Corporate Counsel has released its annual list of the highest-paid general counsel in the land. The trend this year is a leveling-off, says Corporate Counsel, thanks to the recession and the belt-tightening that results from a greater transparency for executive compensation. The party slows down when the lights come on.
These GCs still managed to do well for themselves. At the top of the list is Russell Deyo, of Johnson & Johnson. The Georgetown ’75 grad has been with the company for 25 years, having joined in 1985 as a regular old staff attorney. His salary is a mere $831K, but he rakes in millions in bonus money.
Who topped the list, and how much are they making?
Last November, we scrutinized the compensation of one of America’s best-paid in-house lawyers: Gregory Palm, general counsel of Goldman Sachs. There was some nit-picking from readers about the precise size of his (pay) package, reflected in the various updates appended to the post, but there was unanimity on the main point: serving as Goldman’s top lawyer is a path to riches.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a long, interesting, behind-the-scenes look at the negotiations between Goldman and the SEC that culminated in the bank’s $550 million settlement — negotiations in which Greg Palm played a leading role. For some good commentary on Louise Story’s article, check out Larry Ribstein (who sees the case as a strike suit that just happened to be brought by the SEC).
What we found most intriguing about the NYT piece — which weighed in at a hefty 3,200 words, as noted by the WSJ Law Blog — was the delicious dish about Gregory Palm’s pay….
The recession has forced Biglaw firms to lay off some of the best and the brightest in the legal field. Many of these Biglaw refugees have wound up seeking out contract work (despite the long-term risks), and that means the pool of contract attorneys is mighty pretty right now. In-house legal departments have noticed and are taking advantage, reports the Legal Intelligencer (in an article we mentioned in the Holiday Docket yesterday).
In an ACC survey about the effects of the recession that we wrote about last week, 51% of in-house folks reported an increased workload last year. And staffing firms say that general counsel are looking to them to help out. Gina Passarella writes:
Project attorneys are a more viable answer to the budget problem in part because there are so many skilled lawyers out of work due to layoffs at AmLaw 200 firms and the consolidation of legal departments prior to the economic downturn, which led to cuts in those departments as well, [staffing firm owner James] LaRosa said.
“The pool of contract attorneys right now is exceptional,” he said.
A typical candidate right now would have experience at either an AmLaw 200 firm or a specialized boutique, and oftentimes will have law department experience as well.
The pool may be exceptional, but the pay is not. Will contract attorneys be as appealing once the economy bounces back and Harvard grads can get big-paying, Biglaw jobs again?
The appeal of working in-house is two-fold: decent hours and decent $$$ enough money to live on. How much money exactly? A new survey out from legal recruiter Laurence Simons (gavel bang: WSJ Law Blog) has the median salary ranges for those in-house, with experience ranging from zero to 21+ years. It’s six figures throughout, but barely in those baby years.
As we’ve noted before, salaries in-house remained flat in 2009. The Global Salary and Benefits survey [PDF] included responses from 1900 in-house lawyers world-wide, and breaks its results down by country.
Corporate Counsel reports that bonuses were uncommon in-house in the U.S. last year, so base salary reflects fairly reliably what these folks actually made last year. So what do those base salaries in-house look like?
It’s not every day that a partner leaves the storied firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. But it’s not every day that a suitor with comparable prestige, wealth, and WASPiness comes calling. Dealbook reports:
Morgan Stanley said on Thursday that it has hired Francis P. Barron, a partner at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, as its chief legal officer. Mr. Barron will replace Gary G. Lynch, who will remain with Morgan Stanley as a vice chairman in London…. The hiring is the latest management shake-up under James P. Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s chief executive since the beginning of the year.
At Cravath, where he has worked for 32 years, Mr. Barron specialized in litigation, corporate matters and advising boards. Among his clients are financial firms like Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, UBS and Goldman Sachs, as well as General Electric.
Moving from a law firm to Wall Street isn’t uncommon. On New York magazine’s recent list of hottest Wall Street bachelors — co-authored by Bess Levin, of our sister site Dealbreaker, and Jessica Pressler — two out of the 15 “foxes of finance” have law degrees (one from Harvard and one from Seton Hall).
A move at this high a level, from a Cravath partnership to an investment bank, is less common. But such moves happen — and, interestingly enough, Frank Barron isn’t even the first ex-Cravath partner to wind up in a top position at Morgan Stanley….
Despite the depressing efforts of Marin County and Michigan Law School, there is a leading indicator that could portend good news for Biglaw lawyers. Wall Street is hiring bankers again. Bloomberg reports:
Firms are adding jobs for the first time in two years, rebuilding businesses cut during the financial crisis and offering guaranteed payouts to lure top bankers. In New York, 6,800 financial-industry positions were added from the end of February through May, the largest three-month increase since 2008, according to the New York State Department of Labor.
If bankers are being hired, they will (a) want to make deals, and (b) screw those deals up. Both realities should make opportunities for lawyers…
In the movie The Untouchables, Sean Connery counsels Kevin Costner: “If you don’t want to get a rotten apple, pick one fresh off the tree.” Apparently, Hewlett-Packard is taking the same advice; instead of hiring in-house attorneys seasoned in Biglaw firms, HP is getting its next crop of legal help directly from the nation’s top law schools. The Recorder reports (gavel bang: ABA Journal):
This fall, Hewlett-Packard is going where few corporate law departments have gone before: hiring fresh graduates for full-time in-house positions.
Four first-year associates will join HP in Palo Alto, Calif., in September — one from Harvard, two from Northwestern and one from UC-Berkeley. The associates will earn $115,000 per year plus a $15,000 signing bonus and undergo a training program similar to the type installed recently at firms like Howrey and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
We just did a report about how the lawyer training programs offered by firms like Howrey weren’t catching on. But perhaps HP can offer the renowned better lifestyle of in-house attorneys to buttress their below Biglaw market salary?
Most New York lawyer types have given up on the idea of cooking for themselves; they’re far more likely to get their dinner from Seamless Web than from their own fridge and stovetop. But not Serena Palumbo. She’s now in-house counsel for an Italian bank, and has persevered in making nightly home-made dinners, despite prior stints at Schulte Roth and Shearman & Sterling.
And her perseverance has led to a possible career opportunity: TV celebrity chef. She’s one of the competitors in The Next Food Network Star, a Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis-hosted reality competition, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Palumbo looks great in photos, but a former colleague who caught the premiere told us she struggled a bit in the first episode:
Wolfgang Puck told Giada that the Food Network might have to make room for a new Italian princess.
She did a good job with the food but struggled in front of the camera; she came across a bit forced so she’s not a front-runner but can probably turn things around.
Curses. Corporate lawyers don’t get to spend time in a courtroom, practicing their TV face in front of a jury.
We caught up with Serena by phone this week and asked her how she got onto the show, and more importantly, how she finds time to cook dinner every night at home in Manhattan…
Moving in-house really is the golden ticket. Better hours, great pay, and you get to bitch around law firm partners and their associate underlings whenever you want. The only thing separating in-house counsel from the good life seems to be that they have to regularly slough into a stuffy corporate office everyday.
Well, one general counsel isn’t going to let the great indoors ruin his awesome job. The ABA Journal reports:
[Richard Russeth], an avid collector of books about tree house architecture, is taking on his own endeavor: building a sophisticated tree-office nestled 20-feet high in a grove of 50 to 90-feet tall pine trees near his home in Evergreen, Colo.
Did James Cameron put him up to this? Is this guy going to start communicating in Na’vi?
If the professional world were a zoo, Biglaw attorneys and in-house counsel would be kept in separate cages. They live in distinct environments and, according to a group of general counsel at the InsideCounsel SuperConference, have very different characteristics.
GCs from Kaplan Higher Education, Navistar, and Johnson Controls got together for a panel about building great in-house teams. It started with some general advice: Ask for writing samples from applicants, don’t hire applicants who use “I” during their interviews, and help to develop your workforce.
“Attorneys don’t tend to be precise and concise when they talk,” said Janice Block of Kaplan Higher Education. She has training sessions to help new hires improve their communication skills, so they can explain what they do for the company if they get stuck in the elevator with the CEO, for example.
Not surprisingly, companies are getting tons of applications for in-house positions these days. “In a market like now, we have lots and lots of people interested in joining the company,” said Jerry Okarma of Johnson Controls, a technology company based in Wisconsin. Attention, diverse candidates: “We have a hard time finding African–Americans in Milwaukee,” said Okarma.
People at the conference told me they’re seeing some amazing résumés cross their desks. People with 20 years of experience are applying for the lowest-level in-house jobs, said one in-houser.
But note well, law firm types: your experience might be a strike against you. The GCs in this session said they look at candidates with in-house experience first, and then to those with law-firm experience. One GC referred to law firms as the “outhouse.” The session included a fair amount of harping about how the animals are trained in the Biglaw outhouse…
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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: email@example.com.
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.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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