Biglaw

In addition to being one of the world’s most successful law firms, Skadden is also a public-spirited one. The firm just donated $100,000 to Haiti relief efforts, for example. (More on that later.)

In addition, the firm supports public interest work through the Skadden Fellowship Program:

The Skadden Fellowship Foundation, described as “a legal Peace Corps” by The Los Angeles Times, was established in 1988 to commemorate the firm’s 40th anniversary, in recognition of the dire need for greater funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. The aim of the foundation is to give Fellows the freedom to pursue public interest work; thus, the Fellows create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff before they apply.

Fellowships are awarded for two years. Skadden provides each Fellow with a salary and pays all fringe benefits to which an employee of the sponsoring organization would be entitled. For those Fellows not covered by a law school low income protection plan, the firm will pay a Fellow’s law school debt service for the tuition part of the loan for the duration of the fellowship. The 2010 class of Fellows brings to 591 the number of academically outstanding law school graduates and judicial clerks the firm has funded to work full-time for legal and advocacy organizations.

The 2010 class of Skadden Fellows was just announced. Congratulations to the 27 winners, selected from 20 different law schools. Yale had four, Berkeley (aka Boalt Hall) had three, and Stanford and Fordham had two each.

Check out their names, law schools, and sponsoring organizations — maybe you know some of them? — after the jump.

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Dickstein Shaprio still basically relevant logo.JPGAdd Dickstein Shapiro to the list of firms that have decided to do away with lockstep associate compensation. As of January 22, Dickstein will adopt a new merit-based compensation system. Like many firms that have abandoned lockstep, Dickstein will be using a three-tiered system, similar to Orrick’s compensation structure.

Starting salary for new Dickstein associates will be $145,000. Or maybe it will be $160,000. Honestly, I can’t tell you with certainty what new associates will be making.

It’s not my fault. I read the original memo and everything. I talked to friends and sources and a spokesperson for the firm. I prayed on it. I just can’t seem to pin down one solid number for first-year associate salaries.

After the jump, why don’t you guys take a look at the memo? Maybe you’ll have more success divining its meaning than I did.

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Debevoise logo.jpgIs suing a former client for unpaid bills a wise idea? Maybe not. As John Marquess, president of Legal Cost Control, told the New York Law Journal, “If I were advising any law firm, I would tell them suing a client over fees is a no-win situation. It’s going to get you adverse publicity you may or may not recover from. And if it went before a jury, juries hate lawyers.”

And what if your ex-client is, say, a green company devoted to the cause of sustainable forestry? Going after that client seems like an even worse idea from a PR perspective. Al Gore would not approve.

But Debevoise & Plimpton decided to move forward anyway with its $6 million lawsuit for unpaid fees (see last item). Now the firm is on the receiving end of some unpleasant counterclaims….

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lolmoney.JPGWe’ve been reporting on firms that have announced pay freezes for 2010, but at some firms, the salary outlook for 2010 is still unclear.
For example, associates at Mayer Brown and Willkie Farr are huddled in the dark, not sure if they’re freezing. From a junior Willkie associate:

I’m a second-year associate at Willkie. I just learned that traditionally, associates are told about their imminent salary bumps at their year-end evaluations. I’ve discussed it with some friends, and nobody has heard anything about salary freezes or bumps at WFG.

And from an MB associate:

Mayer Brown’s still frozen. Granted they’ve put off addressing salary raises until February in the past, but we got our first 2010 paychecks today with no raises, and not a peep from the partnership to let us know they’ve even considered the issue. As of now I’m two years behind where I’d be at Dechert. This sucks.

We can’t confirm whether salaries at these firms are frozen for the year, but we can encourage a conversation about firms that are raising salaries. We hear from a Paul Weiss associate, for example, that an email went out letting them know salaries there are warm. Our tipsters says that PW checks this month will have the “usual bump” up.
Here’s an open thread for discussion of raises as usual. Who’s warm and toasty this January?

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGWe’re still catching up on associate bonus news. There have been some memos we’ve missed, including some from last month (technically, last year). If we haven’t reported on your firm’s bonus announcement, please email us. Don’t assume that one of your colleagues will submit the memo; that’s not necessarily the case.

Today we belatedly bring you bonus news from Kasowitz Benson. On December 31, the firm announced “benchmark” bonuses that appear to follow the Sullivan & Cromwell scale. But the memo notes that these are just “benchmark amounts, which are subject to adjustment to reflect individual performance and hours worked.” In the memo’s bonus table, the words “of up to” appear in between the words “Year-end bonus” and the dollar amount.

In addition, even some Kasowitz associates who received the full market amount aren’t happy. Find out why, and check out the full memo, after the jump.

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Sherry Netherland hotel condominium.jpgIn between Christmas and New Year’s, while most of us were stuffing our faces, celebrated litigator David Boies was stuffing his own stocking — with a magnificent New York apartment. Last year was a good one for Boies Schiller associates, at least based on their bonuses. And it probably was a good one for their boss, at least based on his latest real estate purchase.

There’s no need for Boies to feel guilty, though, since it seems he got a bargain. From Bloomberg:

David Boies, the antitrust lawyer who took on Microsoft Corp. and represented Al Gore in the contested U.S. presidential election of 2000, bought a seven room apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park for $7.75 million after the price was reduced by more than 20 percent.

Boies, chairman and founder of New York-based law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, purchased a two-bedroom unit at the Sherry-Netherland hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, according to city property records. The original asking price was $9.95 million, according to listing service StreetEasy.com.

More details, plus photos of the fabulous pad, after the jump.

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The legendary litigator snaps up an $8 million apartment.

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGCongratulations to the associates at Irell & Manella. The firm announced its 2009 bonuses last week, and they were good — very good.

Irell took the Sullivan & Cromwell bonus scale, which is effectively “market” for the top New York firms, and then DOUBLED IT. There was no memo — the information was communicated in an associate-wide meeting — but we have confirmed the following:

  • To associates who hit the billable hours target of 1900 hours, Irell paid bonuses that, in total, were double those paid by Sullivan & Cromwell and similar New York firms. Bonuses ranged from $15,000 for the class of 2008 to $70,000 for the class of 2002.
  • The bonuses were lockstep by seniority — i.e., not just paid to a handful of star performers or super-high billers. If you hit 1900 hours, you got the designated bonus for your class year.

The success of lockstep firms like Irell raises the question: Is lockstep the way to go? If you’ll be in Irell’s hometown of Los Angeles this Thursday, Elie and yours truly are doing two events, and one of them is a debate about lockstep. For information and RSVP details, see here.

The full Irell bonus table, plus additional information, after the jump.

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Los Angeles palm trees Above the Law blog.jpgIn light of the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in New York, Elie and yours truly have decided to visit sunny Los Angeles this Thursday, January 7. We’ll be doing two events, both of them free and open to the public (and featuring free food):
1. The Future of Big Law: A Debate
When: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 12 noon.
Speakers: David Lat and Elie Mystal, editors of Above the Law, will debate whether lockstep is the best system for associate compensation and promotion at large law firms.
Where: Room 1457, UCLA Law School, 71 Dodd Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
Cost: Free. Lunch will be served.
2. Reception at Corkbar
When: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: Meet and mingle with the editors of Above the Law and other lawyers from the area during this informal networking opportunity.
Where: Corkbar, 403 West 12th Street, Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Cost: Free. Appetizers will be provided; no host bar.
These events are being sponsored by the Los Angeles Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, the Libertarian Law Council, and the UCLA chapters of the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.
Both events are free and open to all, but please reserve a spot by emailing la.fedsoc@gmail.com. Hope to see you there!

pyramid scheme capstone small.jpgOver the course of 2009, we covered attempts from a number of firms to replace lockstep associate compensation with a “merit based” compensation system. We have seen firm after firm (and consultant after consultant) claim that clients really care about how law firms pay their associates. And who can disagree with a term like “merit?” DLA Piper put it this way in its defense of its new, merit-based system:

At its core, this new system forces differentiation and rewards outstanding performance.

Right now, merit-based compensation is certainly winning the branding war against lockstep. There are certainly very good arguments in favor of merit compensation.
But there are also good arguments in favor of lockstep. There are reasons why lockstep is still the choice of firms considered to be the best in the country. If merit-based compensation is just a thinly veiled attempt to cut total associate compensation, that’s one thing. But let’s not forget that lockstep has some serious upside for associates, partners, and yes, clients.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGWe haven’t received the official memo, but sources report that Mayer Brown (New York) has matched the Cravath scale for 2009 bonuses. A tipster simply reports:

Mayer Brown New York announced cravath bonuses today

That’s good news for the New Yorkers at the firm.

But for our tipster, wow, way to yawn about free money. You’re like the nutcracker that gets pissed about getting nuts for Christmas. (Sorry, those commercials are really annoying here in NYC.)

Perhaps the reason for the tipster’s ennui is that Mayer Brown hasn’t said anything about 2010 salaries yet. Details after the jump.

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