David Lat & Elie Mystal

Posts by David Lat & Elie Mystal

Lat here. Today’s topic: transparency in how law schools report their graduates’ “employment outcomes” — i.e., the jobs that their graduates obtain.

When we attended admitted students’ weekend at Yale Law School — back in 1996, so almost 15 years ago — we were given detailed lists showing where the past few classes ended up working. The graduates were listed in alphabetical order, and below each person’s name was the name and address of their employer. For prospective law students, it was reassuring to see so many federal judicial clerkships and large law firms on these lists. The implicit message: if you graduate — or when you graduate, since we’re talking about YLS, not known for failing people (although it does have grades) — you will be able to secure a good job.

Alas, we understand that not all law schools are so forthcoming about where their alumni end up working (or not working, in this economy). There have been widespread allegations of law schools gaming the system, by massaging or manipulating the employment data they report to the American Bar Association and, perhaps even more importantly, to U.S. News & World Reports (for use in the magazine’s highly influential law school rankings). There have even been claims of law schools outright lying about how many of their graduates wind up employed, where they end up working, and how much they earn from these jobs.

Most observers are content just to complain about law schools not being forthcoming enough about employment information. But two enterprising law students at Vanderbilt — Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch, a 2L and 3L, respectively — are doing more. They’ve started a nonprofit organization, Law School Transparency, which has the goal of “encouraging and facilitating the transparent flow of law school employment information.” They’ve also written a paper, A Way Forward: Improving Transparency in Employment Reporting at American Law Schools (SSRN download), proposing a new approach to reporting of job outcomes by law schools.

More details and links — plus commentary from Elie, who feels strongly about this issue — after the jump.

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* If you’re a pro athlete and get fined, is the fine deductible as a business expense? [Going Concern]

* If you are a pro athlete who gets accused of rape on the basis of evidence so flimsy that the D.A. can’t even bring charges, you can still get suspended. [Washington Post]

* If you’re a former debater — many notable lawyers and judges are — then this event in New York tomorrow night might interest you. [New Yorker]

* Jonathan Moss, former general counsel to Gucci and former Lawyer of the Day, argues that his inactive status is no big deal. [ABA Journal]

* Should Pope Benedict be arrested when he visits England? Romans should always be wary when entering Britain. [Infamy or Praise]

* Speaking of the Catholic Church and the child sexual abuse scandal…. [Bad Lawyer]

* Former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt thinks that the SEC’s going after Goldman is risky business. [Daily Beast]

* Have a burning question you’d like to ask about the Supreme Court? They’re listening. (Drop it in the comments.) [BackStory With the American History Guys]

An article in today’s New York Times, by former WSJ Law Blog writer Dan Slater, discusses changing law firm business models. Much of the piece covers ground that will be familiar to ATL readers. But the article contains some interesting new information about Kaye Scholer (where Slater once worked).

According to the Times article, it appears that the firm essentially lied to some of its new associates:

In the summer of 2008, Kaye Scholer’s New York office extended offers of full-time employment to 31 students, many from top schools. They would return to law school for their third years, they thought, then graduate, take the bar exam and begin at the firm in January 2010, at a base salary approximating the current level of $160,000.

About two months before the start date, however, the firm notified 18 of the 31, a group including law graduates from Columbia, New York and Northwestern Universities, that they would be relegated, upon arrival, to the firm’s public interest group. There, they would work on pro bono matters and make $60,000 a year.

All 18 accepted the revised offer.

In March, about two months after starting, 17 of the 18 were assigned to a document review project, for a paying client, and told to bill 40 hours a week. For this, these associates will make an extra $30 an hour, approximately the hourly rate of their base salary.

We reported on Kaye Scholer’s $60,000 a year, pro bono associate plan back in October. How did the firm characterize it to us at the time?

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And some reflections on the changing Biglaw business model.

An ATL favorite, Quinn Emanuel, is making a change to its firm name. From the Quinn press release:

John B. Quinn announced today that the firm he and Eric Emanuel founded 25 years ago will change its name, and henceforth be known as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. The decision to add Kathleen M. Sullivan as a name partner was made in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the firm and the profession. Sullivan is a partner in the firm’s New York City office and heads the firm’s national appellate practice.

Congratulations to former Stanford Law School dean Sullivan.

Of course, now that she’s a name partner, we are eagerly awaiting for the ATL community to honor Kathleen Sullivan with her own meme. John Quinn doesn’t use capital letters. Bill Urquhart … really likes capital letters. We can’t wait to see what Sullivan comes up with.

Read the full press release, plus an UPDATE with some observations from Lat, after the jump.

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ABA Blog 100 2009 Winner.JPG* Well, my resolution to be hopeful about the future of Biglaw in 2010 lasted all of five days. Thanks, Larry Ribstein, I guess I’ll still need to hang onto my Lexapro prescription. [Ideoblog]
* Why do lawyers make so much money? Kash and Lat’s cover story for Washingtonian magazine, which addresses this question, is now online (along with the list of D.C.’s top lawyers). [Washingtonian]
* Do law school career services operations need a complete overhaul? [Lawyerist]
* An old tale of sex in the champagne conference room at Skadden. [Clusterstock]
* Interested in making the transition from law to media? Above the Law’s sister site, Dealbreaker, is looking for an additional writer. [Dealbreaker]
* Thanks to all the readers who voted for Above the Law in ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 contest. Above the Law won the News category. We’ll keep it coming in 2010. [ABA Journal]

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.JPGBonuses have been announced over at Weil Gotshal — and, at least for some associates, WGM is paying above the market. Eat your heart out, Cravath.
In addition, Weil is giving its associates their standard seniority-based pay raises for 2010. The firm is using the regular NYC pay scale: $160K – $170K – $185K – $210K – $230K, etc. The pay raise won’t hit bank accounts until the February 5 deposit, but it will be retroactive to January 1.
Should above-market bonuses from Weil come as a surprise? On the one hand, the firm has been having a good year, thanks to its work on marquee bankruptcies like Lehman Brothers and GM. On the other hand, the firm tends to be cheap about such things historically hasn’t been a compensation leader.
For associates receiving an “overall strong” rating, the firm will pay bonuses on the Sullivan & Cromwell scale. We hear that achieving this rating isn’t difficult: “[P]retty much everyone gets that. No hours requirement. I’ve never heard of anyone not getting a bonus if they are still employed on pay day.”
But wait, there’s more. Certain more-senior associates, from the class of 2005 on up, will receive “distinguished” bonuses.

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Some senior associates will get $50K bonuses.

Simpson Thacher Bartlett LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgAbove the Law has obtained what appear to be notes or minutes from a June 2009 partners’ meeting at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. As you would expect, they are riveting reading.
A caveat: the notes appear authentic to us, and they’ve been making the rounds at Simpson, but the firm has not officially confirmed their authenticity. In addition, a firm spokesperson stated that STB does not maintain official minutes of partnership meetings. So please read this post with these warnings in mind. (We welcome private feedback on the notes and their contents; please feel free to email us.)
Let’s start with the important stuff. Back in June, when this meeting took place, Simpson seriously considered doing layoffs, in the truest sense of the word — large in scale, and open and notorious (not stealth). To their credit, however, the partners decided not to go down that path — even though it meant taking a financial hit, by forfeiting potential cost savings. From the minutes:

Headcount: We continue to be oversized relative to demand in New York corporate, particularly among the younger classes and in California corporate. We have been working closely with Personnel and have aggressively been moving out underperformers and people who have been passed over for partner….

Obviously, we could “right size” faster if we implemented a lay-off (100 attys). And, we could target the younger corporate classes in New York and the younger classes in California. However, none of the top-tier firms has engaged in lay-offs. We do not want to be the first top-tier firm to engage in lay-offs. From a financial point of view, given the market practice that has developed, with respect to severance, the cost savings produced by a lay-off, as opposed to our aggressive performance-based reductions, is modest [no savings this year / $30K per/point next year].

More discussion, plus the complete minutes, after the jump.

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woman with migraine headache.jpgIf you have a job these days, especially a job at a high-paying law firm, you should be grateful, right? Right.
But that doesn’t mean work is all sunshine and lollipops. Many attorneys continue to experience a high amount of stress, which often manifests itself in the form of illness. A friend who works at a law firm sent us this suggestion:

I’m swamped, but I had to run out of the office for a doctor’s appointment. I was diagnosed with an ulcer last year, and apparently it still hasn’t healed.

Maybe you should do an ATL piece on ostensibly stress-related illnesses suffered by attorneys. What are some of the most “popular” maladies suffered by attorneys at an inappropriately young age?

Good question. Take our survey, and a stroll through the various maladies that have afflicted Elie Mystal, after the jump.

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Wilmer Hale logo.JPGAs Justice Brandeis famously observed, “[s]unlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” A certain amount of transparency keeps organizations honest and ethical. Alas, it seems that some law firms, like vampires, have a lower tolerance for sunlight than others.
In late August, we ran an offer rate open thread. There were over 550 comments, and some of the ones about WilmerHale were a little disturbing. They came to our attention when an individual weighing offers from WilmerHale and other top law firms sent us this message:

Could you follow up on all of the negative comments re: WilmerHale in your Summer Offer Rate Open Thread? I’m considering an offer from this firm, and there seem to be a ton of disgruntled associates there. The whole thing seems to center around an internal memo warning associates not to send tips to ATL. This deserves some investigation. Thanks for running an excellent blog.

So we took a closer look at the WH comments on the thread. Like this one:

The firm has made it abundantly clear that no one should provide tips to ATL or post comments. The clear message is that if caught, you’ll be fired. I, however, have already been “transitioned out”, so I have nothing to worry about other than feeding my family.

And this one:

Didn’t you just love the scathing internal memo meant to scare the living &*^$ out of those who were even thinking about tipping ATL? Apparently it worked, because it didn’t end up here (though it should have). I guess the few that were spared from the bloodbath are shaking in their boots.

We haven’t received the memo itself — yet — but we certainly received an awful lot of detail about it.
More reactions to the memo, plus comment from the firm, after the jump.

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