Biglaw

Kathryn Ruemmler Kathryn H Ruemmler Kathy Ruemmler Latham Watkins.jpgSuperstar litigatrix Kathryn Ruemmler, a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins and an Enron prosecutor before that, has been picked to serve as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Obama Justice Department. That title is a mouthful, but lawyers inside the Beltway know it’s a Big Deal.

The revolving door between the DOJ and Latham swings again. Ruemmler has traded places with another fierce female litigator: Alice Fisher, who rejoined the firm after heading up the Criminal Division.

As for Ruemmler, the government’s gain is Latham’s loss. Says one LW tipster: “She’s a really good lawyer, and a genuinely nice person. We’re very sorry to lose her.”

Kathy Ruemmler isn’t just a genial genius; she’s stylish, too. From the WSJ Law Blog, reporting on a day of the Ken Lay trial:

Speaking of footwear, the boldest fashion statement of the day — possibly rivaling O’Melveny paralegal Bill Evans’s goth getup for the gutsiest sartorial move of the week — came from the government’s Ruemmler. The deputy director of the Enron Task Force, who won convictions against four Merrill Lynch bankers in the 2004 Nigerian Barge case, paired a conservative gray suit with stunning 4-inch bright pink stiletto spikes.

Litigatrix indeed. Just because you work for the DOJ doesn’t mean you have to shop at DSW.

There’s a lot of diversity in Obama’s Department picks so far. Eric Holder, nominated to serve as Attorney General, is African-Amercan. Elena Kagan and Dawn Johnsen, nominated to serve as, respectively, Solicitor General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, are women.

The full memo about Ruemmler’s move, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Kathy Ruemmler from Latham Back to DOJ”

Hal 9000.jpgWhich firms are on the cutting edge of the digital age? Law and Technology News has an opinion. The publication just released their sixth annual law technology awards:

The awards recognize outstanding innovation by law firms and law departments in their use of technology.

The big winner is Fish & Richardson for most innovative use of technology.

And Joy Heath Rush of Sidley Austin won the award for “Champion” of Technology. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds pretty cool.

Read about all of the award winners here.

2008 LAW TECHNOLOGY NEWS AWARDS [Law Technology News]

ropes gray logo.JPGRopes & Gray is looking mighty healthy these days. As we reported earlier, there was no freeze for the Boston-based firm; their associates got class year raises as expected. And this week, the New York Observer reports the firm is stretching out its legs in New York, taking a new floor in its 1211 Avenue of the Americas building:

The law firm activated a provision of its 2005 lease of 250,000 square feet that allows it to take an additional floor in the tower… The lease gives Ropes & Gray the 32nd floor, which the Royal Bank of Scotland recently gave up, in addition to the space it occupies on floors 35 through 40 in the 45-story cloudbuster.

Up, up, and away, says Ropes & Gray. While bonus season suggests the New York market sucks is weak, Ropes spokesman John Tuerck says:

We see New York as a key growth market, and this signals our intent to continue expanding there… It’s a core element of our strategic plan to keep growing in New York.

Ropes has a “diversified client base” in New York, says Tuerck, and a good cross section of practice groups there, including (but not limited to) debt financing, IP litigation, government enforcement, and private equity.

More on Ropes’ plans to take over the world (or at least New York, Chicago, and Asia), as well as the Ropes class year raise memo, after the jump.

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muzeview web presence rankings.jpgMuzeview, which calls itself a “competitive intelligence services provider working with professional services firms,” has completed a new analysis of the internet strength of major law firms.

“This new index gives a clear view into the weight each firm gives to its visibility on the Internet, as well as the effectiveness of the effort,” said Paul Gladen, founder and president of Muzeview. “Some firms, such as Morrison & Foerster and WilmerHale, are showing a good profile on industry blogs, which means their Web strategy is paying off in terms of getting the firm discussed among the online legal community.”

The number one firm on the web is apparently Jones Day:

The Index, released today, shows a number one ranking for Jones Day, the Cleveland, OH-based firm with 2,204 lawyers, by no means the largest. DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie, the two largest US law firms in terms of 2007 revenue and number of lawyers, ranked third and fourth respectively.

Even though the rankings take into account the number of times firms are mentioned on “industry related blogs,” Cadwalader doesn’t crack the top 25. Maybe the perception of some of the CWT defenders doesn’t match reality?

Check out the top 25 after the jump and see if your firm is one that people like to talk about.

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pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgWe’ve been reporting on the Biglaw salary freeze heavily over the past month. Earlier this week, we did a round-up of firms that had announced their intention to keep 2009 salaries at 2008 levels.

At that point, we knew of sixteen firms that had sent memos to their associates notifying them that raises were not forthcoming. While certainly unpleasant, everyone acknowledges that it’s more welcome than layoff news.

Today, we’re getting e-mails from several associates who are freaking out that the freeze is on at their firms, based on their first paychecks of 2009. Their paychecks came in last night at 12:01 a.m. and they are the same amount as paychecks last month. Here are the unconfirmed freeze reports we’ve received so far…

Mayer Brown:

Mayer brown checks just popped at last years levels. So apparently there is a freeze, maybe, but no memos on it yet. Please investigate.


Today was the first pay day in 2009 for Mayer Brown NY. In the past, our first pay check of the year automatically reflected salary increases. No such increase today. Smells like a pay freeze?!? With the added courtesy of letting ADP announce it instead of management.

(UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): Mayer Brown spokesman Bob Harris says the firm “has not yet announced its plans for lawyer compensation in 2009″ and that it usually makes the decision in February.)

Steptoe & Johnson:

Steptoe & Johnson froze salaries. What stands out about this is that they did not send a memo or anything telling associates salaries would be frozen, or saying when/if the position would be reconsidered. Today was our first payday, and they just issued everyone the same checks they were getting last year. No comment. No memo. No explanation. Typical douche-baggery.

Stroock:

They haven’t made any announcements of a salary freeze. They just haven’t announced any salary increases and continue paying the old salary. When I looked at the employee system to check the amount of tomorrow’s paycheck, it shows that I will be paid the same salary as last year.

Not everyone is freaking out. A reassuring voice, after the jump. Also, Ballard Spahr and RatnerPrestia have officially put the freeze on, with a memo and a press release, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw to Associates: ‘Surprise! Your salary is frozen’?”

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgThe new year is shaping up to be a cold one. As we noted in our 2008 Year in Review series, one of the biggest stories heading into 2009 has been that of the salary freeze. Rather than instituting lock-step raises for associates entering a new class year, a number of firms have informed associates that their salaries will remain at 2008 levels.

There have been two types of freezes: the “Solid Ice freeze”–with salaries frozen through all of 2009–and the “Slurpee freeze”–where firms are sticking with 2008 levels for now, but promise to revisit the decision later in the year.

Many an ATL reader has requested a round-up, and we aim to please. So find your pleasure, after the jump. Some of the firms have been reported on before, and some are new.

If you know of other frozen firms, send us an e-mail at tips@abovethelaw.com with the subject, “Salary Freeze: FIRM NAME.” Also, if your firm has raised salaries as expected, feel free to send us the news, with the subject “Salary Raise: FIRM NAME.” While freezes are news, raises as expected aren’t, so we will not be covering firm by firm, but we may do a round-up.

Find the list of the sixteen firms that have frozen, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Salary Freeze Round-up: The Firms on Ice”

wall street bull backside.jpgIt’s a new year, and for Biglaw that usually means it is time for firms to go out and get a loan.

Obviously, this year it might be a little more difficult than usual. The American Lawyer is reporting that the credit crisis is coming to a partnership near you:

Law firms, typically considered good credit risks, are now experiencing the toughest and most expensive lending conditions in years. “Even good borrowers, prime borrowers, are having more restrictions and more difficulties than they used to,” says Altman Weil consultant James Cotterman.

Most firms will still be able to get loans to cover their immediate expenses. But to do so they will have to submit to more vigorous financial vetting than they did in the past. And, of course, it’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to borrow money:

Meanwhile, firms that didn’t secure a credit line early last year, and who went looking for it in recent months, discovered that credit wasn’t cheap anymore. “We just took out some lines from several different banks,” says the head of one firm, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly. The firm let its credit lines expire in 2003 and relied instead on capital contributions from partners. The banks used to give the firm credit for free. “Now we had to pay for the lines,” he says.

Rates have doubled, from below 1 percent in 2007 to 2-3 percent today for the top 50 firms, says Andrew Johnman, head of professional services at Barclays plc. “If they need additional money or if they need an amendment to their credit facility, then we reprice it to current market pricing,” he says.

Apparently, banks are worried that additional firms will dissolve like Heller and Thelen. More on that after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw: Welcome to the Credit Crunch”

mayer brown logo.JPGOn Christmas Eve, Mayer Brown announced its bonuses for associates in the New York office. They matched the market– no surprises there. But our tipster noted that associates at the firm are unsettled by rumors making the rounds of layoffs coming in 2009. Mayer already laid off 33 attorneys, as well as administrative staff in November.

One sentence in the bonus memo has an ominous tone that’s making Mayer associates uneasy. The memo says that bonuses will be paid January 16, 2009 but “only to associates in good standing who are employed by the firm on the date the bonus is actually paid.” From a Mayer tipster:

People are upset about the language, (“All bonuses will be paid only to associates in good standing who are employed by the Firm on the date the bonus is actually paid.”) believing it to reinforce the idea that layoffs are happening come January 5th.

Are Mayer associates overreacting to the memo language?

Firm spokesperson Bob Harris says this is the “same language that has been used for several bonus seasons.” We looked back at last year’s memo though and didn’t see a similar sentence.

UPDATE: Associates are overreacting. Harris points us to a different 2007 memo that does employ the same language.

Harris was emphatic in saying that there are “no plans whatsoever for additional layoffs” at Mayer Brown.

Rumor mongers suggest otherwise. Predictions on the practice groups to be hit with layoffs, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: What will 2009 bring for Mayer Brown?”

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgUpdate (3:30 PM): Please note that this post has been revised in various respects since its original publication. The situation is fluid and we are investigating further. Thanks.

It’s moving day. Time for the elite firms to separate themselves from everybody else.

Multiple tipsters inform us that O’Melveny & Myers associates, in California and in Washington, DC, received voicemails today confirming that first year associate bonuses would be… $27,500. The bonus scale for OMM, in CA and DC, is believed to look like this:

2007 – 27,500
2006 – 30,000
2005 – 32,500
2004 – 35,000
2003 – 37,500
2002 – 40,000
2001 and 2000 – 45,000

A tipster adds, “Everyone is also eligible for additional bonus amounts on top of that based on hours and performance.”

We understand that OMM traditionally makes these announcements over voicemail. Bonuses will be paid on December 31st, with an official memo following in January. Oh, and just for good measure, class appropriate pay raises will proceed as planned. Eat your heart out, Latham.

Update (3:30 PM): It appears that these California and D.C. bonus levels are subject to a minimum hours requirement of 1950. In addition, it seems that O’Melveny’s New York office is on the Cravath scale.

Update (3:45 PM): Associate editor Kashmir Hill just spoke by phone with an O’Melveny spokesperson. The spokesperson confirmed that OMM’s California and DC offices are paying bonuses to associates that are higher than OMM in New York.

“For some time, we have set bonus levels at a competitive rate for local markets,” she said. And as ATL readers know, this year the local market in New York is weak in terms of bonuses. The OMM rep pointed out that last year New York bonuses were higher than non-NYC bonuses.

In addition, the spokesperson added, the California and DC bonus scales are subject to a minimum hours requirement of 1950. Bonuses in New York are not subject to such a minimum (although “hours and merit are taken into account,” according to OMM).

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: O’Melveny Makes It Rain, Baby
(At least outside New York. For 1950+ hours.)”

partnership announcements.JPGIn today’s National Law Journal, Leigh Jones reports that non-equity partners at major law firms are also worried about the future. With all of the frightening career news floating around, it seems reasonable that either you are bringing in business, or you are terrified.

The upshot is that some law firms — especially those that have maintained armies of nonequity lawyers primarily to service accounts — are rethinking their business model, and some nonequity partners likely are reassessing their careers.

“Some firms are going to have to take a hard look,” said Brad Hildebrandt, chairman of Hildebrandt International, a law firm consultancy.

In good times, non-equity partners are a nice luxury for firms looking to use experienced people who generate great fees:

K&L Gates Chairman Peter Kalis said he is “very” comfortable with the equity-to-nonequity ratio at his law firm. He said the business model at K&L Gates is akin to a diamond, with the widest portion of the structure representing a group of nonequity partners who have created a more attractive service model for clients.

“Clients have little or no interest in paying for credit card-waving first- and second-year associates to fly around the country and run up bills,” he said. “What clients are interested in is paying for appropriately priced people who have both skills and substantive knowledge and who add value.”

The nonequity tier at K&L Gates, said Kalis, comprises attorneys with a wide variety of career goals — some with definite plans for full partnership and others who have less desire to develop business.

But these are not good times.

The bloated “inner tube” of non-equity partners, after the jump.

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