Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Skaddenfreude

Some Follow-Up on Jones Day’s Confidential Compensation Model

Jones Day Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgLast week we put up a post about associate compensation issues at Jones Day. It generated a torrent of comments. As always, some were negative, some positive.
A few readers were upset by the negative comments and came to their firm’s defense. Here’s what one wrote:

I am a third year lawyer at Jones Day. I enjoy my job and am paid well (and I mean darn well) above market. I hesitate to respond to such mudslinging by persons who are either disgruntled or misinformed, but as a current happy third year lawyer at Jones Day, I felt the need to set the record straight.

People who are unhappy with their compensation at Jones Day are in fact underperformers. Believe me, if I were in charge, I would fire those people rather than giving them a $160,000 “hint” that they aren’t Jones Day material and should consider a career change. Because anyone who thinks that paying a third year lawyer the published salary of a first year lawyer is not a “message” about work quality is delusional. In no other profession do competent, mature people complain about being compensated based on their performance (or lack thereof).

To reiterate: I did not clerk. I have never billed more than 2100 hours. I have received bonuses despite billing slightly under 2000 hours. I have had many fantastic substantive opportunities (read: not two years of document review). I enjoy my job and colleagues. I am paid based on the quality (again, not quantity) of my work, which turns out to be more than most 4th year lawyers billing 2000-2100 hours at big firms in NY.

And the beauty of our confidential system is that other greedy jealous underperforming associates aren’t blogging about my pay stub. Instead, those “lawyers” have gotten the Jones Day “hint,” and are now spending their time at a new employer – not representing clients, but blogging about their ex-employer who figured out that they were worthless.

Ouch. That was way harsh, Tai.
But it’s a fair point. Why shouldn’t a firm pay associates what it thinks they’re worth on an individual basis, and if the associates don’t like it, they can leave? This is effectively what investment banks do with their personnel.
Additional commentary about JD, plus a photo of some of their paralegals at play, after the jump.

By the way, the firm recently added Judge Walter Kelley (E.D. Va.) in its D.C. office. Good stuff!
Here’s another market-based defense of the Jones Day confidential compensation system, similar to the previous one, although milder in tone:

I think, contrary to what some people seem to be saying, that the beauty of having a compensation system that is confidential and merit-based, as opposed to one that is lock-step and publicized, is that if an associate does exceptional work, she can be paid more than her classmates without causing widespread dissension.

Think about it: If I were running a firm, I’d do it this way too. If an associate is being paid well below market, as is the one featured in your blog, then that associate will leave, and it probably won’t be a huge loss to the firm, who would have paid that associate more if she were worth it. From what I can tell, the really good lawyers at Jones Day are compensated for it; why else would they stay? I, for one, feel appreciated here.

Of course, for every cheerleader, there’s a naysayer. Of course, perhaps this source is one of the “underperformers” criticized by the prior tipsters:

worked at jones day dallas…. it is not lock step. bonus structure does not exist. if some are rewarded, they are $5k amounts and tend to be for huge (2300 hour) years. profound secrecy associated with comp. associates in each class year get together and talk and basically everyone is paid the same amount (unless you had a really big year in which you may be adjusted up), but everyone in each class year is close to other plus or minus 5k. for comps, look at local market and base bonus for 1900 hours.

the upside of that is that if you show up and don’t meet hours threshold, you make more $ than most people in town. if you exceed 2000 hours, bc of bonuses, you are better off at any other firm. no one at jones day gets away with years under 2000 hours, so you work harder and get paid far less $.

they also have enormous issues re: compression of salaries. when i left there was only a 60k spread between a 1st year and a 10th year attorney (versus my current firm which has a 120K spread with another 40-70k bonus spread). firm has issues supporting 4th tier cities (do you really need a columbus or pittsburgh office?) and therefore cannot entice partners with decent book of business to lateral in large markets (bc every office subsidizes marginal offices). huge morale issues regardless of office people work in. also, some offices (dallas) have moved back to business formal attire everyday. the business model they have sucks and they are getting killed in any decent market (NY, LA, CH, DC). have never regretted the decision i made to leave and every person i know that ever left (and i know dozens who have) always say they wish they had jumped ship sooner.

Say what you will about Jones Day. At least their paralegals know how to party! Check out the photo below. Redwelds and binders are visible in the background, beers in the foreground — which is as it should be:
Jones Day paralegals Above the Law blog.jpg
Judge Walter D. Kelley, Jr. to Join Jones Day’s Washington D.C. Office [Jones Day]
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Jones Day?

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