Although many associates are angry about the freezes, others are relieved, said David Lat, founding editor of AboveTheLaw.com, a blog about law firms and the profession.
“There is this sense that firms didn’t act prudently during the boom and now they are getting religion, and that it’s better late than never,” Mr. Lat said. “Many associates we have spoken to think the freeze probably saved jobs.”
At the beginning of the month, we did a round-up of firms that have frozen 2009 salary rates at 2008 levels. That list was 16 firms long. Since then, quite a few other firms have announced freezes. Due to frequent requests, we’re updating the round-up list since the number of firms with freezes (that we know of) has
more than doubled, to 33 32. Check out the as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it list, after the jump.
Recently announced salary freezes include “solid ice freezes” at Blank Rome and Townsend and Townsend and Crew; and “Slurpee freezes” at Bingham McCutchen, Fish & Richardson, and Texan firm Andrews Kurth.
Memorandums, as well as a new list of all firms with “solid ice” and “Slurpee” freezes, after the jump.
Here’s a list of firms that have locked 2009 attorney salaries in at 2008 rates. Those in bold are new additions since our Jan. 7 round-up:
Solid Ice Freeze (2009 salaries will remain at 2008 levels)
Arent Fox (memo posted previously)
Ballard Spahr (memo posted previously)
Fish & Richardson
Goodwin Procter (memo posted previously)
Hogan & Hartson (memo posted previously)
Latham & Watkins
Morgan Lewis (memo posted previously)
Perkins Coie (memo posted previously)
Wilson Sonsini ( the announcement was accompanied by layoff news– see memo on previous post)
The Slurpee Freeze (2009 salaries will remain at 2008 levels… for now)
Alston & Bird (memo posted previously)
Arnold & Porter
Bryan Cave (3 month delay)
Chadbourne & Parke (memo posted previously)
Dorsey & Whitney
Fish & Richardson
Fulbright & Jaworski (will revisit after the first quarter)
Haynes and Boone (see article in Texas Lawyer)
Mayer Brown (memo posted previously)
McDermott Will & Emery (will revisit in March)
Sidley Austin (will revisit “sometime” in the first quarter)
Womble Carlyle (will revisit mid-year)
ANDREWS KURTH MEMORANDUM FROM MANAGING PARTNER BOB JEWELL
I realize that by this time of year we have historically communicated our annual salary adjustments for non-partner attorneys. I thought it best to communicate our present thoughts on this in a manner that puts it in context with our strong performance in 2008.
In many respects, 2008 was an extraordinary year for Andrews Kurth. We weathered the devastation and disruption of Hurricane Ike to our largest office, a year-long recession, the demise of the traditional investment bank and a melt-down of the capital markets. In the face of this adversity, our total fee revenues for 2008 were approximately $266 million (a record, up from $251 million in 2007 and $237 million in 2006). Cash distributions to partners were also a record and were on target with our forecast. To help provide the financial strength with which to approach the uncertainties in the economy and the possible impact on the demand for legal services in 2009, we were also able to use the proceeds from a contingent fee recovery and additional above forecast collections to prepay over $10 million of 2009 expenses, further reduce our bank debt and materially increase our working capital. I am very proud of what we accomplished in 2008, and we could not have done it without the hard work and support of our entire firm.
While some law firms have already set salaries for 2009, the uncertainties of the economy have caused a number of other national law firms to announce either that they have held salaries flat for 2009 or that they have temporarily done so until later in the year. In that light, we believe it is appropriate for us to defer action with respect to 2009 salaries for our associates and counsel attorneys at this time. Accordingly, the bimonthly checks or direct deposits for these attorneys will not reflect any adjustment until the market settles, which we anticipate will be during the first quarter. Salaries for senior attorneys and of counsel attorneys will be handled on a case-by-case basis and communicated later this month.
We will review market data in 2009 regarding bonuses, including both the criteria for bonuses and the amounts that would be paid.
As ever, our purpose is to compensate our well-performing non-partner attorneys in amounts that are competitive. We will continue to evaluate both salaries and bonuses and will communicate our decisions as soon as practicable.
I thank you for your patience.
BINGHAM MCCUTCHEN MEMORANDUM
To: zz attorneys all
Cc: zz directors all; zz atty dev team all; zz recruiting team
Subject: RE: Associate, Counsel and Of Counsel Compensation and Bonus Plan
While our financial performance for 2008 was very strong, today’s economic environment has required all businesses to review and adjust expenses in anticipation of a continued economic downturn in 2009. Therefore, we have decided that associate, counsel and of counsel salaries for 2009 will remain at 2008 levels. We will continue to monitor the economic situation throughout the year — especially in our New York and London markets — to assess the possibility of upwardly adjusting 2009 base salaries at a later time.
Pursuant to our Hours and Bonus Policy, we will be awarding the following bonuses for 2008 performance. Eligible associates and counsel who have attained the 2,100 core hours requirement will receive bonuses ranging from $17,500 to $32,500. Also, those who exceeded the core hours requirements will receive additional bonuses in all markets. As in the past, of counsel bonuses will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Bonuses will also be paid to those who met the billable, but not core, expectation.
These adjustments will help us preserve our strength for what economic forecasters say will be a difficult year ahead. Thank you for your valuable contributions throughout the year and your dedication to our clients. If you have questions, please contact me, Dan Jackson, or your local
Attorney Development Manager.
BLANK ROME MEMORANDUM
FROM:T. Michael Dyer, Co-Chairman
Alan J. Hoffman, Co-Chairman
Carl M. Buchholz, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer
RE: Personnel and Compensation
As we continue to focus on helping our clients manage through these challenging economic times, and in order to position the Firm for continued success in 2009, it is important that we take the necessary steps to manage the Firm in an efficient and responsible manner.
While Blank Rome remains in strong financial condition having concluded a satisfactory year in 2008, we are not immune to the global economic downturn. Like any other business, we must assess and respond to the economic realities and the plain fact that we are in the midst of a recession.
As we commence 2009, we have made a number of difficult personnel decisions, as well as the decision to hold base compensation for associates and staff at 2008 levels. We were pleased to be able to distribute staff bonuses in 2008, and will also be paying 2008 associate bonuses in the near term.
We do not make these decisions lightly, but believe that by taking these actions now, we will put the Firm in the strongest position to succeed when conditions improve.
We want to thank each of you for your efforts on behalf of our Firm during these challenging times. Your continued commitment and hard work are much appreciated.
FISH & RICHARDSON MEMORANDUM
As everyone is well aware, we are in the midst of an unprecedented global economic crisis that is having far-reaching effects on our clients as well as the legal industry. Fish & Richardson remains financially strong, and we are fortunate to have the practices, talent, and client relationships to weather these economic times. The firm is not, however, immune to the effects of the worsening economy and its attendant uncertainties. In our budgeting and planning for 2009, which began in mid-2008, we worked diligently to plan for challenges in 2009, and as conditions worsened late last year, we took numerous actions to meet these challenges, including building conservative assumptions into our budgeting that contemplated these difficult economic times, disciplined planning for discretionary expenses, more revenue goals than originally planned, and other measures. We considered, and at that time rejected, a freeze of non-principal legal staff salaries at 2008 levels.
The Management Committee, in the course of reviewing the most up-to-date information and economic forecasts in 2009, now believes that a salary freeze for 2009 needs to be considered given the uncertainties in the economy and their potential impact on our business. Accordingly, January pay for non-principal legal staff (this includes associates, technology specialists, counsels, staff attorneys, litigation technology analysts, and patent agents) will be at the same levels as those individuals were paid in 2008. For example, an A3 associate who advanced to an A4 in 2009 will be paid at the A3 salary level in January. A final decision will be made within the next several weeks, and we will take this time to review input from all sources in the firm, in a deliberative way, so we can fairly assess and weigh the factors that bear on this decision. We would of course like to avoid a freeze altogether, and our evaluation of the situation will keep that option on the table. But prudence in this climate requires that we consider other possibilities as well, including a deferral of consideration of salary increases until later in the year when we have a clearer picture of firm performance.
I want to emphasize two points: (1) in the event of a freeze, firm management will reserve a substantial discretionary bonus pool to reward meritorious performance; and (2) in the event of a decision not to freeze salaries for 2009, everyone affected will receive their new 2009 salaries retroactively to January 1.
From: Wasserman, Mark
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 4:23 PM
With the beginning of the new year, I wanted to let each of you know about changes for 2009 with respect to associate compensation. As you know, our compensation system provides for two components of salary—base and deferred—as well as annual bonuses. Consistent with prior years, all bonuses for 2008 were paid at the end of the year, and all deferred amounts payable with respect to 2008 will be paid with the first compensation check in January. We will maintain our existing performance and salary criteria, except that salary increases for 2009 will be included in the deferred portion of annual salary. For example, an associate going from year 2 to year 3 who was given a salary increase will have the same base compensation in 2009 as in 2008 but will be eligible for a larger deferred amount. We will also continue to pay bonuses at year-end as we always have and based on the same criteria as in the past. Annual reviews will take place over the next few weeks.
The changes in our system are designed to integrate with our overall efforts to control our expenses during the current economic environment while also allowing us to provide salary increases to recognize superior performance.
As we look ahead to the coming year and beyond, we are confident that with our talented lawyers and staff, diverse practices and outstanding client base we are well positioned to continue to do very well. But there can be little doubt that we are in the midst of worldwide economic challenges unlike any that we have seen during our careers. In running our business wisely, it is critical that we analyze every aspect of our operations and continually adjust to match the realities of the current environment.
Above all, we very much appreciate all of your varied contributions to the firm and, with your help, we look forward to continued success in serving our clients in 2009.
Mark D. Wasserman
TOWNSEND AND TOWNSEND AND CREW MEMORANDUM
From: Gilliland, James G.
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:04 AM
Cc: Partners; Gavin, Dennis J.
Subject: Salary Freeze
After substantial thought and discussion, Townsend has decided to join
the growing list of law firms that are going to freeze associate
salaries in 2009. Unfortunately, all of the economic indicators for
2009 remain negative. Therefore, we think it is of great importance
to be conservative in our fiscal discipline and planning. As you
know, we also have frozen all salaries for our staff and
administration. The freeze means that each of you will be paid the
same base salary during 2009 that you were paid in 2008.
It is possible that by the end of this year Townsend’s profits will be
higher than we presently anticipate and we will be able to ameliorate
the financial impact of this decision through our award of bonuses.
We expect to use our year-end bonuses at the end of 2009 to
particularly reward those of you who are most instrumental in helping
Townsend and our clients through this challenging time.
I understand there is an Associate’s lunch on Wednesday, January 28.
I will plan to attend that meeting to answer any questions you may
have about this decision.
We will make it through these challenging times and will be better and
stronger for it. I thank you for your help.
Chill of Salary Freezes Reaches Top Law Firms [New York Times]