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.
O’Melveny & Myers just announced associate bonuses for its offices in California and Washington, DC. One of the tipsters who sent us the memo is not pleased:
Attached is the memo that O’Melveny & Myers associates just received. The figures for the “class bonus” appear to be far below the standard bonus at other comparable firms such as Gibson Dunn.
Memo after the jump. Update: Based on the reactions thus far, this announcement is not going over very well. But maybe OMM is okay with that. Opines one commenter: “Expect a big exodus. It’s probably what they are hoping for.”
Colorado judge Grafton M. Biddle has been the subject of a prior ATL shout-out. But he has never been officially named a Judge of the Day. We think it’s about time.
From the Rocky Mountain News:
A former Douglas County judge who had an affair with a prosecutor that included a rendezvous in his chambers and in the women’s courthouse showers was suspended for three years Monday.
Grafton M. Biddle’s punishment comes almost a year after he resigned his judgeship in a short Dec. 18 letter signed simply, “With regrets,” that gave no reason for his decision.
But by then, rumors of his affair with Deputy District Attorney Laurie A. Hurst — who used the last name Steinman at the time — had been circulating in the courthouse.
From one of the paper’s online commenters:
“Just another black mark on the Colorado Judicial System…… Would this be prostitution??? You know, lawyers have billable hours for everything they do… Screw the judge or screw the neighbors… Someone is paying the price for getting screwed, and an attorney is involved.”
A 33-year-old woman was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault Saturday after allegedly groping a man playing Santa Claus at the Danbury Fair mall.
Sandrama Lamy, 33, of Danbury, is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault, according to Danbury Detective Lt. Thomas Michael.
She sounds like a total…. ho ho ho.
Details leading up to the alleged fondling are sketchy. “I don’t know what the deal was. It was just bizarre,” the mall Santa told a reporter…
The mall Santa told police that Lamy touched him inappropriately while sitting on his lap. “The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted,” Michael said.
Put Ms. Lamy on the “naughty” side of the ledger.
2007 has not been a great year for mall Santas. Earlier this month in Missoula, Mont., a mall Santa was assaulted with a pumpkin pie. Meanwhile, a department store Santa in Australia claims he lost his job earlier this month because he said “Ho, ho, ho.” (His bosses had asked him to say “Hi, hi, hi.”)
“Santa Tim” Connaghan is the president of RealSantas.com and teaches hundreds of people a year how to be Santas. He said the Danbury Fair mall incident, if true, is one of kind. Santas usually have to worry about kids tugging beards and teens throwing pennies from the mall rafters.
“I’ve had some very nice ladies sit on my lap,” Connaghan said.
So far, we’ve received about 1,000 responses to yesterday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on bonuses.
So far, we’ve discovered that around 40% of associates receiving bonuses think their bonus is too low, which is just slightly higher than the percentage of associates who think their hourly rates are too high. Coincidence?
Since over a third of you still don’t know what your bonuses will be, we’re going to leave the survey open for the rest of the week. Please fill it out if you haven’t already done so. To access it, click here.
In the meantime, we’re going to post the national results and breakdowns on a city by city basis. Since we have the most responses from New York, that’s where we’ll start. See the results after the jump.
Many of our Lawyers of the Day tend to be solo or small-firm practitioners from non-major cities. Not so with today’s honoree, Joseph Collins. He’s a partner at Mayer Brown, one of the country’s biggest and most prestigious law firms, and he maintains offices in Chicago and New York.
From an article by Nathan Koppel in the Wall Street Journal (subscription; but also covered at the Law Blog):
In a rare case of a lawyer being charged in connection with the alleged wrongs of a client, Chicago lawyer Joseph Collins was indicted today on fraud and other charges in connection with the 2005 collapse of commodities and derivatives firm Refco Inc.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Tuesday announced 11 counts against Mr. Collins, of the law firm Mayer Brown LLP, in connection with legal work he did for Refco, including documenting a series of “round trip loans” between related entities and outside investors that Refco completed to shift bad debt off its books from the late 1990s to 2005. The discovery of the transactions led to one of the swiftest collapses in Wall Street history.
Phillip Bennett, the former chief executive of Refco, and others have been indicted in connection with the Refco collapse.
“Acting hand-in-hand with Bennett, Collins made affirmative misrepresentations, material omissions, and told deceptive half-truths, all to assist Bennett’s scheme to steal more than $2.4 billion from potential investors,” the indictment said.
Yikes. And the indictment is coming out of the S.D.N.Y. — those guys are badass.
Neither Mr. Collins nor the firm got back to the WSJ in time to comment. But we were able to get a statement from Mayer Brown. Check it out, after the jump.
We’ve heard complaints from numerous associates claiming that their law firms are using vague bonus policies to lowball them on bonuses. While we understand why these associates are upset, we can’t say we’re surprised. The whole point of a bonus policy that contains an element of discretion is the ability to pay some associates less than others — for whatever reason, justified or not.
This is why we regard only a lockstep, non-hours-based match of the Cravath year-end and special bonuses as a “true match.” If a firm reserves the right to tailor associate bonuses — based on billable hours, quality of performance, or any other factor — expect the firm to exercise it.
So we don’t expect to write much about how firms are using slippery bonus memos to pay low bonuses (although we will bring you the results of yesterday’s bonus survey). The intricacies of an individual law firm’s bonus policy tend to be of interest only to people at that particular firm.
We are, however, interested in bright-line distinctions. For example, what firms have rejected special bonuses entirely? It turns out there are a few of them. Last week we received this info:
DLA Piper litigation associates in New York just left a “Coffee Meeting” with Joe Finnerty III, head of New York litigation. He “unofficially” announced that the bonus structure and amount will be exactly the same as last year and that there will be no market “special bonuses.”
Hmm. Did the firm not get paid enough for the Mitchell Report?
And today we received this info:
I’m an associate at McDermott, Will & Emery in the Boston office. We have all just heard through department heads that not only will the firm not issue special bonuses this year, but bonuses this year will be less than half of years past and well well below market.
For example, a 6th year associate (class of 2001) billing between 2000 and 2100 hours will get approximately $5,000. eedless to say, this is less than a first-year associate gets for simply showing up at any other firm. There is not a large or probably even a midsize firm in Boston whose bonuses are anywhere near this low.
We’re guessing that DLA Piper and McDermott, Will & Emery are not alone in nixing special bonuses. Many of the firms that have remained mum until now probably have no plans of paying special bonuses, a la Cravath.
And to be perfectly (and brutally) honest, does it make sense for firms with profits per partner that are a fraction of Cravath’s to pay bonuses at Cravath levels? Of course associates want bigger bonuses. But they also want jobs.
Nevertheless, we have no doubt that many of you are unhappy about your firm’s bonus policy. Feel free to engage in bonus bitchery in the comments. Thanks.
We thought the whole point of Ave Maria Law School, founded by Domino’s pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, was that with enough money, you can do whatever you want. E.g., establish a very conservative, Catholic law school, and not care if the liberal legal academy raises its eyebrows — ’cause you could buy and sell them, several times over.
So doesn’t it defeat the whole point if Ave Maria requires funding from sources beyond Monaghan’s pile of pizza dough? From Julie Kay’s article in the National Law Journal:
Got $20 million? If so, you could have a law school building named after you.
Ave Maria School of Law is selling naming rights to the new law school facility it’s building in southwest Florida.
“We’d like to find someone who would want the opportunity to have their name associated with the school, to help us with the construction costs,” said Dean Bernard Dobranski. He said the school is rapidly moving forward with its controversial plan to relocate from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Ave Maria, Fla., and has even obtained architectural renderings of the new school.
Ave Maria is already in turmoil: controversy over its move from Michigan to Florida, lawsuits filed by three professors who claim they were wrongfully terminated, an ongoing investigation by the American Bar Association. A suggestion that Tom Monaghan’s coffers are not infinite could not come at a worse time.
Meanwhile, in other Domino’s news, they’re trying to return to the glory days of their 30-minute delivery guarantee — without getting sued. Delivering delicious pizza in under half an hour is a noble mission. We wish them the best of luck.
P.S. Tom Monaghan no longer owns the pizza chain. He sold his controlling interest to Bain Capital in 1998 for about a billion dollars, which he plowed into launching Ave Maria University. Ave Maria still looks to move, puts name on block [National Law Journal] Domino’s Pizza and the Law [WSJ Law Blog] Will a Twist on an Old Vow Deliver for Domino’s Pizza? [Wall Street Journal]
Veteran litigator Joseph Russoniello, recently nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, previously served as senior counsel in the San Francisco office of Cooley Godward Kronish. If he’s confirmed, which is looking likely, one would expect him to take a big pay cut as he moves from private practice to government service. The current Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, earned $1,993,367 over 21 months while at Patterson Belknap; now, as AG, he takes home $186,600 a year.
But Joe Russoniello won’t be taking such a huge pay cut. A reader observes:
Buried at the end of a Recorder article (subscription) about a DOJ report about Joe Russoniello’s possible conflicts or interest due to his $1.5 million stock portfolio is Joe’s last year’s compensation from Cooley Godward. This is the part that I found interesting. Why? Because it’s so low.
What do you think Cooley Godward was paying the ex-U.S. Attorney to serve as counsel to the firm? Half a million? A million? No…. $244,802!
In light of that paycheck — which, while handsome by normal standards, is a pittance by Biglaw ones — we hope that Russoniello’s Cooley gig was super-cushy, with minimal billing required. His paycheck is pretty much equal to that of a third-year associate at Cravath, all in (base of $180,000, year-end bonus of $45,000, and special bonus of $20,000). But how many Cravath third-years can claim to have served as U.S. Attorney in a major city for eight years, as Joseph Russoniello did (1982-1990)? Fighting Crime May Not Pay [The Recorder (subscription)] Taking Stock of The DOJ’s Next Targets [Legal Pad]
The New York State Board of Law Examiners has confirmed to me that they will hear appeals regarding the July 2007 exam. That exam was plagued by malfunctioning software for those that submitted essays on laptop computers, only to see all or part of the answers disappear. The BOLE subsequently said that they approximated the answers if they were incomplete, based on how the examinees did on other answers. Those grade approximations were subsequently called into question based on an anonymous tip in this blog.
For associates in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis, this Wednesday is when they’ll learn their financial fate:
From: Jonathan Putnam To: New York Associates Cc: John Desmarais, John Kuehn, Michael Movsovich, Maria Davalos Sent: December 17, 2007 Subject: Associate Bonus Meeting
As in past years, John Desmarais will give a short presentation this week to explain our associate bonus methodology. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 4 pm in Conference Room 50G-H. The bonuses will be paid before the end of the month.
When it comes to bonuses, K&E does things a bit differently. Associate bonuses are not lockstep but individualized, based on (1) your rank relative to your peers and (2) your hours.
Historically the Kirkland bonuses have been quite generous. Even for average K&E associates, as opposed to top performers, they’re typically well above-market — some of the highest in all of Biglaw (even if not at Wachtell levels).
But in light of this year’s “special” bonuses, how will the K&E bonuses stack up to the top tier New York firms? Check back later in the week to find out.
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.