December 2011

Matt Kluger

Here’s a Fried Frank bonus for you: Matthew Kluger, the former Fried Frank associate who sued the firm for alleged discrimination, is going to prison. As you may recall, Kluger — who also worked as an associate at other top law firms, including Cravath, Skadden, and Wilson Sonsini — was charged in a massive insider trading case this past spring. A week ago, he pleaded guilty to all four counts against him. He’ll be sentenced in April 2012.

Now, on to the matter at hand: associate bonuses in the New York office of Fried Frank. How were they this year?

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Always good for a laugh.

Well, we’ve got somebody who should be a late entrant into our Lawyer of the Year contest. He is Houston attorney Paul Waldner. He’s a partner at Vikery, Waldner & Mallia, which is an arm of Justice Seekers in Texas. He is a man who brings the funny with him to the deposition room.

Paul Waldner is a man who asks questions like: “So, your jurisprudential hymen is being ruptured?”

Oh, you think I’m joking? No sir, I have video!

And really, the witness’s answer might have been better than the question….

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Landing a huge case is what all lawyers dream about. For most lawyers, the planets never align, and that dream never becomes a reality. But for one lawyer — a lawyer who was admitted to the bar when the legal job market began its downward spiral — that dream came true, just a few years after having graduated from law school.

Sometimes, however, dreams turn into nightmares. When you’re representing a notorious client like Rod Blagojevich, your successes might soon turn into failures.

Who is the (rather attractive) class of 2007 lawyer representing Blago, and why did a judge characterize her recent courtroom stylings as “harebrained”?

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Earlier this week, Kirkland & Ellis associates started receiving phone calls about their bonuses. Many associates are reporting that their bonuses “shattered the market.” In the words of one K&E source, “It is mad money. Huge year for everyone here.”

It’s important to note that Kirkland has a “black box” bonus structure, in which the payouts are highly individualized and based on performance and hours. Every year, there are some winners and losers.

Right now we’re hearing a lot of chatter from K&E winners. Many are reporting bonuses that are significantly higher than Cravath — which really isn’t hard to do, given how terribly low the Cravath bonuses are this year (so low that partners at other firms are thanking their Cravath counterparts). More to the point, we’ve got K&E people saying they made more than they would have at Quinn Emanuel (which is impressive!).

But, there’s a catch. While some firms like Sullivan & Cromwell anticipate paying spring bonuses, some of our Kirkland friends are telling us that this bonus is inclusive of a spring payout. So K&E might not pay a spring bonus, even if other firms do…

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Thoreau admonished us that we cannot “kill time without injuring eternity.” But what did he know? That proto-hippie pond-fetishist could not have imagined today’s world, where our collective attention spans have shriveled to goldfish levels and so much actual productive white-collar labor can be, to an observer, indistinguishable from simply loitering in front of a computer screen. Unless someone is looking over your shoulder, nobody knows whether you’re on PACER or playing Angry Birds.

We asked you, the ATL readership, where you turn for distraction when you don’t feel like billing or studying. The results of our research poll, after the jump….

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In the world of Biglaw, the subject of bonuses is a hot-button issue. People will disagree, often vehemently, on whether the bonuses paid by a particular firm are generous or cheap. To paraphrase an old joke, if you ask two people about bonuses, you’ll get three opinions.

Given these frequent differences of opinion, whenever we publish an Associate Bonus Watch post, we’re eager to get opinions and additional information from you, our readers. As you can see from looking back at our prior bonus coverage, we often update our bonus posts to add new information or another point of view. You can send us reactions to your firm’s bonuses — or news of bonuses we have not yet covered — by email or by text message (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).

Some of our recent bonus posts have generated salient updates and dissenting opinions. After the jump, we bring you postscripts regarding bonuses at several major law firms, including Cravath, Kaye Scholer, Quinn Emanuel, Sidley Austin, and Weil Gotshal….

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... but it will never be granted.

* Most Americans can look forward to a tax increase in 2012 because our elected officials would rather bicker with each other than do their jobs. Happy freakin’ New Year! [Los Angeles Times]

* Duncan Law’s dean sheds some light on why the ABA might have denied the school provisional accreditation. Come on, what’s not to like about a median LSAT of 147? [National Law Journal]

* Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber, has put in some special requests for a new lawyer. Beggars can’t really be choosers, though, so I wouldn’t count on it, buddy. [Reuters]

* More ex-NFL players are suing over brain injuries. You shouldn’t be allowed to sue over your career in football when you knew that a helmet was a required part of your uniform. [Bloomberg]

* If everyone with a professional degree could sue over lost sleep and long hours, then almost every lawyer in the country would be a plaintiff, especially those in Biglaw. [New York Post]

After stealing all the Whoville toys, the Grinch planned to re-gift them to his army of lawyers.

I’m much more likely to throw away a gift or give it to charity than to regift something I already have or don’t want. I think I’d live in fear of the original gift-giver meeting up with the regift recipient and talking about how I was a bad friend for orchestrating the whole mess. I’d rather those two people meet up and say, “Did Elie get you anything? No? Too bad. I was hoping he did and you could tell him it sucked. That’s what he told me when he opened my present.” There’s something intangibly sneaky and dishonest about regifting. It’s just not classy.

Of course, people do it all the time. And not because they lack class so much as they lack money. Even if it’s tacky, regifting usually comes from a good place: you want to give presents to more people than you can afford to shop for.

But there’s nothing laudable (or forgivable) about how one small law firm in California goes about re-gifting. They want to send gifts to their clients — so they commandeer the gifts sent to their secretaries and staff, and regift them.

I think this firm missed the “spirit” part of this holiday season….

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Herman Cain: Do you miss him yet?

* It’d be easy to say “a former Tea Party candidate posted about assassinating the President.” But it’s probably more accurate to say a crazy, racist, loony person scrawled something naughty on Facebook and is now in trouble. [Huffington Post]

* I’d like to buy this, and then use it to TP Herman Cain’s house while screaming, “It’s less complicated than your sex life!” [Tax Prof Blog]

* I wonder if, a generation from now, people will look back on Citizens United like Plessy v. Ferguson. Like, there will still be a few holdouts saying, “money is speech now, money is speech forever,” but most of society will have moved on to a more enlightened state. [Congressman John Yarmuth]

In my lifetime, Kobe has been one of the most fun players to not like.

* Maybe all we need is a simple Constitutional amendment clarifying that “only people are people.” Corporations are not people. Animals are not people. Artificially intelligent robots who one day rise up to threaten humanity’s existence are not people. [Miller-McCune]

* Oh, Kobe. When you beat a rape rap yet still have to publicly admit you bang hoteliers in Vail, you should just get divorced right then and there. No number of diamond nor championship rings is going to put that back together. She’s still going to kill you in the divorce, and all you’ve bought yourself is a few extra years of living with a woman who openly hates you. [L.A. Now via ABA Journal]

* You think bloggers suffer from group think too much? I vote for 2012 being the year when the mainstream media stops stealing story ideas from the blogs (without credit), and does some actual original reporting again. You know, like they are supposed to with their huge staffs and massive budgets. [What About Clients?]

I trust that after last week’s column, all my small-firm spinsters are well on their way to finding meaningful, romantic relationships with their co-workers (read: New Year’s Eve booty calls). After waking up at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, I realized that I forgot to suggest one guaranteed way to meet your small-firm suitor: the office party.

While Tannebaum may hate the office holiday party, I believe that it is one of the main — if not most important — reasons to work for a small firm. Or, for that matter, to be a law firm lawyer at all. Indeed, I may be drowning in debt come graduation, but at least I will be able to drink cheap boxed wine with a rainmaking partner once a year. It is worth the investment. (Take that, Wall Street Journal.)

As much I love me a holiday party, however, I do believe there are certain rules one must follow. I cannot promise that I observe these rules myself, but as the saying goes, those who cannot do, teach. And with that, here is a guide for how to behave at the office party….

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