We here at ATL want to know what world’s largest legal audience — ours, of course — thinks. Hence, we ask our audience a lot of questions. Our Insider Survey, which is soon coming up on its 15,000th respondent, provided the raw materials for the creation of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, as well as features on various specific organizations, locations, and practice areas. To supplement our Insider Survey data, we also take a closer look at specific aspects of institutions, such as compensation and social media policies. Additionally, we check in with our readers for their take on topical events, including presidential politics and Obamacare. Today, we have a look at a handful of our ongoing survey projects: Social Media, Stipend/Advance, and Health Insurance. But first, we are looking for help with a new research initiative.
There is probably no other industry as obsessed with the concept of “culture” as the legal profession, particularly in the world of law firms. Many firms view their culture as a key element of their distinct place in the competitive marketplace. But what does that even mean? Is there consensus on what constitutes culture? Do clients notice or care? We would like to dig deeper into these questions. As a first step in this project, we are looking for a small group of currently practicing law firm attorneys who are willing — in complete confidence — to give us about twenty minutes of their time to answer some of our questions concerning the realities of what defines firm culture. Preference will be given to attorneys who have lateraled between firms. We will be conducting this project in partnership with our friends at Adam Smith Esq. and JD Match. If interested, please email us here.
Apart from the never-ending Insider Survey, ATL has three ongoing surveys which we hope will bring greater transparency to subjects of interest to our readers. Here’s a quick glimpse at where they stand today…
Salary Advances vs. Stipends
One seldom discussed aspect of law firm compensation is the stipend/advance distinction. We are seeking to shed some light on this topic. There are firms that give newly hired associates salary advances rather than stipends. That is, instead of giving them what is effectively a bonus to live on while taking the bar, new hires receive an advance on salary. In other words, a no interest loan. This makes a fairly large financial impact (often a five-figure swing) and we thought it would be helpful to put on law students’ radar screens as they research firms. Thus far, our respondents report a roughly even split between stipends and advances, with around $10,000 as the average amount for both. What is interesting about the results so far are the specific firms that fall into each camp. On one side we have Gibson Dunn, Sidley Austin, and Kirkland. On the other, Davis Polk, Weil Gotshal, and O’Melveny Myers. Which is which? We’ll tell you later! What is your firm’s policy? Please take a minute and let us know here.
Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We had to assume that in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. The ATL Law Firm Health Insurance Survey confirms those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm. One surprising thing coming out of this survey: nearly 10% of respondents tell us that their employers completely cover the cost of their health care premiums. 100% coverage is typically considered a much rarer perk. How does your firm compare? Take our brief, anonymous survey here.
There is ample reason to believe that there has been a sea change in the attitudes of law firms as organizations toward social media. Seventy percent of law firms maintain blogs. Around forty percent said that blogging and social networking had actually helped them land new clients. We thought it would be interesting to get the point of view of the individual attorney within the firm. How prevalent are firms’ use of social technologies? What are they being used for? Thus far, 35% of respondents to the ATL Social Media Survey have told us that their employers “don’t get” social media, whereas only 15% do. Is your firm social media savvy? Or a bunch of Luddites waiting for this whole fad to blow over? Please let us know.