Last week, we told you that Katten Muchin was delaying its decision on associate salaries. The firm finally got around to telling people how much they’re paid this week, and we can see why there was a long delay. See, when you try to do 1,001 different things all that same time, it gets pretty complicated.
All of the salary news was communicated via individualized firm memos, so a tipster explains the top line news: Katten is moving down to a $145K pay scale:
They went down to the 145K scale (145,000; 160,000; 170,000; 185,000; 210,000; 230,000; 250,000; 250,000; 250,000). And no, those last 3 numbers are not errors.
Well, for Katten associates that were frozen last year, the new scale still gives some of them a pay bump, if they moved up a class year.
But not every Katten associate will be moving up a class year …
Back in December, Sonnenschein announced the outlines of its new merit-based compensation structure. At the time, the firm promised its associates more details in March.
The firm is true to its word: we’re now in March, and we have more details. Above the Law talked with a spokesperson for Sonnenschein. Here’s the top line news:
First year compensation returns to $160,000 for first year associates.
12% – 15% of that compensation will be paid out as a “base bonus” in 2011.
There are no hours or competency requirements to achieve the base bonus in 2011
2010 raises for veteran associates will be in accordance with Sonnenschein’s merit based tier system
According to Sonnenschein, the decision to pay 12% – 15% of 2010 associate compensation as part of a 2011 bonus will help them transition to their new compensation model. The firm wants a greater percentage of total compensation to be paid out as merit-based, end-of-the-year bonus. That new system will be fully operational in 2011, so the firm is viewing 2010 as a transition year. Again, the firm emphasized to us that there would be no hours or merit requirements for associates to receive this 12% – 15% of 2010 money next year.
Sound good? Let’s see what the tipsters have to say.
It’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.”
The good news is that the double salary freeze, which has apparently resulted in first- through third-year associates at Winston all earning $160,000, may be thawing. Managing partner Thomas Fitzgerald sent a memo — this time to its intended recipients — indicating that raises are on the way.
The bad news is that Winston associates don’t know how much of a raise they’ll be getting — and the most they can hope for is a salary that matches the market. The memorandum contains the standard $160K salary scale — 160-170-185-210-230-250-265-280 — but states that “[s]alary levels in each associate class will range up to the maximum base compensation levels set forth” in the memo (emphases added).
The Winston associates we’ve heard from are upset. They’re unhappy not just about the move away from lockstep, but over the firm’s failure to set forth in detail how salaries will be determined. Most of the other firms that have abandoned lockstep have set forth elaborate systems for evaluating associates to determine their compensation and advancement. The Winston memo simply states: “Individual associate salaries will be determined on a case by case basis based on seniority, performance and productivity factors and will be communicated separately to each associate.”
This is a “black box” approach to compensation. It’s used by other big firms — e.g., Jones Day — but it’s a significant departure from Winston’s historical practice. It’s not what Winston associates signed up for when they joined the firm.
But then again, thanks to the Great Recession, lots of Biglaw associates aren’t getting what they expected when they joined their firms. And if associates aren’t happy, with compensation or any other aspect of their employment, their firms will tell them: you’re free to leave. In the words of an unemployed woman quoted in this weekend’s New York Times, “There are no bad jobs now. Any job is a good job.”
There’s a little more bad news about Winston associate salaries. Find out what it is, and read the full Winston & Strawn memo, after the jump.
Is Biglaw getting over the gloom of the recession? Back in October, Morrison & Foerster was feeling pessimistic about attorney salaries. It decided to cut salaries for first-year associates from $160,000 to $145,000. Only associates in pricey New York and Asia — MoFo has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, all expensive cities — were spared the cut.
Note, however, that the market for first year salaries among national firms is undetermined at this time. Given that, we will continue to assess starting salaries, in light of market trends, and may elect to adjust as required based on larger market developments.
Well, MoFo has assessed, and MoFo has decided to beef up its salaries. Associates got news this week that first year salaries are back up to $160k. And the raise is retroactive to January 1st. From the firm email that went out on Tuesday, available in full after the jump:
Although a great deal of uncertainty continues regarding how the economy will perform in 2010, we, like our most successful competitors, remain in demand. We are planning conservatively for 2010. However, if 2009 is a predictor, 2010 will provide opportunity despite its challenges.
MoFo is known for being a little quirky. In keeping with its individualistic streak, it’s decided to buck the Cravath scale for its 2009 bonuses. Bonuses range as high as $65,000, but only if you clocked the requisite number of hours.
Sidley Austin associates, never underestimate the power of flipping out. Earlier today, we reported that Sidley Austin associates hit the proverbial roof (“proverbial roof” = hit send button on emails to Above the Law) when Winston & Strawn announced its salary structure (which we reported even earlier today). The Winston announcement, coupled with the fact that Sidley associates received another frozen paycheck last night/this morning, made associates at the firm very angry with Sidley’s reluctance to communicate the 2010 salary scale.
Well, Sidley associates, your complaints have been answered. Sidley just announced its 2010 salary scale, and the firm will be making a true-up raise. The raises will be retroactive to January 1, 2010.
Yay? Not quite. Some Sidley Austin people are still annoyed that the firm will evidently not be giving out a make-whole bonus, as other firms have done.
Details and the memo after the jump.
My firm [Sidley] is more like Winston than it is like a good firm. I should have gone to Kirkland.
Ouch. Why the sadness? Well, today is payday, and Sidley people have just learned that, as of now, their salaries are still frozen in place.
Details after the jump. UPDATE: After this post went up, Sidley decided to announce its 2010 salary structure. Click here for our updated coverage.
Another salary shoe has fallen in Chicago. Winston & Strawn froze salaries last year, and they are doing it again this year. A tipster reports:
Chicago received salary memos yesterday; DC just received salary memos today – All are individualized with no general pay scale included – just the recipient’s salary information.
Based on conversations with numerous associates in both offices – those who did not make hours (1950), those who did, and those who exceeded, all salaries remained the same (frozen at 2008 rates).
Well, at least that’s consistent.
A few details from the memos after the jump.
The profit gods did not smile upon Morgan Lewis & Bockius in 2009. Not on the partnership, not on the associates. We’ve already reported on MLB’s various attempts to change its associate pay scale. But making employee costs “merit-based” wasn’t enough to keep Morgan Lewis profits growing. Am Law Daily reports:
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius saw declines in revenue and profits in 2009 as a general economic slowdown and a hiring spree impacted the firm’s bottom line.
As of September 30, the end of Morgan Lewis’s fiscal year, 2009 revenue declined by nearly 5 percent to $1.07 billion from $1.12 billion in 2008. Profits per equity partner (PPP) dropped 15 percent to 2006 levels. The firm’s 2009 financials contrast sharply from 2008–that year, Morgan Lewis saw an 8 percent boost in PPP.
“We knew we dodged the bullet [in 2008], but we knew the hit was coming later,” says managing partner Thomas Sharbaugh.
The firm’s cost cutting measures were more than counterbalanced by significant new investments in lateral hires, says Sharbaugh. Morgan Lewis hired 55 new lawyers in the last fiscal year, nearly double the number of lateral hires made in 2008.
Oh, I see. Morgan Lewis is using laterals to replace people that they’ve laid off or deferred. Well, that’s a plan, I guess.
But for that plan to work, laterals have to want to come to the firm. Usually attracting laterals involves paying them competitively. Is MLB doing that?
Maybe Toyota should take a lesson from Bingham McCutchen: don’t try to cut corners when producing a hybrid.
Back in October, Bingham announced that it would be adopting a new “merit-lockstep” hybrid approach to associate compensation. The plan came with the stamp of approval from Bingham partners and associates. And a majority of Above the Law readers also approved of Bingham’s hybrid approach.
Today, Bingham rolled out its hybrid system. The firm is providing true-up, lockstep raises for people who hit 1900 hours. The double bump extends nationally, across all of Bingham’s offices. People who hit 1500 hours will only be getting a single class bump in salary. We understand that only a small percentage of Bingham associates were low enough on hours to be affected by this stratification.
At the low end, people who billed fewer than 1500 hours will have their salaries frozen again.
On the bright side, all of the people who are frozen will have their hours reevaluated in June. If they’re on pace, they’ll get their money.
The Bingham McCutchen lockstep base pay structure is clear and straightforward (see chart after the jump). For bonuses, welcome to the black box that is merit-based compensation.
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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