Alston & Bird, Bad Ideas, BARBRI, Biglaw, Cheapness, Money, Skaddenfreude

Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Alston & Bird, Called Out

Alston Bird LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re delighted to see that ATL has so many readers in ATL. And we apologize for that one time we were mean to you. (We don’t know what got into us; guess it was that time of the month.)
This morning’s post about the Alston & Bird raise, which will take effect shortly before your kids enter law school, generated robust commentary. It also earned us another shout-out in the mainstream media. From an Atlanta reader:

“Above the Law was mentioned in the Daily Report article on the Alston & Bird raise. In fact, the reporter confronted A&B’s hiring partner with some of the comments to your post.”

Here’s an excerpt from Meredith Hobbs’s excellent piece:

[A]ssociates posting anonymously to the Above the Law blog, a gossip and news Web site about big law firms, were not happy with Alston’s pay increase. They contended that associate pay in Atlanta still lags behind that in other comparable markets, such as Houston and Dallas….

Several blog posters criticized Alston for pay compression, pointing out that the firm is not increasing pay for more senior classes at the same $15,000 rate as for first-years.

“A&B did raise today. Starts at $145K, tops at $190K. So much for solving compression. Folks are devestated [sic],” wrote “Anonymous” a scant hour after Alston announced the increase last evening.

“First years get a 15K raise. I get 5K,” groused another.

When told of the comments, [A&B hiring partner Jonathan W. Lowe] responded: “If this is true, I am certainly disappointed to hear that our associates are unhappy with this pay raise. We try to determine what the market is with respect to associate salary in each of the cities where we have offices, and this was our best effort at determining the market in Atlanta at this time.”

We agree with our reader’s take on on Jon Lowe’s response:

“His reaction to the negative comments seemed to catch him off guard. You almost get the impression he expected to hear only the sound of Cristal corks popping.”

But hey, A&B associates, it’s not all bad. Remember the firm’s special generosity, back in May?
If this isn’t ringing a bell, your recollection may be refreshed by two emails, reprinted after the jump.

From: Emily Leeson On Behalf Of Jonathan Lowe
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2007 5:21 PM
To: [numerous names redacted]
Importance: High
If you’re receiving this email, you’re on a list of people that we believe are potential claimants in the case of Rodriguez, et al. v. West Publishing Corp., et al. The Class consists of:
All persons who purchased a bar review course from BAR/BRI in the United States from August 1, 1997 thru July 31, 2006 who did not request to be excluded from the Class on or before August 13, 2006.
If you’re one of those people, then you apparently have a claim that is payable out of a class action settlement. We believe that the amount payable to each claimant is approximately $125,000.
[$125,000 — WTF? Must be a typo. Maybe Lowe’s secretary, who prepared this email, couldn’t fathom a settlement amount below six figures.]
Update: According to a commenter, “Emily Leeson is not Jon Lowe’s secretary, but the head of recruiting. They actually did think that the BAR/BRI settlement was 125k per attorney. Those emails caused chaos at A&B as many associates thought that they were going to be getting 125k and that A&B wanted half of it.”
Over the years, Alston & Bird has had several different programs of reimbursement and/or up-front signing bonuses for new lawyers, all intended to defray the cost of the expenses of bar exams, including bar review courses. Thus, there is a powerful argument that the firm should be the ultimate recipient of the settlement amounts.
However, given the complications of making application, and the fact that there is also an argument to the effect that the settlement amounts are intended to punish BAR/BRI, and not just reimburse exam-takers, a decision has been made that we should go 50/50: 50% of the settlement amount to the individual (that’s you), and 50% to the firm.
And rather than make a federal case out of it, we propose to use the honor system. When you receive your claim form, please just fill it out and send it in to claim the recovery amount. Then, when you receive your check, deposit it and then prepare a check of your own to Alston & Bird for 1/2 of the amount. Hopefully, all will agree that this is a fair deal and an easy resolution. If you have questions, please give me a call.
When you’ve received your money from the class action, please send to the check for half the recovery to Emily Leeson, noting on the memo line at the bottom “1/2 of Rodriguez recovery.”
Many thanks, in advance, for your cooperation.
From: Lowe, Jon
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 9:07 AM
To: [numerous names redacted]
Cc: Hays, Richard
Subject: BAR/BRI Thing
With the benefit of wise counsel from substantial numbers of good people, numerous indications of widespread confusion, and a good night’s sleep, I’ve decided that you should keep the whole check.
Sorry for the interruption. Enjoy!
A&B raises rookie pay to $145K, but some associates feel gypped [Fulton County Daily Report]

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