Several partners at Bingham McCutchen, the 123-year-old firm that is Big Law’s latest flameout, recall exactly when they knew it was the beginning of the end. It was noon on Jan. 30, during the monthly partner teleconference call.

They were hoping to hear about a bold change in course: Countercyclical restructuring and big-ticket litigation had dried up, and many partners were facing 20 percent cuts in their 2013 compensation, the second hit in two years. But Bingham chair Jay Zimmerman didn’t have a new plan. Instead, he reminded partners that the firm would soon begin to reap millions of dollars in savings from a new administrative support center in Lexington, Ky., and told them the firm would continue its practice of “active waiting” for the next growth opportunity.

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