McKee Nelson LLP AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe previously commended the firm of McKee Nelson for the steps it’s taking to accommodate its associates in the wake of the credit crunch. Credit market woes have significantly affected the firm’s once booming capital markets practice, but the firm is bending over backwards not to do layoffs.
So far backwards, in fact, that we’re going to go even farther: we wish we worked at MN. To paraphrase Crazy Eddie, the offers they’re making to associates are INSANE.
On Friday, the firm offered these options to its associates:

(1) a full bonus, and four months’ pay, to anyone willing to depart from the firm; or

(2) the option to take a year-long sabbatical, at 40 percent pay, AND with a full bonus for 2007.

Wow. How is option (2) — or even option (1), for people who wanted to change jobs or career paths anyway — not the sweetest deal ever? You get a year off from the Biglaw grind, at 40 percent of your pay (McKee is on the $160K scale), AND with a year-end bonus? (Their bonus table appears here — the firm is paying standard year-end bonuses, although not “special” bonuses.)
There are some caveats, according to our tipsters. First, there’s no guarantee of a job at the end of the sabbatical — whether you can return to the firm will depend on what the business climate looks like in a year. Second, you’re supposed to do something public-interest-oriented during that year — or, as the managing partner put it, “something that makes the world better.” So you can’t just go to Ibiza and party for twelve months (although cynics claim that turning lawyers into layabouts “makes the world better”).
On the other hand, there’s no requirement that you work for a 501(c)(3) during your sabbatical; the concept has some flexibility. Could you perhaps use the year — and the money — to study painting, or to finish the novel you started writing back in law school?
So many lawyers talk about the dreams that died when they went to law school. How is the McKee Nelson sabbatical program not a great opportunity to resurrect those dreams, with the luxury of free time and financial security?
Earlier: Nationwide Personnel Reconfiguration Watch: McKee Nelson

party parties party planning Above the Law blog.jpgPaging laid-off (or about-to-be-laid-off) associates: Looking for a new career? If you’re culturally literate, possessed of good taste, and great at slaving away for law-firm partners — which, given your job experience, you probably are — think about becoming a “personal manager.”
From the New York Times:

Looking for someone to curate your life? Need a personal concierge whose expertise is not picking up dry-cleaning but helping chose your wardrobe, your tastes, your friends?

[Allison] Storr calls herself a personal manager, but her duties go far beyond that. Her clients, all of them men, pay monthly fees of $4,000 to $10,000 to have her be their personal decider in nearly all things lifestyle-related.

And there’s a fun Biglaw blind item in the article:

A partner in a New York law firm, who agreed to be interviewed if he was not named to protect his privacy, said he has employed Ms. Storr for two and a half years. Last summer, Ms. Storr organized an ’80s theme party at the lawyer’s house in the Hamptons for about 200 of his friends, with a $5,000 budget. “It was honestly one of the most fun parties out there,” the lawyer said. “By now all my friends know that Allison works for me.”

He calls her an outsourced wife. “The nice thing is that when I ask her to do something, she gets it done and there’s no negative feelings.”

Putting together a summer party for 200, on a budget of just $5,000, is an impressive feat. Shouldn’t a Biglaw partner cough up at least five figures for a fabulous fete?
Need a Life? She’ll Arrange One [New York Times]

Susana Lorenzo Giguere 2 DOJ Justice Department Above the Law blog.jpgIf you’re thinking of moving from private practice to government, you should be prepared to take a hit in perks as well as pay. Sure, your hours will be better — just avoid the S.D.N.Y. — and you might even get a free flu shot. But you won’t have the fancy offices, the swanky lunches, or round-the-clock support staff. Sometimes you’ll have to make your own photocopies.
It is not, however, all doom and gloom. In the past, Department of Justice employees got to enjoy four-dollar meatballs (plus $13,000 in brownies). And now we hear that for at least one DOJ diva, work was a day at the beach — quite literally.
From Al Kamen of the Washington Post:

[T]he acting deputy director of the [voting rights] section, Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, has been accused of collecting a $64 per diem, including on weekends and the Fourth of July, while spending half of June and most of July and August with her husband and kids at their beach house on Cape Cod.

The allegation, made to the department inspector general apparently by someone linked to the Boston regional office, was that Lorenzo-Giguere made “multiple” government-paid trips to the Cape and that she improperly said that “her presence on Cape Cod was necessary pending litigation in Boston,” which was in the courts over the summer….

The complaint also alleged that Lorenzo-Giguere “spent little time in Boston” this summer and did little work on the case. Also, what supervision and oversight she provided was done by phone to Boston while she “remained on the beach,” and she would have been able to do this from her office in Washington.

C’mon, folks — cut Susana some slack. Her kids needed her; building sandcastles is no easy task. And she probably looks great in a swimsuit, too.
More about Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “For DOJ Diva, Work Is a Day at the Beach”

small bonsai 2 bonsai tree plant Sullivan Cromwell S&C Above the Law blog.jpg“There she is… Miss S&C Bonsai!”
Just to close the loop on last week’s contest, the bonsai tree pictured at right is the winner of our Sullivan & Cromwell bonsai beauty pageant. Congratulations, Bonsai #2!
Of course, as with any matter of taste, there was disagreement. Some viewed Bonsai Two as tawdry:

Bonsai Contestant 2 is a pageant patty: the garish lighting, the big contestant badge, the pose. Bonsai Contestant 6 is fresh, unscripted, and beautiful, and therefore gets my vote.

But in the end, more voters agreed with these views:

“The lighting for Number two makes it classy, and yet ever so slightly risque. It gets my vote hands down.”

“The garish lighting makes it. So stark, so ironic. Number two (the existential bonsai) has it all the way.”

Wait a sec — is the lighting scheme “classy,” or “garish”? Eh, who knows! All we know is that you like it, you really like it.
For anyone who cares, the full tally appears after the jump.
Earlier: An S&C Bonsai Beauty Pageant!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The S&C Bonsai Beauty Pageant: We Have a Winner”

iPod nano Apple Above the Law blog.jpgWhen it comes to offeree swag, is the arms race among Biglaw shops heating up?
Sullivan & Cromwell brought out what we dubbed the “heavy artillery”: bonsai trees. But perhaps S&C has been bested — and not even by a New York firm:

Talk about firms taking recruiting to a whole new level. Last night, Choate Hall & Stewart held its offer dinner at a super-fancy, old school establishment. Choate had goody bags ready for all its offerees, and while most of us were expecting a pen (a la Goodwin) or a water bottle, lo and behold, in our red shiny gift bags, were brand new 8GB red video iPod nanos (at $200 a pop).

Soooooo sweet. It’s a little ridiculous, but at the same time, something has to be said for the financial health of the firm for them to be giving away iPods.

In the comments to one of our S&C bonsai posts, it was reported that Shearman & Sterling gave iPod shuffles to its summer associates. That’s quite nice. But it’s even nicer to give a nifty (and costly) gadget to a mere offeree, who at the end of the day might just say, “Thanks anyway, hello Ropes & Gray.”
What’s the nicest gift you’ve received, or heard of someone receiving, from a law firm encouraging acceptance of its offer? Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks.

small bonsai 2 bonsai tree plant Sullivan Cromwell S&C Above the Law blog.jpgAfter the jump, you’ll see six photographs of Sullivan & Cromwell bonsai trees. Some of these pics have been previously featured in these pages, and some are new. Based on subtle differences between the plants, it appears that S&C may be using different florists around the country to disseminate these gifts to its offerees.
We will now hold a bonsai beauty contest, allowing you to vote for your favorite example of S&C bonsai porn. The differences in the photos are interesting. Just like real pornography, some bonsai porn aims to titillate, some aspires to art, and some just looks fuzzy and low-budget.
Check out the bonsai pics, and cast your vote, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An S&C Bonsai Beauty Pageant!”

Monday mornings kinda suck. So here’s something to cheer you up and get your week started right. It’s a photograph, of higher quality than our last one, of a Sullivan & Cromwell bonsai tree:
bonsai 2 bonsai tree plant Sullivan Cromwell S&C Above the Law blog.jpg
Another S&C bonsai pic, in which the plant is artistically posed alongside additional booty sent by the firm to its offerees, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Monday Morning Pick Me Up: S&C Bonsai Porn”

Clarence Thomas book My Grandfather's Son Above the Law blog.jpgWelcome. If you’re at home, tune in to C-SPAN, which is rebroadcasting the recent book party for Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas’s eagerly anticipated memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, is now in bookstores — and topping the bestseller charts (to the relief of his publisher, HarperCollins, which reportedly paid him a $1.5 million advance).
7:05: The party is being held at the elegant, red-brick Capitol Hill home of radio host and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams. Expected to attend: 250 guests, including six Supreme Court justices, Vice President Dick Cheney, and several U.S. senators.
Armstrong Williams is interviewed. He explains that the party has been in the works since June. An overwhelming turnout is expected; more people were turned away than allowed to attend.
7:08: Justice Thomas climbs the stairs. When he enters the kitchen — which is right at the top of the stairs, and thus (oddly) where everyone enters and exits — he’s greeted by hearty applause.
Various guests hug him. One guest gushes over his 60 Minutes appearance. CT explains that CBS News made no promises about the nature of its coverage. Interesting. Considering how flattering that segment was, and how uncritical Steve Kroft was in his questioning of Justice Thomas, one might have suspected that Brangelina-type stipulations were in place.
More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Liveblogging the Clarence Thomas Book Party”

bonsai tree S&C Sullivan Cromwell Above the Law blog.jpgThink of law firm recruiting as a war. America’s top law firms are engaged in a battle to the death, vying for the best young legal minds in the country. And in this war, Sullivan & Cromwell is bringing out the heavy artillery.
Sources report that S&C is sending its offerees… BONSAI TREES!!!
We asked one bonsai tree recipient to speculate on what S&C is trying to say with these gifts:

There’s no message with them (other than a “Compliments of Sullivan & Cromwell” card). Bonsai trees live a long time. Perhaps they want us to grow old with the firm?

Or maybe to “bend over” like a bonsai?
Another theory: “[M]aybe it is a test to see if we can keep them alive by the time the summer rolls around.”
Interesting. Perhaps the firm can give a special prize to the S&C summer associate with the best bonsai tree at the start of the program?
More about S&C’s odd horticultural booty, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sullivan & Cromwell to 190K Bonsai Trees!”

One year ago, we wrote about how Columbia law professor Hans Smit was trying to unload his 12,000 square foot home — the only freestanding single-family mansion in Manhattan — for a cool $29 million.

One year later, the good professor’s home is still on the market. Its white-marble-clad facade greeted us when we visited the New York Times homepage this morning (screencap and link to listing below).

The only difference from last year? The asking price, now up to $30 million.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And up your asking price by a million!

(In all seriousness, Professor Smit’s decision to round up to $30 million probably isn’t as crazy as it might seem. Despite the weak real estate market in the rest of the country, the market in New York City — especially at the high end — continues to be strong.)

Hans Smit mansion still for sale Above the Law blog.jpg

Magnificent Mansion [Brown Harris Stevens]

Earlier: Lawyerly Lairs: Professor Smit’s Uptown Mansion

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