Associate Salaries

Katten: Why Can’t You Set 2010 Salaries Already?

Katten logo.JPGIt’s March and Katten Muchin is coming into it like a very meek lamb. The firm froze salaries in 2009. So far in 2010, it has sent a series of memos trying to explain why it can’t get its act together. A tipster reports:

You may recall that most associates had their salaries frozen and then cut in 2009. We continue to receive frozen-then-cut salaries at this time, although the memos state that we will get retroactive payments back to January 1 on “any increase” that occurs. All the other Chicago firms have spoken (with double bumps), but Katten is waiting on something…we guess. At this point we’re wondering whether we’ll know our 2010 salaries in 2010!

Check out the memos. They’re a case study in “we’re waiting for others to tell us how to run our business.”


Back in January, Katten promised that they’d have their salary situation solved by now:

From: “Sergi, Vincent A. F.”
To: FRM-Associate
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010
Subject: Associate Base Compensation
RE: TO ALL ASSOCIATES FIRM-WIDE:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your hard work and commitment in the last year. The Firm managed to have a relatively good year in a difficult economy and, as always, our Associates were a big part of our success. There are varying views on the economic outlook for 2010, but I am optimistic given a busy fourth quarter which continued into January.
A quick note with regard to compensation: Last month, we indicated that 2010 base compensation would be set this month as part of the 2009 Associate Compensation process. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the base determination process in January, but expect to announce the 2010 scale by March 1, 2010. Increases will be retroactive to January 1, 2010.
Thanks again and I hope to hold Associate meetings in each office in the next few months to talk about compensation and other Firm issues.
VINCENT A.F. SERGI, ESQ.
National Managing Partner
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

I know law firm managers are busy. But isn’t determining how much employees should be paid a crucial job function? I’d love to see an associate email the partners something like this:

TO: Firm Management
FROM: Employee
RE: Time Entry
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for giving me a place to work, replete with office supplies, fast computers, and nubile young secretaries of both genders.
Thanks for that.
Just FYI: I know you asked me to enter my time so that you can get the clients I work for to pay you. Yawn (j/k).
Seriously though, I am sooo busy. Just totally slammed. I know you want to collect money on all these hours I’m billing, so I’ll try to help you out. I promise I’ll send my time in next month … or two months from now at the latest. I just need to figure out how much my peers and competitors are billing before I submit my time sheet.
HTH. Peace out.

Of course, if an associate made such a promise, you’d hope he or she would keep it. Katten doesn’t seem to be all that good at following up. Here’s the note Katten associates received this week:

From: “Sergi, Vincent A. F.”
To: FRM-Associate
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2010
Subject: Associate Base Compensation – March 1, 2010 Update
The Associate Compensation Committee is still working on 2010 base compensation and should be done this Friday. We will have an announcement on Monday, March 8, at the latest.
VINCENT A.F. SERGI, ESQ.
National Managing Partner
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

What in the hell is Katten “working on” that takes months to complete? A tipster has an idea:

I have to assume that the only thing that could take this long is a Katten pay cut disguised as a merit system. Could you please tell them that I’m NOT BUYING IT no matter how much spin they put on the pitch.

It’s funny, many firms don’t seem to understand that their associates are pretty smart people. You can dress things up if you want, but most people are able to look at their paycheck, compare it the paycheck of a friend, and figure out if they are getting screwed over.
Algebra is the natural enemy of spin.
Earlier: Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Katten Muchin and Akerman Senterfitt

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