The official title of the NALPconference panel that I attended on merit-based compensation contained a playful shout-out to Sarah Palin: “How Is That Performance-Based Compensation System Working for Ya?”
The panel was originally supposed to have featured a representative of the now-defunct Howrey law firm. So the snarky answer to the question presented might be, “Not well.” (In fairness to merit-based compensation, however, Howrey’s dissolution didn’t have much to do with its model for training, promoting, and compensating associates.)
No mention of Howrey was made during the introductory remarks (or anywhere else in the discussion, for that matter). Rather, the panel focused on the positive — and offered useful advice for firms that are contemplating adoption of performance-based systems….
Our law firm holiday card contest is still underway, but we’re in the home stretch. Voting closes tomorrow, January 9, at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern time). If you haven’t done so already, review the finalists and vote over here.
In the our earlier post, we promised a post in which we’d (1) give shout-outs to some holiday cards that were strong but narrowly missed our cut and (2) poke fun at some of the Christmas cards we found especially disappointing. Here is the promised post.
Let’s look at some of these honorable and dishonorable mentions. Perhaps your law firm’s card is among them?
Ed. note: We apologize for the late docket. Technical difficulties, rather than oversleeping, are to blame.
* Yale Law School student Michael Seringhaus wants to put your DNA in a national database. [New York Times]
* Judge goes heavy on the prison time and light on the restitution for the man who peephole video-taped ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews. [True/Slant]
* Toyota class action plaintiffs rev their engines. [Kansas City Business Journal]
* Former McGuire Woods partner Louis Zehil pleads guilty to securities fraud and trading shares in the companies for which he was doing P.E. work. [Business Week]
* General counsels are happy to scavenge Biglaw layoffs. [ABA Journal]
* Eric Holder is not having a good month. [Daily Beast]
* If you see a story about a deadly giraffe attack, don’t believe it. [Houston Chronicle]
* One Darby & Darby refugee finds shelter at Fenwick West. [ABA Journal]
On Wednesday, we reported that Fenwick & West paid $60,000 in “go away” money money to some members of its incoming associate class. Today, we have news about Fenwick’s 2009 summer program, i.e., the most recent summer program, and the firm’s offer rate.
Fenwick took on 36 2Ls and 3Ls this past summer. But the summer was only eight weeks long, and Fenwick’s summer salary was on a $145K scale instead of $160K.
Still, most summers probably would have been okay with Fenwick’s program if it had ended with a strong offer rate. But it didn’t. Sources report that the firm only made offers to 17 of the 36 summers. A tipster reports the breakdown:
Ultimately the firm extended 17 offers (47%): 8 litigation, 8 corporate and 1 patent.
During orientation the hiring partners told us those who did not receive an offer would receive a letter that they could show other firms as a means to explain why we did not get an offer.
Is anybody else interested in this letter that will explain everything to other firms? Let’s check it out after the jump.
As regular Above the Law readers know, there are a few firms that are offering “go away” money to their incoming associates. The deal, like ones at Stroock and Pillsbury, is that the firm will give incoming associates a large payment instead of a job, and the incoming associate will quietly go peruse other employment options.
We haven’t really gotten a sense of how many would-be associates would actually consider this offer — until now. Fenwick & West offered its incoming associates $60,000 to stay away. According to our sources, around 40 percent of Fenwick’s 2009 class took the money.
But there is a catch; there’s always a catch.
Details after the jump.
Don’t look now, but this is actually shaping up as a pretty bad week for associates who want to hang onto their jobs. Seyfarth cut 50 people late Friday, Milbank let go of 89 yesterday, and we’ve been able to confirm stealth layoffs at Sullivan & Cromwell.
The latest news comes from Fenwick & West. Sources report that the firm has laid off 22 people: 15 associates and 7 staffers.
But a tipster reports that the layoffs might not be confined to the associate and staff ranks:
There have also been a bunch of “farewell” and “goodbye” emails over the last few weeks from “Of counsel” people in the corporate group. So it seems likely that “stealth” layoffs are also occurring among the higher paid, but non-partner, group as well.
We understand that there will be a firm wide meeting tomorrow to discuss the latest news at Fenwick. The firm did not respond to our request for immediate comment.
According to the most recent NALP numbers, the 15 associates let go today represent about 9% of the associates at the firm.
But for the staff, this is the second round of layoffs they’ve seen. In January, Fenwick fired 36 staffers.
Good luck to those let go today from Fenwick. For everybody that still has a job, stay tuned and let’s hope that firms aren’t trying to get a whole slew of cuts in before summer associates show up to the office. Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of law firm layoffs
What’s the hot new trend in Biglaw? Two-track systems for associates. They’re regarded as a sensible way for law firms to address the twin challenges of (1) higher associate salaries and (2) associate attrition (often due to a frustration with long hours).
Here’s word of the latest law firm to join the party, from NYLawyer.com (reg. req’d):
Chapman and Cutler, a Chicago-based firm with three offices and about 220 attorneys, has joined the parade of firms boosting first-year associate pay to $160,000, but the firm is taking a new path once associates reach their second year.
Second-year associates can opt for one of two compensation tracks at the firm under a new system that took effect last month, said Rick Cosgrove, who is chief executive partner at the firm. They can choose to work fewer hours at a lower pay level or more hours at a higher salary level, he said.
Cosgrove declined to specify the hours required and related pay rates under the new pay program for competitive reasons.
If you have info on the Chapman and Cutler scale that you’d be willing to share, please email us. According to a poster at Greedy Chicago:
The higher track is essentially Biglaw market, so long as you hit 2000 billables/year. The lower track is compressed to about $5k-$10k/year, depending on class year, and you need to hit 1850.
Other firms with two-track systems (click on each firm’s name for a memo and/or details): Hogan & Hartson, Wiley Rein, Fenwick & West, and Thelen (formerly Thelen Reid, and FYI, “Thelen” rhymes with “wheelin’”; see here).
Do you have an opinion about this two-tiered approach? If so, vote in our reader polls, after the jump.
We hope you enjoyed the Labor Day holiday and long weekend. Alas, now it’s back to work — for you and for us.
We’re still digging ourselves out from an email avalanche, as well as trying to figure out what’s going in the world (and what we should write about today). This may take us a little while, so please be patient.
In the meantime, let’s conclude our series of open threads on Vault 100 law firms. Here are the firms to talk about today:
If you want to get a raise to the $160K pay scale, but without a corresponding “adjustment” to your bonus. Or if you want to bill only 1800 hours a year, and still make a decent living.
From a source at the firm:
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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