Biglaw

In previous ATL / Lateral Link surveys, we’ve discovered that a surprising number of you worked over Christmas or New Year’s, and that many of you crave a better work environment or better hours.
So, as we look forward to the Superbowl and tomorrow night’s Lost premiere and the crowning of ATL’s Lawyer of the Year (not necessarily in that order), we can’t help but wonder: how many of you will actually be in the office instead of celebrating?
Today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey takes a wistful look back at the cancelled plans of yesteryear.
[Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.]
Whatever your responses, you can look forward to this: tomorrow we’ll announce both the ATL Lawyer of the Year and your Second Favorite Blog After ATL. For that latter contest, we’re adding in Blogonaut after receiving at least seventy write-in ballots. Sure, they were all from one person so most of them didn’t count, but they were committed. (Thanks also to those of you who wrote in The Associate Pirate (Arr is for Resume!), but I’m recusing myself from this one. It’s not so much the potential conflict of interest as the fear that my blog would get beat up by taxgirl‘s blog.)

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this survey.

Thacher Proffitt Wood LLP Above the Law blog.jpgBack in November, we broke the news that, barring a “substantial improvement” in market conditions, the law firm of Thacher Proffitt & Wood would resort to lawyer layoffs in January. The firm is a major player in structured finance and real estate, two practice areas that have been hard hit by the credit crunch.
January is now here — and, in fact, almost over. We were reminded of this last week, when we saw this article in the New York Sun about law firm layoffs, mentioning Thacher Proffitt:

Earlier this month, Manhattan-based Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft laid off 35 lawyers, 26 of them in New York City, and late last year, Thatcher Proffitt & Wood cut 50 associates’ jobs. The cuts have spurred other firms to follow suit, experts said.

Was the statement accurate, insofar as it suggests or implies that TPW laid off fifty (50) associates? We followed up with Thacher, which issued this statement, through a spokesperson:

As described in our November 27, 2007 official statement, we notified 24 associates in the Structured Finance and Real Estate Practice Groups that if there was no substantial improvement in the market, it was near certain that economic layoffs would take effect in January 2008. As of today, 99% of the 24 associates have accepted a package which compensates them through the end of March 2008, and many have already found new positions. To clarify recent media reports, these events occurred ahead of our initial plan to commence layoffs. [Ed. note: Maybe it should be 96% of the 24 associates -- 23/24 = 95.8%. But who knows... maybe one person is still working part-time for TPW?]

In addition, we offered our first-year associates in the Structured Finance and Real Estate Practice Groups a four-month severance package, should they volunteer to leave the firm. Again, referring to our original statement, the first-year associates’ offer remains strictly voluntary; they are under no obligation to accept it. We do feel it’s in their best interest to explore other opportunities, since we are concerned that we will not be able to provide them with the best work experience at this formative stage of their careers. A group of first-year associates has voluntarily accepted this package.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the goodwill of those in the business and legal communities who have expressed interest in our associates and have helped to place them in new positions. Although these decisions were difficult for our firm, we are confident that our approach kept our associates’ interests in mind and also mitigated our business risks.

We construed this as a statement that the firm did not have to resort to layoffs (as originally planned). We followed up with TPW, and they confirmed this understanding: “Up to this point, departures have been voluntary.” [FN1]
But should TPW associates start dancing in the hallways? Not yet. When we asked if this meant the firm had ruled out layoffs going forward, Thacher was noncommittal: “We cannot speculate on future market conditions and the potential impact on our attorney population.”
So stay tuned. In other TPW news, it’s not just associates who are leaving. Partner V. Gerard (“Jerry”) Comizio, a prominent banking and financial services lawyer here in D.C., just left Thacher to join Paul Hastings (see this press release). When a firm is going through tough times, partner defections are to be expected (although they’re unwelcome news, since rainmaker departures only exacerbate the problem of insufficient business to go around).
[FN1] We realize, of course, that if you “voluntarily” depart after being told you’ll probably be laid off if you stay, it’s not completely “voluntary.” A cynic must suggest that it’s like “voluntarily” giving the mugger your wallet after being told you’ll be shot if you don’t. But, on a hyper-technical level, we wouldn’t consider these departures “true” layoffs. People can always wait for the ax to fall — like the one apparent holdout among the 24 associates.
Fearing Recession, Law Firms Tighten Belts [New York Sun]
Pinup’s Naked Justice: Keeps Lawyer Job [New York Post]
Paul Hastings Bolsters Bank Regulatory Practice with the Addition of V. Gerard Comizio to the Washington, D.C. Office [Paul Hastings (press release)]
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Thacher Proffitt Announces Likely Future Layoffs

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgBefore the New Year, associates in the New York office of Morrison & Foerster received their bonus news. Now it’s time for their colleagues outside of NYC to collect their cash.
In addition to the firm’s “standard productivity bonuses under the published 2007 compensation program,” MoFo is paying out (1) “a one-time bonus” (it sounds “special” to us), ranging from $10,000 – $20,000, to associates and certain of counsel who met or exceeded their hours requirements, and (2) merit bonuses, for “exemplary lawyering and exceptional teamwork,” ranging from $15,000 – $30,000.
Full memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Morrison & Foerster (non-New York)”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe don’t really have any major bonus news to pass along. Here are a few items following up on previously reported developments:
1. Latham & Watkins: On Friday we reported on the LW bonuses, which were well-received by associates. We now have more detailed information, which appears after the jump.
2. McDermott Will & Emery: We wrote here about their decision to issue supplemental bonuses. Those bonuses have now been paid, and people are happy. More details after the jump.
3. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft: As previously reported, the bonus situation over there is rather vague. An addendum, also after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Some Updates”

Debevoise Plimpton LLP Above the Law blog.jpgBiglaw is becoming kinder and gentler. The number of large law firms enhancing their parental leave policies continues to grow. The latest to join the club: Debevoise & Plimpton.
From a (male) tipster:

18 weeks. Not bad. Of course, since I’m unlikely to give birth to a child anytime soon, I’ll have to be satisfied with 10 weeks.

Also, what’s with this “primary childcare giver” business? Of the new parents I’ve known, the first few months seemed like one needed at least two primary childcare givers, if not more. Eh, I doubt D&P will be sending auditors into associates’ homes to check who bills the most hours with the baby.

The email announcing Debevoise’s policy, plus a list of firms that have recently enhanced their parental leave policies, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Perk Watch: Debevoise & Plimpton to 18 Weeks”

Last month we asked you which holidays you worked on, or expected to work on, during 2007. About half of you reported that you had worked on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we see how you fared last week. Did you take the day off to honor a champion of civil rights, or did you make it a “day on”?
[Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.]
In the meantime, at least one of you noticed that I am not Dave Lat. I’m actually Justin Bernold, a Director in Lateral Link’s Boston office. I’m also a friend (and fan) of Dave’s from college and the author of, among other things, the Associate Pirate (Arr is for Resume!) blog.

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve been hearing a bit about the bonuses paid out by Latham & Watkins. It seems that LW associates are quite pleased.
Going back to our post from earlier today, it seems that one tipster’s speculation about a meeting to spin bad news was off the mark. A second LW source had this rebuttal:

Sometimes our offices have meetings to discuss bonuses. I am aware of one office that had a similar meeting last year, on the day in which bonuses were given. I think it’s more to go through the bonus memo and answer any questions, rather than to break any bad news.

And apparently there was no bad news to break. If this chart (posted at AutoAdmit) is correct, Latham associates did pretty well for themselves.
We haven’t received confirmation of the chart (yet — we’re working on it). And the chart also doesn’t reflect unspecified additional amounts paid out in New York. But LW sources did write in to say they’re pleased with their hauls:

“I think people are pretty happy with what they received.”

“Overall, bonuses are better than ever. They matched or more than matched in every market, for people who hit 1900 billable hours (a goal that is very clear — there was no doubt from the day I was hired that I needed 1900 to get a bonus). Bonuses in non-NY offices are far higher than they were last year (minimum – $35,000) and New York seems to have matched and/or exceeded the Cravath model. Overall, I am very happy!”

If you’re at Latham and can confirm the chart or provide us with more info, please drop us a line. Thanks.
Update: The accuracy of the chart has been confirmed for us by multiple sources at Latham.
Latham bonus memo for 2007 [AutoAdmit.com]
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Reading the Latham Tea Leaves

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgYesterday the D.C. office of WilmerHale made its bonus announcement. Here’s a summary from a source at the firm:

The bonus memo came out today. Yay! Salaries are the same. For the class of 2006, the hours guideline for bonuses is:

Hours Bonus
1,850 $15,000
2,000 $35,000
2,200 $40,000
2,400 $45,000

Management gave the caveat that bonuses were awarded for 1,850 hours only in some cases, basically for practices that were slow in which 2,000 hours could not be billed. The firm repeated that it expects lawyers to bill 2,000 hours per year (including pro bono).

If you have info on other classes, feel free to send it our way by email.
Update: A second source confirms the numbers above for first-year associates, and adds: “This was conveyed in personal letters stating our salary and bonus levels. New associates who started in the fall received prorated bonuses.”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGAs we reported earlier this week, the Atlanta office of Paul Hastings has adopted a new pay scale, with a starting salary of $160,000.
The Fulton County Daily Report picks up the news today. It’s not new, since it was announced on Wednesday. But the article, by Meredith Hobbs, has a nice round-up of where things stand in the Atlanta market, post-Paul Hastings:

Like most of their competitors, Paul Hastings paid first-years $130,000 in 2007, the rate established by last spring’s round of pay raises. The firm had delayed unveiling its response to the increase to $145,000 triggered by Alston & Bird in August (with smaller raises up the classes) until now.

Paul Hastings’ new pay scale goes from $160,000 for first-years — the current market rate for first-years in more expensive cities such as Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — to $215,000 for seventh-years.

By comparison, King & Spalding announced in October a 2008 scale starting at $145,000 for first-years and going to $195,000 for seventh-years. At that time, King & Spalding established a richer bonus system, which upped pay for first-years receiving bonuses to $152,500, and star seven-years to as high as $250,000.

Paul Hastings does not calculate bonuses until after the end of its fiscal year, so associate bonuses correlating to 2008 compensation will not be determined until the end of February 2009, said Philip J. Marzetti, the firm’s Atlanta managing partner.

More excerpts and discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: The Lay of the Land in Atlanta”

Venable LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.jpgSome good news from a tipster over at Venable:

You can finally remove D.C.’s Weirdest Law Firm from your List of Shame. (Does the List even exist now, or is it being revamped for $190K?)

A memo was just issued announcing that first-year salaries at Venable will be raised to $160,000 effective July 2008. Sure, we’re a tad bit behind the times, but at least we finally came through. The firm also mistakenly upped first-years’ salaries for the pay period that ended this week, but in a move that shows their infinite generosity, they decided the first-years could keep this “bonus” money, with the next paychecks going back to the $145K level (until July 2008).

Memo after the jump.
Earlier: Venable: DC’s Weirdest Law Firm?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Venable to $160K”

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