David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. Prior to ATL, David 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 book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal. David has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, a group of innovators within the legal profession, and inclusion as a member of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." You can connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
Readers of ATL are obsessed with lawyer compensation. But so is the mainstream media, it would appear — even in places outside New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.
From a piece by John-Laurent Tronche in the Fort Worth Business Press:
While local law firms are staying competitive, it doesn’t always pay to follow the nationwide trend to raise salaries for first-year associate lawyers.
A Texas pay raise explosion was sparked in mid-July when Houston-based Vinson & Elkins raised its first-year associate pay from $135,000 to $160,000, part of a nationwide move to match New York salaries. The firm’s pay hike prompted fellow Houston firm Andrews Kurth to raise salaries the next day, followed by a host of other big Texas law firms, including Dallas firms Haynes Boone and Thompson & Knight….
The move to match New York salaries is a matter of reputation, said David Lat, editor in chief of abovethelaw.com, a Web site that has been tracking the nationwide pay raise. But that reputation to “play ball with the big boys,” he said, isn’t always economically sound.
You can read the rest here. And a few days ago, the Des Moines Register “rewrote the WSJ story about lawyer salaries,” as one of you put it. (Well, Amir Efrati, remember what Coco Chanel once said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”)
The Register article begins:
Jason Fernandez never expected to be delivering flowers six months after he graduated from law school. But there he was – a graduate of the top-tier University of Iowa College of Law – navigating Washington, D.C., streets to deliver bouquets at $8 a pop.
As we previously wrote, there appears to be no truth to rumors of possible layoffs at Latham & Watkins. But even mentioning the words “layoff” and “Latham” in the same post got some people upset. We’d like to share some of the responses we received:
[T]he idea of layoffs [at Latham is] ridiculous. NYC M&A is still busy as hell, and on the whole the pace numbers, despite the traditional August lulls (read: not just credit market, it’s AUGUST) are very solid. They’re still bringing in laterals and still printing money.
And here’s a correction to the suggestion of possible slowness at the firm:
[O]ne of the comments you posted had incorrect data. The New York office was only at 90 percent pace for September, as some of your commenters noted. But for the year to date, even after a very slow August and September, New York’s pace is well over 100 percent. In fact, the office is about where it was last year, so things are nowhere near as bad as the doomsayers would have you think.
Plus, in the last week, things have began picking up substantially. In a few months, maybe we’ll be back to “NY to 190!”
Finally, we got our hands on firm-wide memo from Chairman and Managing Partner Robert Dell, discussing “firm culture.” It’s not very exciting, and it’s probably best read as a welcome to new associates, as opposed to some veiled discussion of layoffs.
If you’re curious, you can check it out after the jump.
When it comes to offeree swag, is the arms race among Biglaw shops heating up?
Sullivan & Cromwell brought out what we dubbed the “heavy artillery”: bonsai trees. But perhaps S&C has been bested — and not even by a New York firm:
Talk about firms taking recruiting to a whole new level. Last night, Choate Hall & Stewart held its offer dinner at a super-fancy, old school establishment. Choate had goody bags ready for all its offerees, and while most of us were expecting a pen (a la Goodwin) or a water bottle, lo and behold, in our red shiny gift bags, were brand new 8GB red video iPod nanos (at $200 a pop).
Soooooo sweet. It’s a little ridiculous, but at the same time, something has to be said for the financial health of the firm for them to be giving away iPods.
In the comments to one of our S&C bonsai posts, it was reported that Shearman & Sterling gave iPod shuffles to its summer associates. That’s quite nice. But it’s even nicer to give a nifty (and costly) gadget to a mere offeree, who at the end of the day might just say, “Thanks anyway, hello Ropes & Gray.”
What’s the nicest gift you’ve received, or heard of someone receiving, from a law firm encouraging acceptance of its offer? Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks.
Here’s a quick follow-up to our prior coverage of the mysterious Under Armour briefs that somehow made their way into the hands, and onto the loins, of Guantanamo Bay detainees. From Reuters:
The U.S. military has ended an inquiry into who smuggled unauthorized underwear and a bathing suit to two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without learning the source of the contraband skivvies, an attorney said on Wednesday.
The investigators concluded more vigilance was needed to prevent contraband from entering the camp that holds 330 suspected al Qaeda operatives, said Capt. Pat McCarthy, the military’s chief lawyer for the detention operation at Guantanamo.
Did you see the internal memo at K&L Gates announcing that the firm will cease contributions to attorney 401k plans? I found it interesting because it mentioned that similar reductions are occurring at other “major firms.” Which strikes me as stunning if true.
Of course, as noted in the comments to our earlier open thread on retirement benefits, many top law firms don’t contribute to attorney 401(k) plans in the first place. But if you know which “major firms” are being referred to in the memo, please share what you know, in the comments.
We received this information from a reliable source, but we haven’t seen the K&L Gates memo itself. If you have a copy to pass along, please email us. Thanks. Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Retirement Benefits and Financial Planning
Some sources at Kirkland & Ellis have been upset by our recentcoverage of layoff rumors. These rumors were focused on K&E’s office in Chicago, but New York was also implicated.
As we’ve repeatedly noted, these rumors are just that — rumors. We were reporting more on the existence of the rumors, as opposed to offering them for their truth value.
But let’s say the rumors are true, and K&E has adopted more rigorous associate review standards this year, in light of growing economic uncertainty. Would that be such a bad thing? Consider this
Kirkland & Ellis is one of the nation’s preeminent and most profitable law firms. So it appears they have a sound strategic business sense and are watching the bottom line. What is wrong with that? Don’t a lot of us aspire to work for a preeminent, highly profitable firm?
A law firm feels economic cycles. I’d much prefer to work for a firm that aggressively manages staffing levels as opposed to letting underproductive people [stay on indefinitely].
Recall that K&E’s bonuses have historically been well above market. If K&E is trimming some fat, so it can once again pay generous bonuses to the associates who DO meet its standards, what’s wrong with that?
Remember, too, that K&E, unlike most other Biglaw shops, doesn’t pay lockstep bonuses. Bonuses at Kirkland are highly individualized. In this sense, could K&E be the law firm of the future? Evaluate associates according to their individual merits, richly reward the superstars, and dump the underperformers? Might this be a better business model than the traditional “treat unequal associates equally” model of Biglaw?
Nevertheless, some Kirkland lawyers resist even this favorable characterization of the firm. They claim that K&E’s associate review process was conducted exactly as it has been in past years — that it was simply “business as usual,” and the same standards were applied this year as in prior years.
It’s only fair to give equal time to their views. Check out their rebuttals, after the jump.
* Holy Lawsuit, Batman! Professors sue Ave Maria. [AveWatch.org]
* TMI indeed; spare us talk of that burning sensation. Just say you have a doctor’s appointment, and leave it at that. [Nasty, Brutish & Short] * Just because you’re a 46-year-old man who has never been married doesn’t mean you’re gay. Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — whom we met earlier this month, btw — is engaged. Congrats, Pat! [WSJ Law Blog]
* Milberg Weiss and the Democrats: politics makes for not-so-strange bedfellows. [Overlawyered; Overlawyered]
* Some undergraduates earn cash by selling their class notes online. How long before this trend takes hold in law schools? [Conglomerate]
* Who says Yale Law grads can’t be funny? [Wonkette]
As we first reported yesterday, Professor D. Marvin Jones, who teaches constitutional law and criminal procedure (!) at the University of Miami law school, has been arrested for solicitation of a prostitute. Here’s an interesting tidbit, from Blogonaut:
Some of you asked for more details about the alleged conduct. We’ve gotten on our hands on the incident report, which appears below. Note the tension between (1) Professor Jones’s pimpin’ ride, a Mercedes SL500, and (2) his alleged offer of a mere $20 to the “undercover officer possing [sic] as a prostitute.”
Law professors don’t make as much as Biglaw partners. But surely the driver of a Mercedes could be a little more generous!
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
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…
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