Justin Bernold

Justin is the founder of Firm Prospects LLC, a boutique legal search and placement firm. Here on Above The Law, Justin was on the masthead as "Surveys Guru" from late 2007 to early 2009.

Posts by Justin Bernold

funny-pictures-tollbooth-cat-will-accept-burger-payment.jpgWe received 1,054 responses to Monday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on when raises happen at your firms.

As expected, the overwhelming majority of you — almost 80% — said that your firms raise salaries in January.

But the rest of you are probably in for a wait. More than half of the associates who aren’t getting raises in February reported that raises will happen later, not earlier, at their firms.

Results: When Does Your Firm Adjust Salaries

Month Percentage
January 79.3%
February 6.5%
March 4.0%
April 1.4%
May Less than 1%
June Less than 1%
July Less than 1%
August Less than 1%
September   1.4%
October 2.2%
November Less than 1%
December 2.9%

Respondents reporting October raises included associates at Kenyon & Kenyon, Curtis Mallet-Prevost, Quarles & Brady, and a few boutiques. February raisers included Foley & Lardner, MoFo, Paul Hastings, Drinker Biddle, Akerman Senterfitt, and WolfBlock. According to attorneys at K&L Gates, Seyfarth Shaw, and Moore & Van Allen, March is the month for step-ups in salary.

Bear in mind, though, that some firms that announce raises in February or March may apply those raises retroactively to January 1. And, in a tough financial climate, we may see more firms delay raise announcements this year or perhaps, as one commenter predicts, announce raises of zero:

Remember you read it here first. At least 10 AmLaw firms will decide in January 2009 that they will not move salaries up to “the next class.” The stagnation in the market will – when combined with the trough in net earnings cause firms to say “we are holding you where you are – which is better than having to RIF 10-15% of you.” This will be the year the air goes out of the tire of associate raises.

Several firms did indeed freeze salaries during the last recession.

But that’s not to say that billing rates won’t go up. In fact, there’s a good chance they already have. Most respondents receiving raises in January said their rates go up during the fall — or even the summer — before:

Results: When Does Your Firm Adjust Billing Rates

Month Percentage
January 48.4%
February Less than 1%
March Less than 1%
April -
May Less than 1%
June Less than 1%
July 5.6%
August 1.7%
September   24.3%
October 14.4%
November 3.6%
December 1.0%

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

funny-pictures-surprise-chicken-is-a-little-early.jpgOver the weekend, millions of Americans reset their clocks to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time. And millions of other Americans forgot to change their clocks, and showed up to brunch an hour early.

But sometimes, early is a good thing. In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we investigate another time of change: the day your firm adjusts salaries.

At most firms, the new class of associates arrived in September or October. Some firms adjusted all of their associates’ seniority and salaries when the new first-years arrived. Most, however, will wait to adjust salaries, if not billing rates, until January 1.

At New York market rates, this means early raisers are actually paying associates $2,500 to $6,250 more in base salary this year than the rest of the market. (A third-year associate at a September raiser — now a fourth year — could actually make $8,333 more.)

So, does your firm observe Salary Saving Time, or have they already set your pay stubs forward?

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

political-pictures-ron-paul-popular-vote-myspace.jpgWe received 836 responses to Monday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on whether you’ll be volunteering your services on Election Day, and the results are pretty remarkable. Over 40% of practicing attorneys who took the survey said that they would be helping out:

  * 23% will be working as election monitors.

  * 11% will be staffing call centers.

  * 7% will be members of a legal response team.

  * Another 7% are still deciding whether to volunteer.

Law students are even more active, with 46% planning to work as election monitors, 6% staffing call centers, and 9% supporting a legal response team.

Interestingly, Obama supporters were much more likely than McCain voters to spread their time around for Joe the Voter, with 30% working as election monitors (vs. 15% of McCain voters), 12% staffing call centers (vs. 4%), and 9% working in legal response teams (vs. 5%).

Formal law firm support also had a pretty substantial impact on attorney participation in next Tuesday’s efforts, especially among attorneys staffing call centers:

  * At firms counting the work as billable time, more than two thirds of attorney respondents will be volunteering their services (31% as poll monitors, 30% in call centers, and 7% in response teams).

  * The percentage of volunteers drops slightly, to 60%, at firms that consider the work pro bono but non-billable (31% poll monitors, 18% call center staff, and 11% in response teams).

  * But at firms that give no credit at all, only 34% of respondents have decided to volunteer on Election Day (24% as poll monitors, 2% in call centers, and 8% in response teams).

Quite a few firms will be giving credit. 27% of respondents said that they can indeed count their service toward their billable hours, including associates at Cleary Gottlieb, Cooley Godward, Davis Polk, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Goodwin Procter, Hogan & Hartson, Katten, Kelley Drye, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham, Morgan Lewis, MoFo, Orrick, Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray, Shearman & Sterling, and Skadden. Another 12% of respondents will count their work as pro bono, but not billable time.

That said, though, roughly a third of respondents said that their firms would not be providing any credit for volunteering next week, and about a quarter of you weren’t sure.

In addition to firm support, there’s quite a bit of peer support going around. More than half of attorney respondents noted that their firm colleagues were also volunteering next Tuesday. 41% said that both partners and associates were pitching in, while 11% said that other associates were signing up, but not partners.

Actual participation may be even higher though, as 38% of respondents weren’t sure whether other attorneys at their firms were getting involved. Only 9% of respondents said that neither their peers nor their partners would be volunteering next week.

So, overall, it looks like next Tuesday’s going to be a pretty quiet day at the office. Probably a good day to do some volunteer work. (You can still sign up here or here.)

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

128294720808907500callmahlawyur.jpgEarlier this month, an ATL / Lateral Link survey found that 86% of you were talking about politics in the workplace. And 18% of you reported that a fellow associate had tried to convince you to vote for their favorite candidate.

But are politics just seeping into your workplace, or will you be taking your profession to the polls? As the Obama campaign recruits lawyers to join the world’s largest law firm next week and the McCain campaign recruits its own Legal Response Team, how are you and your firms planning to spend the day?

Will you be policing the polls for pro bono — or billable — credit?

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

1163919784-1162668862733.jpgIn last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we asked you whether you billed over Columbus Day Weekend this year.

We received 1,175 responses, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that 26% of you had a pleasant three-day weekend. Associates in Boston were most likely to enjoy a discovery-free Columbus Day, with offices at Bingham, Goodwin Procter, and Ropes & Gray reportedly closed for the day. Overall, 46% of Boston respondents reported that they had not worked over the holiday weekend, followed by 36% of respondents in Philadelphia.

Of course, not all respondents were so lucky. As one associate commented:

One of the name partners threw a hissy fit when someone asked for the time off, because “Columbus Day isn’t Christmas, and this weekend is just like every other weekend.” We were only absent one associate on Monday. Everyone else not a partner was working.

Nice.

Of those who spent time at the office, though, only 65% said that their office was actually open. Among worker bees whose offices were actually closed, 52% said that they simply had things they needed to get done. Another 21% said that a partner had told them to work over the weekend, while 8% said a client had asked them to finish something. 13% said they needed the hours.

But two percent of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend even though the office was closed said that they just “wanted to impress people,” which is just sad roughly consistent with prior holiday surveys.

Overall, about 58% of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend believed that the work was worth it.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

1159667323241.jpgSo far this year, we’ve found that an awful lot of ATL readers get in the billable spirit over the holidays. Back in January and February, we learned that about a quarter of you worked on Christmas, almost a third of you worked over New Year’s, and more than half of you worked on Martin Luther King’s Birthday. This summer, we found that 42% of you worked over the Memorial Day weekend, and 40% of you put in patriot hours over the Fourth of July weekend. And just last month we learned that 45% of you labored over Labor Day Weekend.

In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we continue our exploration of the holidays. Last week, a number of commenters were even more scandalized than usual when ATL took Columbus Day off. But were all of you really working that weekend?

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

political-pictures-ron-paul-crowd-supporters-mainstream-media.jpgWe received just over 1,200 responses to last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on politics in the workplace, and two things immediately became apparent.

First, there aren’t that many good political lolcats, so we’ve decided to make do with an lolronpaul (h/t punditkitchen).

Second, now that the general election is in full swing, political discourse is way up at law firms:

  * 86% of respondents reported that they discuss politics in the workplace, which is up from 74% back in February.

  * 92% noted that associates discuss politics (up from 80%).

  * 73% of respondents said that partners discuss politics (up from 64%).

  * 52% noticed that staff members discuss politics too (up from 38%).

But while conversations are up, actual campaigning is about the same:

  * Only 18% of respondents said that fellow associates had tried to convince them to vote for a particular candidate, and 15% said that associates had encouraged them to contribute to a campaign. This is about the same as what we reported in February.

  * Similarly, twelve percent of respondents said that partners had tried to swing their vote, but roughly sixteen percent reported that a partner had solicited a contribution. These, again, are the same numbers we saw in February.

  * About seventeen percent of respondents felt that their firms encouraged them to participate in political events, either for personal satisfaction or as a rainmaking opportunity. Only about 4% of respondents, however, felt the need to conform to any particular view.

Interestingly, only 9% of respondents said their firms were solidly Republican, in contrast to 50% who declared their firms Democrat territory. 24% of respondents said their firms were evenly mixed.

ATL’s readership has a similar liberal bent, with 60% of respondents deciding that Barack Obama won last week’s town hall debate, and 70% declaring that they will be voting for That One in a few weeks. 10% of respondents, however, were able to stay awake thought McCain won the debate, and 25% intend to vote for him.

But some of you would rather choose none of the above. One percent of respondents wrote in that they’ll be voting for Bob Barr, two people still look forward to voting for Hillary Clinton, three people will vote for Ralph Nader, and four people — not shown in the photo above — will be voting for Ron Paul.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com]

pls hndle copy 2.jpgDear ATL –

I work for two partners at my firm – a senior one and a junior one. The senior partner routinely assigns me less urgent work, but he expects his projects to be handled immediately. The junior partner assigns me more urgent deal work, which also must be done immediately. Both partners hound me to attend to their projects, and if I do the senior partner’s work before the junior partner’s, the senior partner is pissed off, and vice versa. I’ve sent an email asking them how I should prioritize the projects, and neither has responded. I feel like I’m screwed either way. What would you recommend I do?

Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Rock and a Hard Place -

Advances in sheep cloning give associates hope that they will soon be able to be in two places at once, double bill and send themselves for coffee. Alas, that glorious day is not yet upon us. For now, you have to pick one of the projects, tackle it first and piss a partner off. Thus the question becomes, which partner is it better to enrage?

Most people would probably tell you to do the senior partner’s project first, because while his work may be less pressing, he has more clout at partner meetings and owns two Ferraris. Prioritizing memoranda to files may keep the senior partner momentarily happy, but in doing so you’ll look like a slacker to the rest of the deal team. And when purchase agreements go out the door with brackets around Section 9.2.1 stating “pending IP review,” you’ll look like an asshat in front of the client.

Believe it or not, you were not primarily hired to preserve your own job, but rather to advise firm clients. The senior partner may have more hiring/firing power over you than the junior partner, but it’s your duty to convey to the senior partner that the deal team, the junior partner and the client cumulatively outweigh him, even if he is obese. Telling him “not right now” won’t be easy, but it’s nothing that his wife and lady friend haven’t done before.

Your friend,

Marin

Read Elie’s take after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx:
Stuck in the Middle with You”

funny-pictures-kitten-wants-to-go-to-work-with-you.jpgBack in December, one of our ATL / Lateral Link surveys found that about 18% of associates were afraid they wouldn’t make their hours. By June, that number had risen to 28%.

In today’s survey, we’ll see if anything has changed now that a horde of new associates have started and a horde of financial institutions have, well, ended.

Many of you have sounded pretty worried lately. After Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch collapsed, transactional associates said they had a few simple concerns:

It’s the end of the world.

Litigators, however, had a slightly different reaction:

I’m in litigation!!

So, does the reality match the predictions? Are transactional associates even slower? Are litigators really getting busy?

Let’s find out.

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

funny-pictures-cat-hopes-you-kept-the-receipt-for-the-baby.jpgWe have some bad news for this year’s incoming associates. Based on last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, attorneys at your new firm like you even less than they liked summer associates.

We received 765 responses, and the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, hate ‘em” beat the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, love ‘em,” by a margin of 25.55% to 21.88%. In comparison, summer associates had managed a more even 25.06% to 24.82% love-hate response in an earlier survey.

Like ‘em or not, respondents sure did think there were a lot of ‘em.

  • Overall, 58% of practicing respondents said that their firms had hired too many new associates, with 29% saying “way too many.”

  • Only 10% thought their firms had hired too few.
  • And just under a third of respondents, 32%, thought their firms had hired just the right number.

In comparison, about 53% of practicing attorneys thought that their firms’ summer programs were too big this year, with 21% calling them “way too big.”

Alarmingly, the people most likely to think there are too many first-years were also the people most likely to be making hire-and-fire decisions. While 57% of second-year associates thought their firms had hired too many new associates, that number exploded to 74% among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000.

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Have fun at work today!

Similarly, the more seasoned the respondents, the more likely they were to actually dislike their newest colleagues. 30% of second-year associates actually said “love ‘em” to the new first-years, and only 15% said “hate ‘em.” But among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000, only 11% said they liked first-years, while a whopping 48% declared, “hate ‘em.”

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Seriously, have fun at work today!

Read more, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Life Survey: Welcome To The Firm! Or Not.”

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