Arnold & Porter

Every year, Fortune produces a list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and every year a handful of law firms make the list. And every year I wonder why some law firms made the list, while others did not, and whether Fortune actually has any idea about what they’re talking about.

We cover this list every year (click here for our posts in 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007). Last year, six firms made the list. But this year only four law firms are among the top 100 companies.

Again, I can’t figure out what the two firms that dropped did wrong. But let’s congratulate the four firms that did stay on the list.

So, which firms made the cut?

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It’s hard to understand why some firms choose secrecy over transparency when it comes to associate bonuses. I understand not wanting to tell Above the Law about them. We often find out eventually, but if you want to make us jump through a couple of extra hoops, that’s fine. (To help us jump through the hoops, please email us about your firm’s news.)

But even if you don’t want ATL to know about your firm’s bonuses, I don’t see how fear of a blog is justification for keeping information from your own people about how they are compensated. If you are transparent about how bonuses are calculated and awarded, most of the people will accept that they knew what was expected of them and either met those expectations or fell short. Sure, there will be some disgruntled people, but at least everybody gets to know why they are being paid what they are being paid.

But if you roll out there with secret formulas and unspecified hours requirements, nearly everybody feels disgruntled because they have no idea why they received (or didn’t receive) whatever they got. It’s like, if a girl tells you she won’t put out until after at least four dates, you know what you’re up against. But if she says nothing and you find yourself standing outside her apartment after a successful third date and she’s not inviting you up for “coffee,” you’re super-pissed (and hoping that the slutty chick who was checking you out earlier is still at the bar and relatively disease-free).

And that’s where Arnold & Porter associates find themselves when it comes to their bonuses. Standing outside of some chick’s apartment, wondering what the hell just happened.

Oh A&P announced its bonuses. But the eligibility for these bonuses is really anyone’s guess…

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Working Mother just released its annual list of the top 100 companies to work for. As we are (hopefully) coming out of the recession, it is possible that people might actually start caring again about family issues and work/life balance issues.

This year, four law firms made the list. Before we get to the “winners,” let’s take a look at the process required to be up for consideration. To be on the list, first you have to fill out an application with 600 questions.

What is the magazine looking for? Here’s the explanation from their methodology section:

Eight areas are scored: workforce profile; benefits; women’s issues and advancement; child care; flexible work; paid time off and leaves; company culture; and work-life programs. An essay regarding best practices to support working mothers is also evaluated…

Working Mother considers not only the programs, benefits and opportunities offered by companies but also recently settled, decided or still-pending gender discrimination lawsuits.

An essay, do you say? Well, so much for rigid objectivity in list making.

Still, the four law firm winners should be proud. Let’s highlight them from out of the other top 100 companies…

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(But Do Law Firms Still Discriminate When It Comes to Pay?)”

He bakes the most wonderful pies I have ever tasted in my life.

– McLean resident Joan Bretz, discussing her neighbor Joshua Gessler, the Arnold & Porter associate and George Mason adjunct law professor accused of producing child pornography.

Joshua Gessler

Today brings bad news for Arnold & Porter — or maybe make that Arnold & Porno. If the allegations are true, the venerable Washington-based law firm has been employing a lawyer who made child pornography, starring a 15-year-old girl.

A 41-year-old associate in the Tysons Corner office of A&P, Joshua Gessler, has been charged with one count of producing child pornography and five counts of possession. The accusations, reported last night by NBC Washington, are on the lurid side.

Gessler connected online with a 15-year-old prostitute back in April, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant, and offered her $200 to meet up — with the condition that she not be “camera shy” (i.e., that she be willing to be photographed).

Josh Gessler allegedly brought some equipment to their get-together. And we’re not talking about a camera and a tripod….

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We’re rolling through the Vault 2011 list of the “prestigiest” firms in the land, so that you can comment on what it’s like to actually live, work, and breathe those firms (when you’re not choking on all the prestige in the air).

We’ve covered #1-10 and #11-20. Here’s the next round-up. Now it’s time for the London-based Magic Circle firms to join in the elite fun:

21. Arnold & Porter
22. Shearman & Sterling
23. Boies, Schiller & Flexner
24. O’Melveny & Myers
25. Ropes & Gray
26. Morrison & Foerster
27. Munger, Tolles & Olson
28. Hogan Lovells
29. Clifford Chance
30. Linklaters

What do associates have to say about the ups and downs of life at these firms? Here are some excerpts from their Vault listings…

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For the past five years, Yale Law School has produced a list of the top “family friendly” law firms. And for the past five years, men have acted like “family” issues are something only women need to worry about.

Maybe that’s true if you are a committed bachelor who never intends to procreate or know the love of a real woman. Maybe that’s true if you subscribe to some kind of 1950′s television ideal where the man works and the woman is exclusively a stay-at-home mom. Mind the pool boy, fellas.

But the majority of men will one day marry and spawn. In many cases, they’ll marry a woman of equal career ambitions. At that point, being able to take some paternity leave might be very important. Maybe their wife won’t even be a lawyer, and thus make more money than her husband (have you seen what legal salaries are like these days). Most likely we will see more and more male primary care givers, and the firms will have to adjust. We’ve heard a lot about the “mommy track,” in our professional lifetimes one expects the “daddy track” to become just as important.

So which firms are already ahead of the family friendly curve?

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clerks screwed in recession.jpgHistorically, clerks have had a pretty sweet deal. A year spent with a judge increases their attractiveness to law firms; in the past, this translated to big bonuses for going into Biglaw. During the recession, the deal got slightly less sweet, as firms went a little sour on clerks.
Over the last month, a number of readers have anxiously emailed us about clerkship bonuses. One example:

Have you heard anything about whether firms are lowering or maintaining their clerkship bonuses? My firm said although they gave $50k last year, they are “waiting to see what other firms do first.”

In 2008, our then-survey-guru Justin Bernold created this handy guide to clerkship bonuses, laying out the going rates — ranging from $10,000 to $70,000 — for these attractive recruits. (Of course, the most attractive recruits — Supreme Court clerks, aka the Elect — command six-figure signing fees.)
So what’s happening with clerkship bonuses in 2010? We’ve talked to a few experts and a few tipsters. There’s been some scaling back already. Experts say the market rate for clerkship bonuses may come down, but in their usual fashion, firms appear to be waiting for a big dog to take the lead on that. Could Cravath be that dog?

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Arnold Porter logo.jpgEd. note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the firm has not yet communicated to its associates about salaries. This was correct as of late December, but shortly before the new year, the firm made its announcement. We have amended the post accordingly, and we apologize for the error.
It’s a brand new year. Yay. Will this be the year that the recession ends? We’re hopeful, as are you (based on the results of our reader poll thus far).
Here’s some good news to start off the day. A source at Arnold & Porter reports on the firm’s unfreezing of salaries (as well as lump-sum payments representing deferred comp):

Arnold & Porter just announced we are bumping one class year, plus those in good standing are getting their deferred 2009 compensation. Classes of 2008 and 2009 are both at $160,000 for 2010.

This salary thaw is certainly welcome news — but note that it doesn’t take A&P up to the full New York scale. In 2010, under the NYC scale, class of 2008 associates should be earning $170,000 (not $160,000), class of 2007 associates should be earning $185,000 (not $170,000), etc.
The full memorandum, which was issued on December 30, also confirms upcoming bonus payments:

Consistent with the Firm’s longstanding commitment to be competitive in the marketplace, the Firm will be paying bonuses to eligible associates in respect of their 2009 performance. The bonuses will be based not only on the number of billable, pro bono and business development hours but also with attention to the results of the associate review process, particularly the quality of work and whether an individual has performed at a level commensurate with his or her seniority. Compliance with Firm policies also will be taken into consideration.

What can be expected regarding bonuses at Arnold & Porter? A second tipster explains:

A&P pays no “base” bonus. Bonuses have traditionally been based on hours. Last year, I ended up with more than I would have on the standard New York scale. But some ended up with much less, or none.

Check out the full memo, after the jump.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGTime for a belated bonus announcement. A few weeks ago, associate bonuses were announced at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

The bonuses were basically on the Cravath scale, provided you meet “the bonus criteria set forth in the bonus policy.” We’re advised that the bonus criteria focus for the most part on hours, with bonuses triggered at around 2000 hours (1900 billable).

In other CWT news, we hear that two real estate partners — Alan Lawrence and John Busillo — are leaving the firm for Arnold & Porter. Sources describe them as “heavy hitters” who “still have some business.”

The CWT bonus memo, after the jump.

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(Plus news of some partner moves.)

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