Associate Salaries, Partner Profits

Jones Day: Secrecy Breeds Strength?

Jones Day Logo.jpgHere at Above the Law, we do a lot of work to pierce through the veil of silence regarding compensation at Jones Day. The firm notoriously tries to keep associate salary, partner draws, and bonus information secret. But we’ve been able to report on the Jones Day salary structure and its associate bonuses. We were even able to tell you when Jones Day froze salaries for its staff.
We believe that information wants to be free. But apparently management at Jones Day thinks people are happier when they are kept in the dark. Today, the Recorder reports (subscription) that Jones Days believes its lack of salary transparency makes for a better work environment and has helped the firm make it through the recession. The ABA Journal has this excerpt from the Recorder’s report:

Observers say the law firm’s closed compensation system is helping its efforts to hire quality laterals because partners don’t know what the new hires are paid and can’t complain.
The article notes that the business card for Joe Sims, the lawyer heading up the West Coast expansion, doesn’t indicate his title or business area. His explanation: “We don’t do titles here.”
The story concludes that there are a lot of things Jones Day doesn’t do. “It doesn’t tell its partners what other partners make, it doesn’t issue profit figures, it doesn’t pay bonuses, it doesn’t let partners vote on who will head the firm, it hasn’t conducted mass layoffs, and it doesn’t pay associates in lockstep.”

Partner Joe Sims has talked the talk before on Above the Law. And his firm continues to walk the walk. More details after the jump.

This isn’t the first time Joe Sims has appeared on Above the Law, touting the Jones Day way. In early August, Sims sent around an internal newsletter to Jones Day employees which explained why JD is the place to be:

First, who we are, what we do, and how we do it has served Jones Day (and JD California) well during these hard times. Our geographic and practice balance; our one-Firm attitude; our belief that our real focus has to be on the long run, while managing the short-term problems that we face; and the fact that we understand that, in addition to our clients and our partners, the Firm has a responsibility to deal with our staff and associates in a way that recognizes that they and their families depend on this institution–all of these mean that we will come out of this crisis stronger than we went in. We have been able to avoid the drastic steps that many other firms have resorted to, in part because we are better positioned to minimize exposure to economic stress, and in part because our partners are committed to the principles that created our better position, even if it means some short-term burdens that they must bear.

Whatever the reason, it is an undeniable fact that Jones Day has avoided the mass layoffs that have plagued other law firms.
But that could just be an indication of strong management. How much of Jones Day’s recession success can be directly tied to salary silence? Should more partnerships adopt the firm’s strategy?
If you are fairly compensated and happy with what you are earning, why should you care about how much the guy down the hall is pulling down? Then again, if you truly don’t care, then why should salaries be such a big secret?
Keeping Up With Jones Day [The Recorder] (subscription)
Why Keeping Compensation Secret Helps Jones Day Grow [ABA Journal]
Earlier: Some Follow-Up on Jones Day’s Confidential Compensation Model
Associate Bonus Watch: Jones Day. Bonus. Discuss.
Inside the Black Box: Jones Day Staff Salary Freeze
Jones Day Slams Its Competitors

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