Billable Hours

Christina Gagnier

If you are a solo or small firm who is looking to work with startup companies, you have probably been asked to take equity in lieu of compensation or to set up a deferred payment plan. When you are talking to companies who sound like they may be doing the next big thing, you may believe you are taking an educated gamble.

Yet, when you turn to the economics of being a solo or small firm, the numbers often do not pan out…

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An angry God is one without a line of credit.

* “[T]he one thing Windsor does not do is clearly establish a nationalized definition of marriage.” No one will be surprised when the same-sex marriage cases wind up before the Supreme Court. [National Law Journal]

* Law firm mergers continue to hum along at a record pace, but whether they’ll actually work out is another question entirely. Only time will tell if we’ll see another “spectacular flameout.” [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* “The billable hour’s day has passed.” Eighty percent of law firm leaders believe hourly billing may soon be going the way of the dodo in favor of alternative billing arrangements. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Despite its anti-gay policies, Trinity Western University Law has been granted approval from the Law Society of British Columbia to open its doors. And here we thought Canadians were supposed to be polite. [GlobalPost]

* If you want to take an “Law and _____” class, sign up for Law and Traumatic Brain Injuries at GW Law. Having a TBI yourself seems like a requirement for enrollment, but shockingly, it’s not. [New York Times]

* Times are so rough that God can’t even get a credit card. Instead of casting plagues upon the earth, he’s suing Equifax — though we’re sure he wouldn’t mind if the credit agency reps caught lice. [New York Post]

As we noted in Morning Docket, there’s a new survey out about corporate America’s legal spending in 2013. As noted by Am Law Daily, the LegalView Index “is based on actual dollars paid by clients, not on surveys of law firms” — so perhaps it’s more reliable than many of the other studies.

What does the survey say? Here are some highlights:

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* Demand is down, but fees are up. The good news is that Am Law Second Hundred firms saw gains in billable hours purchased by corporate clients — and that’s about it for the good news. [Am Law Daily]

* OMG, Dewey want to see the unsealed case records against D&L’s ex-leaders. DA Cy Vance wants our prying eyes to see all but one document. Secret seven identities… incoming! [Bloomberg]

* It looks like that time Sheryl Sandberg refused to lean in is really paying off in court. Facebook is a witness, not a defendant, in an antitrust case about non-poaching agreements between tech giants. [Reuters]

* Gaming the rankings for dummies? Law school deans are now pushing the ABA to require that law schools post their transfer students’ LSAT and GPA credentials. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* The easy way to decide whether you should be working in law school is to determine what you like more: money or grades. One will help you get the other later in life. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Perhaps a little less ‘undead’ than this.

* The many legal perils of being undead. [The Legal Geeks]

* A rundown of the St. Patrick’s Day crime in Chicago. Bravo. [Crime In Wrigleyville + Boystown]

* Why don’t clients do more to embarrass lawyers for billing to research mundane, obvious legal principles? [Inside Counsel]

* The real-life detective story that solved a 1407 murder. It’s like Murder, She Wrote: The Early Years. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Mmmmmm. Delicious, delicious evidence. [Lowering the Bar]

* It may not seem like it, but the Obama administration has done a pretty good job on antitrust matters. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* Yes. Pay your interns. [Law and More]

* Erie Railroad is 75 and here’s a look back at its illustrious run. Well, it turned 75 last year, but it takes some time to publish a journal about it. Just pretend it’s last year and read the damn articles, all right? [The Journal of Law, Economics & Policy via the American Enterprise Institute]

* Missouri lawyer is hauled into a disciplinary hearing about his practice of showing a picture of a naked woman to a female client. He says it wasn’t about sex and he was just showing her the kinds of pictures that come up in a divorce proceeding. That sounds like a fine explanation. I mean, every divorce involves autographed photos of strippers. He also commingled funds. That’s less easy to explain. [Inside the Ozarks]

* Hey look! They brought back Debtors’ Prison. The prison-industrial complex has gotta get paid somehow. [Bergen Dispatch]

* Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are now looking into David Samson, the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a Christie appointee. If government agencies aren’t for petty revenge and plunder, then what are they for? [Talking Points Memo]

* Insurance company cronies threaten that insurance company may have to get out of the business because of all the lawyers winning cases making the insurance company actually pay their contractual obligations. Don’t they understand the purpose of litigation is just to collect premiums? [Legal Newsline Legal Journal]

* How ACLU attorney Ben Wizner became Snowden’s lawyer. [Forbes]

* “One of the reasons I could never imagine being a lawyer is because you have to account for your time in 15-minute increments.” Thankfully she was corrected and told that lawyers are actually more irritatingly measured in 6-minute increments. [Dear Prudence / Slate]

* With all the talk of patent law reform coming from the President, this is an excellent time to look back at eight dumb patents. [Mashable]

There seems to be lots of good news emanating from Akin Gump these days. Last month, for example, the firm won the Above the Law holiday card contest — a contest it has traditionally dominated, with two wins under its belt.

A cool holiday card is fun, but above-market bonuses are funner. And it seems that Akin Gump can boast about bonuses now too.

This is quite a departure from last year. Why are Akin associates so happy about their bonuses?

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When we recently ranked top law firms based on responses to the ATL Insider Survey, readers raved about Wilson Sonsini, which took the #5 spot on our list of the top 12 firms. According to one respondent, the firm boasts “entrepreneurial meritocracy, the best client base, endless opportunities, and smart helpful people. It is a unique place, perfect for the self-motivated overachiever.”

In terms of the five specific survey metrics, Wilson fared best in the compensation department. On a 10-point scale, WSGR scored an impressive 8.73 (out of 10) in terms of satisfaction with pay. (The firm’s other scores: 8.63 for culture, 8.33 for training, 7.80 for morale, and 7.33 for hours.)

But will Wilson Sonsini be able to maintain its high score on the comp front? Not everyone is happy with the firm’s latest bonuses….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

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Congratulations to the Latham & Watkins lawyers who participated in Movember. In November 2013, Team Latham raised more than $7,000 to fight testicular and prostate cancer. Movember might have hurt Procter & Gamble’s bottom line, but it helped raise awareness of important issues in men’s health.

And congrats to Latham lawyers on their 2013 bonuses. The bonuses were announced last Friday and will be paid this Friday.

(Yes, law firm season rolls on, even though it’s past its peak. We’re working on a few bonus stories but need additional data points on some firms — e.g., WilmerHale. If you can help us out, please email us or text us: 646-820-8477.)

If you want to see a bunch of Latham lawyers sporting facial here, click here. If you want information about Latham bonuses, including but not limited to the firm’s bonus memo, keep reading….

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The law firm of Goodwin Procter is in the news these days. Some of the firm’s top trial lawyers are defending Mathew Martoma — formerly of SAC Capital and Harvard Law School, where he famously falsified a transcript — in one of the biggest and most exciting insider-trading cases in history.

(Fun fact: one of the members of Martoma’s trial team, Roberto Braceras, is the son-in-law of Judge José A. Cabranes. So if the Martoma case ever winds up before the Second Circuit, Judge Cabranes may have to recuse.)

Martoma earned millions while at SAC Capital, and some of that money will be making its way into the coffers of Goodwin Procter. And some of that money will then get paid out as associate bonuses, which the firm recently announced….

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