October 2014

Holland & Knight Logo New.JPGHolland & Knight announced today that it would be moving away from lockstep associate compensation. But unlike the firms that have rushed to jump on the Orrick-style, three-tier “pure merit” model, Holland is adopting a hybrid approach. Here’s how Holland & Knight managing partner Steve Sonberg explained it to associates this morning:

The base salary of an associate will no longer depend solely on seniority and the number of hours billed by an associate during the preceding year. Instead, the firm will evaluate each associate on the basis of both objective and subjective factors.

The objective factors will continue to include the number of billable and creditable hours. The firm’s existing policy on creditable hours is not being changed. In addition to the number of billable and creditable hours, the firm will now also consider other factors that objectively measure an associate’s contribution to the firm and to our clients (e.g., collections, profitability, significant matter responsibility, and successful client development).

The subjective factors will include professional and career development (including client development skills), the quality of the legal services provided to our clients, and other contributions to our profession, our communities, and the firm. We are committed to providing an evaluation process that clearly communicates to associates what is expected of them.

Under the new model, this combination of subjective and objective factors will be used to determine what kind of raise associates receive from year to year.
Above the Law spoke with Adolfo Jimenez, the partner at Holland & Knight who oversees the firm’s associate program. H&K’s new compensation plan is very different from the ones we’ve been seeing lately, and we asked Jimenez why the firm decided to go in a different direction.

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balenciaga sues steve madden.jpgAt first we were of the opinion that Balenciaga’s “Lego shoe” was too hideous to merit copying. But then we learned that Beyonce has been spotted in a pair. If it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s good enough for the rest of us, right?
That was apparently the thinking of Steve Madden, which produced a very similar-looking shoe. Balenciaga’s original is on the left; the Madden version is on the right.
But Balenciaga’s not taking this sitting down. Earlier this week, the company sued Steve Madden.
What claims are being made in the lawsuit? Come up with some guesses. Then read more (and comment) over at our sister site, Fashionista.
Balenciaga Sues Steve Madden [Fashionista]

school of sex.jpgWere you drawn to Biglaw because of a slight sadomasochistic bent? Then you may be interested in the [NSFW] School of Sex [NSFW]. As you might imagine based on the name, it offers lessons on sex, as well as erotic events.
Why are you reading about this on ATL? Because it’s a Friday. And, more importantly, because it was brought to our attention by “Sex Kitten” (she insisted on being identified by a pseudonym) — a Biglaw associate who moonlights as a manager there, arranging events for swingers.
No, her events aren’t aimed at Justice Kennedy. They’re for sexually experimental types.
Sex Kitten told Time Out that swinging is an excellent way to relax after a tough day at the law firm:

Swinging is stress relief. It’s a way to express yourself in a way that you might not be able to if you’re a conservative person. I spend the day in business attire, then when the weekend comes, if we’ve planned a party, I go home and change into…very little clothing.

She tells ATL:

I went to law school in New York City and currently work at a Vault 100 law firm as an associate. I was able hit my target billable hours every month until a recent slowdown at my firm. For this reason, I’ve been developing School of Sex to the point that it’s a viable backup career.

Is sex promotion a good career alternative? And how does a Biglaw girl balance client needs with orgies while building her business? We’ve got an interview with her, after the jump.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGCheerio, old chap! This week brings news of bonuses — and a salary “unfreeze” — in the New York office of Allen & Overy.
Allen & Overy — a global mega-firm with over $2 billion in annual revenue, headquartered in London but with a worldwide footprint — is making a go of it here in the United States. And, as reflected in this latest news, A&O intends to play with the big boys in New York. They’re paying market-level bonuses this year.
And, effective January 2010, they’re paying market-level salaries. The increase in salaries undoes the salary freeze from earlier this year. Green shoots?
But there is a catch. Read the full memo, from New York managing partner Kevin O’Shea, after the jump.

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com.

pls hndle copy 2.jpgFairest Marin,

I moved offices in the middle of this year, and as a consequence I lost my lovely and very helpful administrative assistant to a Partner who was staying where she was. Since August, I have had a new, and also quite helpful, administrative assistant. I am very demanding of my assistant’s time. I am not an inconsiderate jerk, but I am very busy and thus need to delegate small tasks like copies, scheduling rooms, making binders and creating indices quite often. Both have been quite helpful in the past year.

Should I be splitting my customary holiday gift between the two of them? Right now I am thinking 60% for my original assistant and 40% for my new assistant. What are your thoughts? And how much should I pay out? $200? $150?

– King Solomon Emeritus

Dear King Solomon Emeritus,

The holidays are a time for family, friends and quiet self-reflection. And if you’re a secretary, they’re also a time for judging and bragging. Within hours of receiving your gift, the entire secretarial staff is aware that you purchased a $96 Omaha Steaks gift card for your admin, and has swiftly judged you for the 20% decrease in desirability and price from last year’s $120 Dead Sea mud wrap gift certificate.

This system obviously rules out splitting your $200 gift 60/40 between your old and new secretaries, respectively, unless you feel like booking your own conference rooms in the future. And even if you didn’t have your 2 secretaries/1 wallet problem, cash only is never a good idea anyway because the thing with money is that people can sometimes figure out how much you spent.

On Wednesday’s open thread, several commenters stated that they were giving their secretaries some cash amount and a “small gift.” Your d*ck in a box won’t cut it, but after the jump there is a list of presents that will.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGWelcome to the associate bonus post for Gibson Dunn, which has informed its associates of their 2009 bonuses.
This post is going to look a lot like the recent Sidley bonus post. Bonuses at Gibson, like those at Sidley, are individualized and individually communicated. This is especially true for the non-New York offices. (We understand that New York is a bit closer to lockstep and somewhat more hours-driven, but not completely so.)
As we understand the GDC bonus system, it’s basically run on a grid. Associates in a given class year are divided into categories, based on the usual metrics (e.g., billable hours, quality of work, etc.). Associates in the middle category receive a bonus that’s basically in line with the New York market-level bonus for their class year. Associates in higher categories get bonuses above NYC levels — sometimes as high as double the New York market, we hear. Associates in lower categories get a below-market bonus — or no bonus at all.
Some quotes from Gibson sources, after the jump.

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Alabama Crimson Tide.JPGOn Wednesday, we told you about Alabama defense lawyers who filed a motion to continue based on a conflict with the BCS title game. The judge has said he will grant the motion, even though the judge is an alumnus of Alabama’s arch rival, Auburn. Deadspin explains this miscarriage of justice perfectly:

If you’re going to start creating judicial precedents on the basis of college football schedules, then shouldn’t you also conform those judgments to reflect a more proper demonstration of your allegiance? An Auburn judge should not only deny any motion filed by a U of A attorney, he should hold them in contempt of court and make them swear to tell the truth under an oath to Pat Sullivan. That’s some smash mouth law makin’!
Instead, Circuit Judge Dan King says that a man who has waited four years to see the memory of his dead mother honored in a court of law can wait a few more months, because “If I didn’t, they’d say, ‘He just didn’t grant it because he’s an Auburn fellow.'” Yes, “they” might say that. They might also say that “He’s an adult who doesn’t think that educated professionals should get the day off every time they want hold recess outside.” The Crimson Tide will solider on just fine without eight extra lawyers getting hammered in the Rose Bowl parking lot.

Auburn fans, it looks like Judge Dan King needs a friendly email reminder about which side his bread is buttered on.
It’s not like the motion went unanswered — plaintiff’s attorneys filed a response.

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Scott Haworth Scott L Haworth Sedgwick law firm partner.jpgThe case of Levy v. Sedgwick Detert Moran Arnold LLP — aka “Sex, Drugs, and 3000 Billable Hours” — is starting to look more like Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell with each new filing. Just as S&C did in the Charney case, the Sedgwick firm has filed a motion to strike portions of the complaint that it views as “scandalous” (i.e., of greatest interest to Above the Law readers).
From the affirmation in support of the motion:

3. This motion seeks to strike certain unnecessary, prejudicial and scandalous allegations made by Plaintiff Alan Levy (“Plaintiff” or “Levy”) in his employment discrimination action against his former employer, the law firm of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold LLP (“Sedgwick” or the “Firm”) and Scott Haworth (“Haworth”) [pictured], the partner with whom he primarily worked.

4. The sole purpose of Plaintiff’s irrelevant and salacious allegations — regarding alleged adultery and drug use by Defendant Haworth — is to embarrass the Firm and Haworth and provide Levy with some emotional catharsis for the bitterness he bears.

Well, maybe not the sole purpose. Another purpose might be to embarrass the defendants into settling (just as S&C settled the Charney case). A third purpose — okay, not a purpose, but by a byproduct — might be entertaining Above the Law readers. Given that we edit a legal tabloid, we’re hoping the motion to strike gets denied.
Speaking of “salacious allegations,” this is not the first time Scott Haworth has been accused of inappropriate conduct.
An inflammatory allegation from a prior employment discrimination lawsuit, plus assorted observations about the Sedgwick firm website, after the jump.

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Defendant law firm moves to strike ‘scandalous’ material.

Accenture Tiger ad.JPG* Elin lawyers up. [Daily News]
* Meanwhile, Accenture is shredding Tiger’s memory. They’ve got some experience in this area. [Going Concern]
* Oh yeah, John Edwards. Also a philanderer. [Politics Daily]
* The Federal Circuit benchslaps the Eastern District of Texas — for the fourth time in the past year — over the issue of venue in a patent case. [Am Law Litigation Daily]
* How would you like to be the associate that had to review the box of cremated remains? [ABA Journal]
* Where’s my global warming now? Huh? Where is my precious global warming now? [New York Times]

Google Books Search Settlement.jpgEarlier this week, we attended an interesting debate about the Google Books settlement. It featured Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, who argued against the settlement, and Jonathan Jacobson of Wilson Sonsini, who defended it.
The debate, held at the Cornell Club and sponsored by the Federalist Society, was moderated by Professor Scott Hemphill of Columbia Law School. ATL readers may remember the hunky Hemphill as one-half of July’s Couple of the Month.
Read more, after the jump.

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