The last time we covered the lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks who head to law firms after their time at the Court, the bonuses were flirting with $280,000. We say “flirting with” because, at the time, only certain firms were offering $280K. That princely sum was not yet the market rate for talent emerging from One First Street.
A little over a year later, we can report some change on this front. Even though regular associate bonuses and partner profits might be flat this year, the price for Supreme Court clerks is going up, up, up….
Fair is fair: I wrote last week about “what drives partners nuts.” Having armed associates with the ammunition needed to drive partners crazy, it’s only right that I arm partners with ways to drive associates nuts. (I realize that many partners are quite good at this even without my help, but I figure a stray few could use some guidance.)
Come on, partners, how can you drive associates nuts?
First: Give associates disembodied projects!
If you wanted someone actually to be interested in a project, you’d tell that person what the project was about. You’d explain what the transaction entails, what the client needs, and the critical issues likely to arise. In litigation matters, you’d explain who’s suing whom for what, the path the case is taking, the client’s main concerns, and the likely endgame. That would put a person’s brain in gear, and the person might actually care about his or her work.
It’s getting hot in herre [sic] — and not just due to the scorching temperatures we’re experiencing here in New York City. Today we’re experiencing a flare up of Biglaw bonus news. And maybe some partners are starting to sweat, thinking about whether they might have to cough up some extra cash to keep their associates happy.
Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. The notion of widespread midyear bonuses, comparable to the spring bonuses we saw in 2011, remains laughable an outside possibility. But it’s a little less crazy than it might have seemed a few weeks ago, now that multiple firms have plunged into the summer bonus pool.
The mere fact that it’s paying mid-year bonuses puts Quinn in the top tier of Biglaw. How many other major firms are paying such bonuses this year? The only other one that springs to mind for me is Sullivan & Cromwell (and this year’s S&C spring bonuses were nothing to write home about; but hey, at least S&C paid something).
UPDATE (11:01 AM): We’re just now receiving word of the Cahill summer bonuses. We’ll be covering them in more detail in a forthcoming post. If you have info or opinions to share — by the way, we don’t have the full scale yet — please email us or text us (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).
So how much are we talking about for the Quinn summer bonuses? And how are QE associates reacting to the news?
* Chief Justice John Roberts might “enjoy that he’s being criticized,” but that’s probably because he’ll get the chance to show his true conservative colors this fall when issues like affirmative action and same-sex marriage are before SCOTUS. [Reuters]
* Dewey know why this failed firm thinks a bankruptcy judge is going to allow it to hand out $700K in “morale” bonuses? You better believe that Judge Martin Glenn is going to tell D&L where it can (indicate). [Bankruptcy Beat / Wall Street Journal]
* It seems like attorneys at Freshfields may actually need to get some sleep, because it was the sole Magic Circle firm to report a decline in in revenue and profitability in its latest financial disclosure statements. [Financial Times (reg. req.)]
* Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. didn’t do George Zimmerman any favors when he set his bond at $1M. Watch how quickly the defense fund Zimmerman concealed from the court disappears as he struggles to post bail. [CNN]
* Whatever it takes (to count you as employed): 76% of law schools report that they’ve now changed their curriculum to include more practical skills courses in light of the dismal job market. [National Law Journal]
* Texas Christian University is expanding its graduate programs, but a law school isn’t necessarily in the works, because TCU is only interested in “programs that promote employability.” Well, sh*t, y’all. [TCU 360]
I think we can say that the notion of spring bonuses is officially dead. It’s already June, and the summer solstice is right around the corner. The lockstep Biglaw firms are just not going to be paying spring bonuses this year.
But spring/summer tips are still alive and well. When Sullivan & Cromwell announced its spring bonuses, I wrote, “This isn’t a bonus, it’s a tip.” S&C paid its associates between $1,000 and $5,000 this spring, a sum that is really a tip when you are a Biglaw Manhattan attorney.
Now Skadden is getting into the tip-giving game. The partners there are digging deep into their pockets and coming up with some loose change to dispense to their associates. If you work really hard at Skadden, you might just get a gift card! (Hey, it’s more than what Cravath is doing.)
* “Our assets went home every night, until one night, they went home and never came back.” Aww, Dewey shed a tear for this bankrupt law firm? Nah. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* It looks like SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas decided to kiss and make up with his alma mater, Yale Law School. He’ll be the keynote speaker at an alumni dinner in D.C. this summer. [Reuters]
* And the marriage equality battle has finally arrived in Obama’s former stomping grounds. Lambda Legal and the ACLU are challenging the ban on gay marriage in Illinois. [Associated Press]
* The biggest news out of the John Edwards trial yesterday was that Judge Eagles told the alternate jurors they didn’t have to show up anymore. OMG, boring. Give us a verdict already. [ABC News]
* Kim Dotcom and his company’s defense against the DOJ’s charges is coming together piece by piece. If only Megaupload were a torrent site, this would be a much better nerd joke. [Media Decoder / New York Times]
* The ABA Journal wants to know if you curse in the workplace, and if so, in what situations. We bet that a fair share of Biglaw associates were dropping f-bombs left and right over this year’s bonuses. [ABA Journal]
Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard some surprising rumblings of discontent from Boies Schiller. Why do we say “surprising”? Because the complaints have been about compensation, which is typically something that BSF lawyers never complain about.
Boies Schiller, the litigation powerhouse founded by the legendary David Boies, is an amazing firm. Its lawyers work on some of the biggest and most important cases of our time, and their compensation reflects that. In addition to paying above-market base salaries — the BSF scale starts at $174,000 — the firm pays bonuses that blow the NYC market out of the water.
In recent years, Boies has made two bonus payments to associates, one in December and one in April. But this year, April came and went, and many lawyers did not receive any payout. Of those who did receive payments, many were surprised at the small size.
Don’t look now, but there is a spring bonus war brewing. I’m serious. Don’t be fooled with the way most Biglaw firms are trying to pretend that spring bonuses don’t exist. Two of the most profitable firms have entered into the spring bonus fight. And they are not in lockstep with each other.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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