For associates in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis, this Wednesday is when they’ll learn their financial fate:
From: Jonathan Putnam To: New York Associates Cc: John Desmarais, John Kuehn, Michael Movsovich, Maria Davalos Sent: December 17, 2007 Subject: Associate Bonus Meeting
As in past years, John Desmarais will give a short presentation this week to explain our associate bonus methodology. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 4 pm in Conference Room 50G-H. The bonuses will be paid before the end of the month.
When it comes to bonuses, K&E does things a bit differently. Associate bonuses are not lockstep but individualized, based on (1) your rank relative to your peers and (2) your hours.
Historically the Kirkland bonuses have been quite generous. Even for average K&E associates, as opposed to top performers, they’re typically well above-market — some of the highest in all of Biglaw (even if not at Wachtell levels).
But in light of this year’s “special” bonuses, how will the K&E bonuses stack up to the top tier New York firms? Check back later in the week to find out.
KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Firmwide Associates
cc: Firmwide Partners
FROM: Associate & NSP Compensation Committee
RE: Year-End Bonuses
Several New York-based firms recently announced their 2007 bonuses. Please be aware that we intend to continue our practice of paying year-end bonuses in December. As in the past, we expect that those bonuses will be competitive in each of the markets in which we are located, and that they will continue to reflect our historical, meritocratic approach. Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication.
Judicial clerkships. Year-end bonuses. Two great tastes that go great together.
We received some inquiries about whether clerks who leave law firms to go off and clerk might receive some kind of partial or prorated year-end bonus. It struck us as a rather obscure topic, of interest to only a small group of people.
But then the subject came up repeatedly in the comments to yesterday’s Debevoise bonus news. A reader pointed out that “with the end of salary match, this could be a question that could somewhat influence the choices of potential experienced clerks.”
So we’ve decided to write about it. From a tipster:
I am a federal clerk and my co-clerk, who worked at Kirkland & Ellis in NY for a year prior to his clerkship, was recently told that he will be paid the bonus he would have received had he not left to clerk. In other words, he will receive the pro-rated amount from Jan. 2007 to Sep. 2007 (8 months worth of 35K) even though he no longer works at K&E. This payment is NOT contingent on him returning to the firm after his clerkship.
This strikes us as highly unusual — and quite generous on Kirkland’s part. We don’t know about the mechanics or the exact timing of this payment, but we’d suggest to the lucky clerk that he talk to his judge to make sure this doesn’t raise any issues.
A little more, after the jump.
Some sources at Kirkland & Ellis have been upset by our recentcoverage of layoff rumors. These rumors were focused on K&E’s office in Chicago, but New York was also implicated.
As we’ve repeatedly noted, these rumors are just that — rumors. We were reporting more on the existence of the rumors, as opposed to offering them for their truth value.
But let’s say the rumors are true, and K&E has adopted more rigorous associate review standards this year, in light of growing economic uncertainty. Would that be such a bad thing? Consider this
Kirkland & Ellis is one of the nation’s preeminent and most profitable law firms. So it appears they have a sound strategic business sense and are watching the bottom line. What is wrong with that? Don’t a lot of us aspire to work for a preeminent, highly profitable firm?
A law firm feels economic cycles. I’d much prefer to work for a firm that aggressively manages staffing levels as opposed to letting underproductive people [stay on indefinitely].
Recall that K&E’s bonuses have historically been well above market. If K&E is trimming some fat, so it can once again pay generous bonuses to the associates who DO meet its standards, what’s wrong with that?
Remember, too, that K&E, unlike most other Biglaw shops, doesn’t pay lockstep bonuses. Bonuses at Kirkland are highly individualized. In this sense, could K&E be the law firm of the future? Evaluate associates according to their individual merits, richly reward the superstars, and dump the underperformers? Might this be a better business model than the traditional “treat unequal associates equally” model of Biglaw?
Nevertheless, some Kirkland lawyers resist even this favorable characterization of the firm. They claim that K&E’s associate review process was conducted exactly as it has been in past years — that it was simply “business as usual,” and the same standards were applied this year as in prior years.
It’s only fair to give equal time to their views. Check out their rebuttals, after the jump.
There seems to be a lot of hostility towards our coverage of layoff rumors. That’s fine — go ahead, shoot the messenger. But don’t say that we didn’t warn you. It would be irresponsible to write about “NY to 190″ rumors while ignoring similarly reliable (or unreliable) layoff rumors.
Also, rumors — even when untrue — can be revealing. The very existence of a rumor reflects the state of the market and sheds light on the psyches of the participants. The fact that pay raise gossip has been supplanted by layoff gossip is telling.
We received many interesting responses to our recent post about layoff rumors at Kirkland & Ellis. Like this one, from someone at K&E (and not one of The Departed, so without an ax to grind):
Surprised it took you so long to pick up the layoff rumors, though I guess K&E has done a reasonably good job of keeping them quiet, even to its own associates.
(1) Associate reviews were just completed.
(2) 6-8 mid-level associates [in Chicago] have recently and abruptly left the firm. Rumor is that they were canned. I know two of them personally, and neither of them had ever indicated a desire to leave.
(3) As for causes, I initially heard that extraordinarily low hours were to blame. Other sources suggest that performance was an issue.
(4) At least one of the layoffs really has people baffled: good hard worker who appeared to put in reasonable hours…. [T]he response in the Chicago office appears to be a bit bewildered, especially with respect to the one associate who seemed to be very well-regarded.
More information, compiled from multiple Kirkland sources in different offices, appears after the jump.
And no, we’re not talking about their tough new standards for associate reviews, which have resulted in what might be called “soft layoffs” (and which we’ll be writing more about soon — we’ve received lots of great info after yesterday’s post).
We’re speaking more literally about Law & Order at Kirkland & Ellis. Check out this email from about an hour ago, which went out to the entire New York office:
From: Carolyn Marino Sent: 10/17/2007 09:47 AM EDT To: #NY All Personnel Subject: Law & Order Filming Today
If you are on the 39th or 43rd floor today, you will notice that parts of the office are being used for filming. The television show Law & Order is using the office to film several scenes. This morning, they are working in the northeast corner of the 39th floor, and this afternoon they will film in Conference Room 43A.
I think of the show as the home-town TV show, since they film almost every day at locations everywhere in the city. So it’s exciting that now they are here. We don’t know when the episode will air that is filmed
here, but we will be sure to let everybody know when the show is scheduled.
We live in a rapidly changing economy; these are dynamic times for the legal profession. But we still can’t help but be surprised at how quickly talk has turned from associate pay raises to associate layoffs.
Just a few short months ago, “NY to 190″ seemed just around the corner. Today, even though we still hear stray rumors of pay raises — so we’re not ruling anything out, who knows what might happen — recently we’ve been hearing more about possible layoffs. We’ll pass along such rumors in this new feature, Nationwide Layoff Watch.
Today the gossip is swirling about the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis. More details, after the jump.
We had a tough time picking our finalist couples this week, and LEWW will be the first to admit that we’re not totally certain we chose the right three. (We’re sure our commenters and e-mailers will let us know if we’ve dropped the ball.) Specifically, in addition to our three finalists, we considered thesethreecouples, and if you work at Shearman, Simpson Thacher, Wachtell, Willkie, or Ropes & Gray, you might want to click on those links to read about your colleagues or their spawn.
But onward to this week’s finalists! Here they are:
Warmest congratulations to our friends Junko Ozao and Jason Choy, whose lovely wedding was written up in this week’s Vows column. Jason is an associate at Kirkland & Ellis, but Junko is a normal person, and that shortcoming cost them a spot in this week’s Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. The news will likely ruin their three-week honeymoon, but such are the ruthless decisions our readers expect LEWW to make.
Here are the six finalists (all lawyers):
For those of you who might be interested, here’s another version of yesterday’s story about the Bruised Booze Cruiser — a Kirkland & Ellis summer associate who got slugged by a local lass in Chicago (after getting drunk on the firm-sponsored booze cruise and calling said woman a “fat bitch”).
We actually received many accounts of this event. The one that we decided go with came from someone who was at K&E this summer and attended the events in question, so we viewed it as fairly reliable.
But here’s a second version, also from someone who claims to have been there. And we like it — in some ways, it’s even better than the original — so we’re passing it along.
According to our latest tipster, the Bruised Booze Cruisier (hereinafter “BBC”) was acting up even before the after-party where he got punched by a girl woman. From this second source:
[The BBC] had upset one big-time partner before ever getting to the bar that night (and, if the golf outing story is true, he had notes from two partners sent to recruiting). The cruise ship played music during the 3rd of July fireworks, and at one point, the “Imperial March” from the Star Wars movies came on.
The summer (maybe a big fan of the movies?) decided to narrate the song by attempting to recreate Darth-Vader-esque breathing noises. His wanting everyone to hear, though, meant the noises were less breaths and more zombie moans, which weren’t appreciated by the young children on board.
A senior partner near the summer, whose children were frightened and upset by the noises, wrote to recruiting about the guy before the story of the bar fight ever came out.
That’s pretty great — but there’s more. Check it out after the jump.
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.
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.
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