Last month, the Supreme Court law clerks for October Term 2010 finished their clerkships, turning over their clerkly duties to the October Term 2011 class of clerks. As in past years, many of the OT 2010 clerks are joining private law firms — which welcome them with six-figure signing bonuses. These bonuses are paid on top of base salaries reflecting their seniority (many SCOTUS clerks join firms as second- to fourth-year associates), as well as the usual year-end bonuses.
For the past few years, at least since 2007, law firm signing bonuses for members of The Elect have hovered around $250,000. But this year, at least a few firms are offering even more.
The classic example was when General Motors chose to name one of its cars the Chevrolet “Nova.” In Spanish, “no va” means “it does not go,” which isn’t a great name for a car sold in Spanish-speaking countries. I’d bet that a few hundred Spanish-speaking employees of GM noticed that issue before the car hit the market, but no one bothered to speak up.
Let me offer two more examples of failing to speak up, with both examples coming at my own expense. (I wish I weren’t such an easy target, but such is life.)
The first example involves a law firm. Twenty-two years ago, as a lateral sixth-year associate, I accepted a job at Jones Day in Cleveland. I saw during the hiring process, and again when I sat down at my desk on the first day of my new job, that all of the firm’s promotional materials included the firm’s marketing slogan: “Jones Day: One Firm Worldwide.”
I’d been practicing law for six years at that point, so I was a relatively sophisticated lawyer, although by no means an old hand. Perhaps older and wiser folks looked at the tagline “one firm worldwide” and thought: “Terrific! I’m going to hire those guys because they’re one firm worldwide!”
But that wasn’t how it struck me. I sat there scratching my head: How many firms was I supposed to think Jones Day was? Two firms? Three firms? A half-dozen? And why was the apparent misperception — that Jones Day was more than one firm — so widespread that the firm devoted its main branding opportunity to dispelling this confusion? Of the many praiseworthy things that could surely be said about my new employer, why did the fact that it was only “one firm” top the list? Wouldn’t it be slightly more helpful to say, for example, “Jones Day: Pretty Good Lawyers”? Would the Jones Day slogan make sense for any other big firm? Would “General Motors: One Firm Worldwide” be a useful marketing tool? What the heck was going on?
You just wonder if Jones Day could try recruiting adults instead of making a bunch of rules to regulate the kids they have there. Think about it: one of the defining features of Jones Day is its policy of secrecy regarding attorney compensation. The firm is worried about petty jealousies sprouting up between competing attorneys over compensation. Other firms handle this problem by assuming their people can act like trained professionals, Jones Day thinks that its people can’t handle the truth.
This condescending view doesn’t just apply to salary information. Apparently, Jones Day employees cannot be trusted to dress themselves without explicit instructions.
Jones Day has so many nanny-state policies that I’m surprised Mike Bloomberg isn’t a partner in the firm…
Let’s all take a deep breath. Associate bonus season, which usually wraps up sometime in January, looks like it’s been extended well into April. This is just more proof that Biglaw firms don’t actually collude. No rational business person would want to be making decisions in April 2011 about how much to pay employees for 2010 performance.
For those trying to keep score, there seem to be the following categories of firms (roughly using a letter-grade system):
A – Firms that are paying Cravath-level spring bonuses in all offices. (Example: Cravath.) [FN1]
B – Firms that are paying Sullivan & Cromwell-level spring bonuses in all offices. (Example: S&C.)
C – Firms that are paying spring bonuses in New York but not elsewhere, like California or D.C.. (Example: Read more below.)
D – Firms that are not paying spring bonuses because their year-end bonuses beat the Cravath year-end bonuses, and they’re hoping their associates can’t add. (Example: CHECK YOUQUINN EMANUEL.)
F – Firms that are not paying spring bonuses and invite disgruntled associates to S some D if they don’t like it. (Example: Jones “We can still hear all the poors who live inside your black box” Day.)
Right now, we want to focus on Group C. Group B gets a pass because they started the spring bonus phenomenon and goddamnit we’re going to respect that. Partners at firms in Groups D & F will have to examine their own motives for why they want their associates to secretly hate them.
But Group C is weird. Why create inter-office jealousy and rage when most top firms are paying spring bonuses in all of their offices? Why look that desperate to save a little bit of money?
And you can’t spell “Weird Cost-Cutting” without White & Case…
Yesterday we reported on talks last week between Jones Day and key partners in the construction group of Howrey. It appears that the talks have borne fruit.
As reported yesterday by the Daily Journal (subscription), a group of seven Howrey partners — led by prominent construction lawyer Steve O’Neal, former chairman of the now-defunct Thelen law firm — left Howrey this week for Jones Day. The move was confirmed yesterday by Robert Mittelstaedt, the partner in charge of Jones Day’s San Francisco office.
Who are the departing construction-law partners? And which other partners might be leaving Howrey’s California offices?
After all, there are fewer partners for Howrey to lose with each passing day, as the Howrey lawyer diaspora continues to grow. Let’s review the recent activity — and discuss some possible future defections.
Other outlets have noted additional partner departures. K.T. “Sunny” Cherian, described by The Recorder as a “top IP litigation rainmaker” with a book of business worth more than $10 million, joined the San Francisco office of Hogan Lovells this past weekend. Four other partners will join him in soaking up the Ho-Love: John Hamann, Sarah Jalali, Constance Ramos, and Scott Wales (who had been the hiring partner for Howrey’s S.F. office).
Also in S.F., Pillsbury Winthrop picked up IP partner Duane Mathiowetz. The news was reported by the Daily Journal (subscription), which noted that Mathiowetz, who worked as a mechanical engineer for a decade before going into law, has taken five patent cases to trial in the past five years (winning four).
Who might be the next to leave Howrey? Here’s some speculation….
The folks who sell blogging platforms to lawyers say that blogging is the route to riches. But bloggers themselves are far less certain whether blogging actually generates business. What’s the truth?
Let me start with my personal experience; I’ll conclude with a thesis. The personal experience is just the facts — what I did as a blogger, how successful the blog was, and how, if at all, I profited from the experience. (I’ve previously recited parts of this story in both the print media and elsewhere. I’ll try to add a few new thoughts here.)
What did I do as a blogger? For three years — from October 2006 through December 2009 — while I was a partner at Jones Day, I co-hosted the Drug and Device Law Blog with Jim Beck, of Dechert. We wrote almost exclusively about the defense of pharmaceutical and medical device product liability cases. We affirmatively chose to have the blog co-hosted by partners at two different firms, for two reasons….
I was on the other side — the law firm side — of the business development coin for 25 years. And those 25 years taught me this about generating business: Raise your profile; stay in touch with people; and get lucky.
I was never once retained by dint of good looks or charm. (Anyone who’s seen or met me won’t find this to be surprising.)
And I don’t play golf.
So what’s a lawyer to do? What business development efforts worked for me, and what might work for you?
Some time ago, we solicited applications for a new position here at Above the Law: a columnist to cover the world of in-house counsel. We received many outstanding applications, and we thank everyone who applied for their interest.
Today we are pleased to announce the launch of the new column, entitled Inside Straight (for the poker aficionados among you). As its name suggests, the column will cover the world of corporate counsel with all of the candor and insight that you’ve come to expect from ATL.
Our columnist — a former law firm partner, current in-house lawyer, and author of a well-received book on legal practice — should be familiar to longtime followers of the world of legal blogging….
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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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