[David] Boies, the founder of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, loves the thrill of placing bets both at the casino and on big contingency cases.
In November one of those bets paid off when Visa Inc. agreed to pay his client American Express Co. as much as $2.25 billion to settle an antitrust suit. The payday for Boies and his partners should be huge. For associates who worked on the case… their share of that fee depends on how each decided to roll the dice.
A thumbnail sketch of the compensation scheme:
The associates who worked on the American Express matter were offered a choice each year at bonus time. They could take the conservative route and have their annual bonus include the hours they devoted to this case. That way they’d be assured of getting some credit for those hours. The downside was that those hours aren’t counted toward the contingency fee. One lawyer familiar with the matter says the firm offered this bonus option to appease associates worried that the case might lead nowhere.
Plan B allowed associates to roll their hours over to the next year. If the case paid off, they would receive a share of the contingency fee proportionate to those hours. Ka-ching!
According to Boies, somewhere between a quarter and a half of the associates opted for the more risky approach. In hindsight, it was the right choice:
A young lawyer who placed her bets on the contingency fee could be richly rewarded. According to one former lawyer at the firm, an associate’s share of such a fee is tied to hours billed. The firm takes the percentage of hours the associate contributed to the case, divides by five and applies that fraction to the fee premium. Boies confirmed that this formula is “basically right,” although other factors could increase the associate’s share. A hypothetical example: If an associate contributed 5 percent of the overall hours to this case and the premium fee (the amount above normal billing rates) were $100 million, the associate would get 1 percent of $100 million — which is $1 million.
Now that’s what we call a bonus. Seven figures makes even Wachtell bonuses look paltry.
As noted in Susan Beck’s article, the case was filed in 2004, so it was kicking around for several years. But even if you spread $1 million out over four bonus cycles, it still comes out to a nice chunk of change. And presumably some of the BSF associates who worked on the AmEx matter also worked on other cases, making the AmEx bonus just a part of their total compensation. Gamble Pays Off for Some Boies Schiller Associates [The American Lawyer via NYLawyer.com (subscription)]
So yes, it’s true. The rumor that Boies, Schiller & Flexner has raised starting salaries to $168,000, which has surfaced here and there in the comments, has been confirmed for us by a knowledgeable source. The news was announced last weekend at the firm meeting in Jamaica.
As for the rest of the scale, second-years make $180,000, and then there are $21,000 jumps each year thereafter (i.e., $201,000, $222,000, etc.). Additional changes to the old Boies compensation system — primarily relating to contigency cases, which the firm does a fair amount of (and earns major moolah from) — are being considered, but have not yet been finalized.
Now, as you may recall from this earlier post, BSF is perhaps sui generis when it comes to associate compensation matters. Associate compensation is actually directly tied to the revenue that each associate generates for the firm. So their move to $168K is not as exciting as if, say, a firm with a more traditional compensation structure — a Cravath or Sullivan or Simpson — made such a move.
But hey, it’s still good news; the new base rates are indeed a raise over what Boies associates previously earned. But recall that, at least in the major (New York / Westchester / D.C.) offices, base salary is just an advance on total compensation, and bonus is the difference. And in the major offices, it’s really all about the bonus.
Anyway, stay tuned. If you’re at Boies and can provide us with more detail, please feel free to email us. Thanks.
P.S. Sorry for the radio silence. The new servers that we’re expecting in 2008 are needed now (as we’ve repeatedly told our bosses). Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Associate Compensation Overhaul at Boies Schiller?
A brief tour of things we don’t have room to explore in this double edition of LEWW:
- This bride is foxy and forty-eight; this bride is twenty-six and hyper-annoying.
- Some MoFo lesbians have made a match of it.
- Graduating cum laude from Harvard wins you admission to a tier-4 law school.
But on to our five featured couples:
It’s only Tuesday morning, and we’ve already done severalposts on the professional plight of non-elite law school graduates. So we’re declaring this week Non-Top-Tier Law School Week at ATL. If you have a story idea that fits into this theme, please email us.
Here’s our latest tale about the plight of “non-T14″ law school grads. It suggests that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t the only person making controversial appearances at New York area schools.
From a tipster at New York Law School (a Tier 3 school, not to be confused with fourth-ranked NYU; if you ever want to piss off an NYU grad, refer to their alma mater as “New York Law School”):
“New York Law School in Tribeca had David Boies speak at our graduation this past July. Yet his firm does not hire from New York Law School. The only NYLS alum there graduated in 1968.”
Ouch. But for the record, our tipster later emailed us a correction: there’s one more New York Law School grad at Boies Schiller. That makes for a grand total of two (2) NYLS alumni at the firm. But the point is still the same. As our source observes, “they still don’t even do on campus at NYLS.”
“Anyway, this is intended to be more damning of NYLS than it is of Boies Schiller, which has the right to follow any hiring practices they desire. However, NYLS should maybe be a little more selective in who they choose to speak to us third-tier graduates.”
Do you agree with this tipster? Is NYLS degrading itself by, in the words of our tipster, “giving out honorary degrees to people who don’t even hire its graduates”? Or would the tipster’s approach unduly limit the universe of possible graduation speakers?
More discussion, including some email correspondence between an NYLS student and the school’s dean, after the jump.
We’re surprised that the firms in this latest group of Vault 100 law firms aren’t ranked more highly. Some of them are quite profitable (Dechert),* prestigious (Munger), or high-profile (Boies Schiller, home of legendary litigator David Boies).
But who are we to argue? For communal discussion, here is this morning’s batch of Biglaws:
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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