Biglaw, Bonuses, David Boies, Money

Boies Schiller Throws Down Gauntlet, Calls Out Davis Polk on Associate Comp

If you haven’t already done so, check out Vivia Chen’s series of interviews with hiring partners over at The Careerist. They’re fun and interesting reads. (Our favorite was her unintentionally hilarious interview of Steven Glaser of Skadden.)

Recently Chen sat down with Alan Vickery of litigation powerhouse Boies Schiller (which scored a major victory in the Prop 8 case). Here’s how Vickery described the Boies lawyer:

What’s typical is the diversity of personality and style at the firm. David [Boies] has a broad scope of interests and abilities; he sends a strong signal that individualism is tolerated and encouraged. For instance, there’s lots of support for our work on Prop 8 [where the firm is arguing against the ban on gay marriage in California], but there are also lots of Federalist Society members here.

(Well, in fairness to the Fed Soc, many of its members are libertarian rather than social conservatives, and as such sympathetic to gay marriage — at least as a policy matter, if not necessarily a matter of constitutional law.)

Who are your competitors in the hiring game?

The usual suspects: Wachtell, Davis Polk, Cravath. And if they’re looking for a [litigation] boutique, it’d be Susman Godfrey, Williams & Connolly, or Quinn Emanuel.

Speaking of the competition, Vickery got in a good dig at Davis Polk….

Here’s the exchange:

Let’s turn to a cheerier subject: money. I’ve heard even junior associates can make a bundle at your firm.

Young associates here can make a lot more than at Davis Polk. First, our base salary is higher. Then, on contingency cases, they can participate on the fee and do quite well. In the early years, some associates got paid more than partners.

Ouch! But it’s odd that Vickery didn’t mention Boies’s eye-popping bonuses in this context.

(Speaking of Boies, we hear that they’ve already paid special bonuses to some of their associates in 2010. If you have details, please email us (subject line: “Boies bonuses”).)

UPDATE: Boies hasn’t paid any “special” bonuses in 2010. Rather, the firm pays out its annual bonus (based on the formula compensation model) at two different times, in December and April. In April 2010, associates received the second portion of their prior year (2009) bonus.

Was Vickery just using Davis Polk as a stand-in for a top law firm that doesn’t pay Wachtell- or Boies-level compensation? Or did he select DPW for more pointed reasons? If the latter, it wouldn’t be unwarranted. Despite its incredible prestige, pleasantly genteel atmosphere, gorgeous offices, and even more gorgeous attorneys, Davis Polk is definitely a follower rather than a leader in associate compensation. (Perhaps DPW figures that, given all of its other attributes, all it needs to do is match the market when it comes to comp, and let its hotties do the rest.)

Vickery’s willingness to compare his firm to others was refreshingly candid. It sometimes seems as if there’s a rule in the Hiring Partner Handbook that says “Never acknowledge your competitors.” If so, Vickery may have ripped that page out of his book and tossed it in the trash:

Would you call Boies Schiller the litigators’ Wachtell Lipton?

That’s exactly what I try to tell candidates. I tell associates to enjoy their lives, but I absolutely demand that they do a good job. We’re open to people being themselves, but we don’t tolerate sloppy work.

Word on the street is that not all BSF associates are “enjoy[ing] their lives.” The firm’s Vault profile, for example, features this comment:

If you’re billing 2,800+ hours per year, there’s not much time for a life outside of work. Not great if you have important outside responsibilities (like raising a kid).

A kid? What’s that?

Kidding aside, Boies is still a great place to work. Its partners and associates work on cutting-edge, high-profile cases — and if the time commitment is big, at least the paychecks are too.

Boies Schiller: Work Hard–Very Hard–Then Count the Moolah [The Careerist]

Earlier: Skadden Needs Interviewees to be More Prepared Than Its Hiring Partner

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