David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, New York magazine, Washingtonian magazine, and the New York Observer. Prior to ATL, he launched Underneath Their Robes, a blog about federal judges. Before entering the journalism world, he worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in New York; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. David graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as one of the American Lawyer’s Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years; one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels, a group of pioneers within the legal profession; and one of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." His first book, Supreme Ambitions: A Novel, will be published in 2015. You can connect with David on Twitter and Facebook.
I had a few thoughts for 2007 and 2008 that I would like to share as my year-end message.
First, 2007. As of today, Sunday, December 30, 2007, we have collected $313.5 million during our collection drive and expect to collect approximately $16.5 million on Monday, the 31st, to reach $330 million for our December collection drive. Although we expect to be short by $10 million of our goal, this is still a great accomplishment when you consider the housing situation, the subprime issues and the dislocation of the credit markets that prevented a number of deals from being completed this year.
Read the rest of Cesar Alvarez’s message — in which he spreads holiday cheer doom and gloom, jawboning down associate compensation expectations — after the jump.
Since our last compilation of bonus news, which was issued before the holiday, we’ve received some new announcements. Some of them have been mentioned already in the comments, but have not yet appeared on the main page.
But we have verified them, and they are legit. So, for the record, here they are:
1. Dechert (New York): Memo after the jump. The email to New York associates was forwarded to Philadelphia associates, “[i]n the spirit of working on improving communications across the firm.” (Read: “So you don’t find out about it from one of those darn blogs first.”)
2. Mayer Brown (Chicago, Palo Alto, Washington, DC): Memo after the jump. In a nutshell, the bonuses “will be consistent with the amounts paid for 2006 work. In addition, a further discretionary bonus may be awarded to associates who have made contributions to the Firm significantly beyond expectations.”
3. Morrison & Foerster (New York): Memo after the jump. Market-level year-end and special bonuses “will be paid to all New York associates who progress with their salary class based on their annual evaluation and who are in good standing and employed with the Firm when the bonuses are paid.”
Over the break, a reader sent us this article, accompanied by a quip: “Looks like BigLaw is funding some new research.”
Our first reaction: A brain chemical you snort to replace sleep? It’s called “cocaine.”
But today we have a second reaction: Would such research, if funded by Biglaw, be a waste of time? Law firm associates — and partners — sacrifice sleep to rack up billable hours. But is the billable hour on the way out?
Over at Slate, in a piece entitled “How to Kill the Billable Hour,” Lisa Lerer writes:
[C]riticisms [of the billable hour] lobbed by academics, associates, and bloggers have had a negligible impact. Making such a significant change takes a more powerful force in law firm life: the client. And now, finally, the companies that pay millions in hourly rates are striking back, forcing their law firms to cut some tough, nonhourly fee deals. If anyone can tame the billable beast, it’s the clients who feed it….
Cisco, Pitney Bowes, Caterpillar, and several other large corporations have begun to force their law firms into alternative billing arrangements. The companies push flat fees and volume-based discounts, and ban young associates from working on their business, hoping to avoid paying through the nose for work that could be done more cheaply by paralegals or temp lawyers. They say that by eradicating or at least limiting hourly rates, they avoid cost creep, cut their bills, and better predict their expenses.
Writes an ATL reader who works at a prominent New York law firm: “Great. Now it won’t matter that I bill 2500 hours a year.”
A little more, on the other side of the rainbow.
This announcement, apparently from celebrity commenter Loyola 2L, was posted earlier at the WSJ Law Blog (which recently named him their Lawyer of the Year). But in case you missed it, check it out:
—–Original Message—– From: [Deleted] Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2008 12:26 AM To: Above the Law; WSJ Law Blog Subject: Retirement email from the poster Loyola 2L
Dear WSJ Law Blog and Above the Law,
I hope the new year treats you well. This is the blogger known as “Loyola 2L.” First off, I hope you can see why I combined you into one recipient. I know it’s rude to combine recipients, but both of your blogs have been a central part of my life for the past year and I couldn’t write one without the other.
No offense taken — we’re honored to be in such distinguished company.
Read the rest of his message, below the fold. (An ATL New Year’s resolution: Use more synonyms for “after the jump.”)
Happy New Year, dear readers of ATL! We hope that you had an enjoyable and restful holiday season; we know we did.
Now we’re back, after a pleasant holiday hiatus. Did you miss us?
We’re looking forward to another fun year of dishing legal gossip, as well as chronicling associate pay raises and partner profits (God willing). We’re still in the process of catching up on email and legal news, so please bear with us. If you have a juicy tip to share, please do email us.
Here are some of our ATL-related New Year’s resolutions:
1. Wake up earlier. (When you work from home, it’s easy to oversleep.)
2. Respond more promptly to emails that require a response.
3. Stop feeling guilty about not being able to respond to every last email (because, given the volume of email we receive around here, it’s not possible to respond individually to each and every message — for which we apologize).
We hope that you’re having a wonderful holiday season and are getting some well-deserved rest — as are we.
As was the case last year, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule between now and the new year. We’ll return to a normal schedule on Wednesday, January 2, 2008.
To those of you who celebrate it, Merry Christmas! And a happy new year to all.
* Top legal stories of 2007. [CNN]
* Stop complaining, civil libertarians. Things could be much worse. [New York Times]
* A leadership vacuum at the Department of Justice. [Washington Post via How Appealing]
* And don’t look to recess appointments to address the problem. [Washington Post]
* A different kind of “pole tax,” which will divert five dollar bills from g-strings to g-coffers. But does it violate the First Amendment? [AP; TaxProf Blog]
* Union members: You’ve Got Mail. Oh wait, you don’t — at least not of the union-related kind. [New York Times]
* Adam Liptak asks whether a “Judicial Hellhole” is in the eye of the beholder. Also, a quote from Dickie Scruggs that maybe he wishes he could take back. [New York Times via WSJ Law Blog]
Let’s send you into the holiday weekend with some associate bonus news. Here are some law firm bonus announcements that haven’t been previously covered in these pages.
(Firms that previously announced their bonuses, but are being sneaky about the exact amounts and/or the percentage of associates getting them, will be addressed separately. This post is for completely new announcements.)
Some of this news is incomplete. If you can provide more details, please email us. Thanks.
1. Akin Gump (New York): Year-end bonuses, and special bonuses to “those associates and counsel who have performed in accordance with the Firm’s expectations regarding productivity, quality of work and Firm citizenship.” Plus “discretionary merit bonuses” to associates and counsel “who performed in a truly exceptional manner.”
One source at the firm characterizes it as follows:
Full match in NY, with extra bonuses in certain cases (generally to billers over 2400). There has never been an hours requirement, so if past practice is any indicator, anyone not being fired will get it.
Full memo, after the jump.
2. Akin Gump (outside New York): Each associate is allowed to make the case to the firm for a big bonus. A source tells us that this practice of asking associates to write up memos to justify their bonuses started a few years ago. “I wonder how this plays into the current bonus climate, or if anyone else has to do this.”
3. Hogan & Hartson (outside New York): The 2007 bonus memo appears after the jump.
4. Hogan & Hartson (New York): We’ve confirmed the fact that Hogan announced bonuses in New York. It was described to us as a market match. But we haven’t seen a memo or the fine print of the announcement, so we can’t confirm that. Update: The bonus memo for Hogan & Hartson’s New York office appears after the jump.
5. Vinson & Elkins (New York): “V&E matched the New York market bonus (including this year’s special bonus) for its New York associates, to be paid on January 15, 2008. No memo yet, a voicemail.”
6. Sheppard Mullin: Details after the jump.
The late Pope John Paul II was an expert skier. Even after he became Pope, and into his 60′s, the Holy Father would slip away from the Vatican for secret ski trips.
So, although we’d like them removed from all interstate highways, we have no problem with oldies on the slopes. This, however, is more troubling:
A 60-year-old man is taking an 8-year-old boy and his dad to court, claiming the boy caused a ski-slope collision that left the older man with a shoulder injury. David J. Pfahler of Allentown, Pa., sued in federal court in Denver, claiming Scott Swimm, then 7, was skiing fast and recklessly when they collided in January, the Vail Daily reported Thursday.
Looks like Pfahler is making a federal case of it (literally). He claims — quite conveniently, for diversity jurisdiction purposes — losses in excess of $75,000.
Scott’s father, Robb Swimm, said that he saw the crash and that Scott was skiing slowly and in control. “It wasn’t a violent collision or anything; Scott just kind of tapped his ski boots,” he said this week.
Scott’s mother, Susan Swimm, said her son weighs 48 pounds and couldn’t have been going more than 10 mph. “Who in the world sues a child?” she said.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.