Snow’s exit and pay him not to solicit lawyers and staff. But the firm’s leaders didn’t even want to talk to their ex-chairman. Vice-chairman Andrews says it would have been a “waste of time” to wait to talk to Snow before expelling him because he had rebuffed efforts to reach him. “Every possible way was made to contact him, and there was no response,” Andrews claims. But the firm can identify only one message left for Snow during the week of May 13 — a voicemail Odom left on Snow’s office phone on May 16, the day before the ouster. Odom told Snow he wanted to talk to him about something “important,” but didn’t indicate why he was calling. Snow claims he never got the message until after his ouster, because he wasn’t checking his voicemail during his last days in London. In the days following Snow’s expulsion, some of his enemies were jubilant. “It was a brilliant strategic move. … They dealt him a staggering blow,” crowed Todd Anson, a former Brobeck partner who had once headed the San Diego office. (Anson is now a partner at Cisterra Partners, a real estate development company.) What Brobeck management didn’t know was that the Clifford Chance talks had never really died. The firm had issued that press release to keep reporters at bay while it tried to work out sticking points with Snow and his team. (The problem lay mostly with the size and composition of the group that would move.) On May 28 Clifford Chance announced that Snow would be joining after all, and that it had extended offers to 16 Brobeck partners, who would open four West Coast offices for the firm. (Clifford Chance made offers to 21 partners, but five decided not to come, at least not immediately.) When asked why Brobeck shouldn’t feel justified ousting him when he was attempting to steal so many partners, Snow leans forward across his desk and smiles. “I didn’t take them. They came,” he says. “I didn’t go out soliciting partners. The partners and associates and staff came to me and others and said, ‘Can we join you?’” BROBECK, SNOW AND THE FUTURE Three weeks after Snow’s unprecedented expulsion, Brobeck’s new chairman, Dick Odom, and managing partner, Rick Parker, are preparing to answer questions in the same room that Snow once used for interviews, a 28th-floor conference room with a grand view of the San Francisco Bay. Unlike Snow, who delights in talking to the media, Odom seems distinctly uncomfortable in a public role. During the interview, the litigator wrings his hands and consults a thick tablet with notes. Odom and Parker stress that after four years under Snow, they have “unleashed” — a word they use repeatedly — Brobeck partners from Snow’s heavy hand. “Partners needed to be freed to deliver their entrepreneurial skills, rather than have one-size-fits-all rules imposed on them,” says Odom. Critiquing Snow’s strategy, Odom and Parker fault the former chairman for promoting Brobeck too heavily as a technology firm. “That was extremely irritating to partners, because it was not correct. We never were a tech-only firm,” says Odom. “Long-term institutional clients would call up and say, ‘Do you care about us anymore?’” The big problem, however, was Snow’s refusal to lay off associates. “To make public pronouncements that [layoffs] would never happen was inconsistent with what partners wanted the firm to do,” says Odom. When asked if Snow did any good things for Brobeck, the two pause and say nothing. “There were some good years, [but] they evolved into not very positive things,” Odom admits finally. “Tower was listening less and becoming more autocratic.” The new chairman casts Snow’s reign as a bad dream that is finally over. “Tower was here for a very brief time in the firm’s history. People are glad that chapter is behind us and we can turn back to the way it was before.” In the weeks since the ouster, tensions have not eased. The firm has not told the departed partners if they’ll get their capital back. Some Brobeck partners have agitated for the firm to sue Snow for breaching his fiduciary duties. At press time Brobeck had not taken that step, although it has retained Robert Long at Latham & Watkins for issues relating to the departure of Snow and his group. Snow, who has hired Cooley Godward chairman Stephen Neal to protect his interests, insists that he didn’t breach any duties. For now, Snow’s critics pursue a campaign to discredit — and at times vilify — their former chairman. “I don’t know if [Snow's mismanagement] ranks up with [that of] Finley Kumble, but it’s hard to imagine how [it could be much worse],” asserts former chairman Larson. (Finley, Kumble, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, once the nation’s fourth-biggest law firm, collapsed in 1988 under a wave of financial and management scandals.) He adds, “What kills me is that Clifford Chance has nothing to do with technology. If the person is such a damn visionary, what’s he doing at Clifford Chance?” “They made some of the worst business decisions in the history of management,” charges vice-chairman Andrews about Snow and Burns. “Tower and Jim were planning for permanent good times.” He adds, “We sort of turned over the key of a Maserati [to Snow], and he crashed it into a wall. Then, instead of fixing it, he goes off to greener pastures.” But didn’t Snow’s partners approve and help drive Brobeck’s ambitious expansion plans? And if they wanted to lay off associates, why didn’t the management committees overrule Snow and vote for layoffs? When Snow asked these committees if they wanted to do layoffs, why didn’t anyone speak up? Odom and Parker complain that Snow didn’t ask the question the right way. “The question was never, ‘Should we think about layoffs?’” says Parker. “The question was asked, ‘Does anybody want to vote to do layoffs?’ ” Litigation head Sullivan admits that Brobeck’s partnership bears responsibility for many of the firm’s decisions, but still keeps the finger pointed at Snow. “ He was the leader.” “These decisions were not Tower’s alone, and Tower was not going against the tide. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says one person at Brobeck. “What are they, cattle being led to slaughter? There were mistakes made by Tower and Jim, but everything that happened here was not forced down by Tower. Where were all these partners when they had to approve all this stuff?” Brobeck’s new leaders have quickly discovered how challenging running a firm can be. At a time when Brobeck needs a strong and visible leader, Odom has not been the most confidence-inspiring presence. His partners have complained about his communications skills, and he has avoided contact with the press. (With the exception of one interview, Odom let Parker answer all questions for this article.) The firm’s strategic vision appears to center on taking Brobeck back to “the way things were,” under the influence of veterans such as Larson. At Clifford Chance, Snow sits on the firm’s Americas Management Group, as do Burns and Torpey. Snow says he’ll spend close to half his time practicing law, and will focus on building the West Coast operations for the firm. So Snow seems to have landed on his feet. Whether Brobeck will is another story. Related charts: Brobeck Under Snow 1998-2001:Gross Revenue, Profits per Partner, Am Law Ranking, Number of Lawyers

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