We’re doing our annual march through the Vault prestige rankings, to give ATL readers the opportunity to have their say about perks and pitfalls at these firms. If your firm actually let you swap your Blackberry for your iPhone, brag here. Or if your firm has such a strong stench that it makes you nauseous, vent here.
We’ve been doing open threads in batches of ten, but now we’re going to pick up the pace. Here are the Vault #41 – 60. This is when the prestige list gets a little more geographically diverse, with firms based in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Palo Alto and even Pittsburgh:
Back in November, Baker Botts told us that they would be moving away from a lockstep associate compensation system and instituting a new merit-based system. Yesterday the firm released the base salary levels for its new four-tiered system. Here’s the statement from the firm regarding the basic changes:
The next phase of a talent management program — moving from a lockstep to levels format to track associate progress at the firm — was announced today by Baker Botts Managing Partner Walt Smith. This new format is the latest enhancement of a multi-year plan to better manage associate development at all experience levels.
“Implementing this program will allow us to remain competitive in our efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest lawyers,” Smith said. “Importantly, it will help us foster an environment that emphasizes the attributes we believe are essential to our firm’s culture.”…
The compensation aspects of the program will be effective August 1, 2010. Base annual salary for entry-level lawyers will remain at $160,000.
The firm wouldn’t officially release the salary levels for more senior associates, but tipsters gave us the inside scoop…
Cruciani alleges Budd “completely misrepresented the compensation system at Baron & Budd and the upside that allegedly existed there,” and Budd showed his “greed” when he paid himself a $50 million bonus in December 2005, which was 75 percent of the firm’s bonus pool that year.
Note to partners with a wandering eye: If a firm describes its compensation system as “Hully Gully,” be wary. In addition to misrepresenting the firm’s compensation system, Budd also neglected to tell Cruciani that there was bad blood between him and co-founding partner Fred Baron.
After hearing a host of counterclaims during a six-week trial, the jury sided with Cruciani, and decided the lost income and the impact on his future earnings warranted a $8.8 million award.
According to the Dallas Observer, the local legal community was shocked by the size of the award. Why was it so big?
March is almost over (and tomorrow is the official start of spring), but law firm bonus news continues to trickle in. Yesterday, for example, we covered Mayer Brown. Today we bring you Baker Botts (Houston).
As far as associates were concerned, it was about time:
Baker Botts in Houston finally announced bonuses for 2009. People were getting very upset about how long it was taking, and the partners were very aware of that fact.
For the most part, bonuses were slightly higher than most people were expecting.
Perhaps Baker Botts can afford to be generous; work is definitely coming in the door these days. The firm is representing Dominion Resources, which is being acquired for $3.48 billion by Consol Energy, and Schlumberger LTD., which is merging with Smith International. And Baker Botts has been raking in big bucks from bankruptcy work too.
So, Baker Botts – Houston (should be firmwide, though I don’t have have all the details) is adopting a form of the Reed Smith pay structure. …
My understanding may be imperfect, but the notion is that it’s something like a three part system of junior associates, mid level associates, and senior associates, with pay discrepancies laid out among the three. No more lockstep. Unclear what the bonus structure is beyond the nebulous “merit” nonsense.
The Reed Smith structure has received a lot of attention. Last month, we mentioned that Reed Smith will categorize associates as junior, mid-level, or senior associates. But those classifications won’t necessarily be tied to how long an associate has been out of law school. So you could see a fourth-year classified as a senior associate making significantly more than a sixth-year classified as a midlevel associate.
Today, the Legal Intelligencer reports that the Reed Smith plan will also include a cut in associate salaries and billing rates:
Reed Smith has cut starting salaries by about 20 percent for the 51 first-year associates set to start in January and, in turn, is cutting their billing rates by the same margin.
You can read the full Reed Smith memo about its salary and billing rate reductions after the jump.
Will the Reed Smith system become the template for associate compensation at other firms? Let’s take a look at what Baker Botts is planning.
Yesterday the news broke that Steven Molo, of Shearman & Sterling, and Jeffrey Lamken, of Baker Botts, were leaving their respective firms to start a new litigation boutique. It will be called MoloLamken and start out with offices in New York and D.C. Am Law Daily reports that the firm represents the new recession model for business generation:
If there is a firm model built for the dawning post-recession era, it’s probably a litigation boutique with low overhead and a flexible billing structure….
The firm will start with four partners and two associates, and will work on both plaintiffs and defense cases. Within five years, Molo says he hopes to have around 50 lawyers. “Over time, clients have become far more sophisticated in hiring firms,” he said. “They understand how a firm like this can be small but every bit as efficient or even more so than a larger firm.”
Check out the big move by Munger. It’s up 11 spots on this year’s list. And let’s not forget about the firm’s #1 A-List ranking by Am Law earlier this year. Munger’s managed to do all of this without laying off a massive number of associates. Hopefully other Biglaw firms (and current 2Ls) will take note.
We know people have strong opinions about some of the firms on this list. Let’s get into them after the jump.
Thanks to all of the tipsters who are helping us put together numbers on the Baker Botts layoffs. Even though the firm doesn’t want you to know how many people it is letting go, our sources have been relentless in helping us expose the information.
Yesterday we reported that Baker Botts laid off at least twelve associates in Houston. Today we can report that at least seven other associates were laid off in Baker’s Washington office. One tipster has a colorful description of the action in D.C.:
Baker Botts DC canned 7 associates. They handled it so poorly that one found out from a secretary. … They laid off associates who had a lot of hours and were strong performers, so it was even more ridiculous. None of us feel safe now. Apparently, this firm has no loyalties to anyone but the dollar.
According to NALP, there are 65 associates in Baker Botts’s D.C. office. So the cuts represent around 10% of the associates in that office.
After the jump, we learn that the timing of these layoffs couldn’t have been worse for one Baker Botts associate.
Yesterday, we reported that Baker Botts no offered around 50% of its summer associate class. But while Baker Botts summers were learning whether they had a future with the firm, some Baker Botts associates were told to move out of the way. The Texas Lawyer reports:
This week, Baker Botts laid off lawyers for economic reasons, says firm spokesman Mike Cinelli, although the Houston-based firm will not disclose numbers or further details. The layoffs, Cinelli says, are an attempt by firm management to have “supply meet demand.” The layoffs are the result of market conditions and the lack of attrition this year, Cinelli says. “It was a difficult decision,” Cinelli says about the layoffs.
Above the Law has learned that 12 associates were let go from the Baker Botts Houston office. There are reports of additional casualties firm wide, but as you know Baker Botts doesn’t want you to know how many of its people it is putting out on the street.
For the 12 in Houston, one tipster had this to say:
Associates at Baker Botts have been surprised about some of the layoffs in the Houston office. Several high hours, good work product people are gone along with some who are not big surprises.
Should summers and incoming Baker Botts associates be concerned? Details after the jump.
Offer season (a.k.a. no offer season) is here in full force. The latest news comes from Baker Botts, and it appears that you didn’t have to be involved in a Texas scandal to get no-offered by the firm.
Multiple tipsters independently report that the offer rate at Baker Botts was between 50 to 55 percent firm-wide. The no offerees we spoke to felt the firm should have brought fewer people on for the summer if it was going to throw so many people back into the pool of 3L recruiting:
No offered. Man that sucked. Should have summered at a firm that wasn’t going to waste my time. At least I’m not alone.
But summers that received an offer understandably had a more positive take on the experience:
I got an offer, but I know a lot of people who didn’t. I suppose that is unfair, but I feel like we all knew that it was going to be a competitive summer and not everybody was going to make it.
Make it? Ask the class of 2009 whether getting an offer at the end of the summer bears any relation to actually having a full-time job upon graduation.
While Baker Botts made offers to about half of its summer class overall, the Baker Botts summers in the firm’s New York office were not nearly as lucky. Details after the jump.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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