This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes. This infographic is brought to you by our friends at Prestige Legal Search. Earn another $5,000 to $50,000 with their Rewards Program.
For the most part, Biglaw associate bonuses remain stuck at last year’s levels, reflecting expectations that firm profits will be flat at best. This might seem fair, with everyone feeling the pinch of the “New Normal” and so on. But when we take a small step back and see how these bonus numbers compare as a percentage of partner profits to the bonuses of just a few years ago, these bonuses are arguably pretty measly.
The current $10,000 “market” (i.e., Cravath-following) rate for first-years is just 0.29% of Cravath’s profits per partner (according to the American Lawyer). Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equaled 1.36% of PPP. In other words, the Cravath partnership was nearly five times more generous to its associates back then.
Obviously, Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. What are the implications of matching Cravath’s bonus scale for those firms with much lower profit margins? Today’s infographic takes a look at how big a hit to PPP partners willingly take in order to Keep Up With The Cravathians….
The week’s almost over, but we’ve got more bonus news for you. While Sullivan & Cromwell, by matching Cravath, might have dashed your hopes of the bonus market climbing higher, there’s still a chance — probably a one-in-a-million chance — that another very special firm could do it.
In fact, every time an associate says, “I don’t believe in higher bonuses,” there’s a would-be Boies-level bonus someplace that falls down dead.
This coming Friday, it is the inalienable right of all Americans to sleep off their hangovers, or riot at Walmart, or do anything at all rather than work for The Man. But Biglaw is a different country. As illustrated by Elie’s decision matrix, the “choice” of whether to work on this sacred day is, for the denizens of the law firm world, fraught with other pressures and expectations. We all know that Biglaw careers demand a Faustian bargain: in return for their fat paychecks (and bonuses?), lawyers are expected to work grueling, unpredictable hours. This time of year, that reality is brought into sharp relief: the “holiday season,” with those “family obligations” and so forth, is something that occurs elsewhere.
But law firm billable expectations are not homogeneous. There are significant differences across practice areas, seniority levels, and, of course, individual firms. So how do the various practices, employment statuses, and firms stack up?
November marks the beginning of the holiday season, and people are brainstorming about what they should be thankful for so they’ll have something thoughtful to say at the Thanksgiving dinner table. We’ve got a suggestion: you should be thankful that you’ve still got a job, because some of your colleagues aren’t so lucky.
Which Biglaw firm offered a significant number of employees a cornucopia of despair yesterday?
* It’s just business as usual: Amid accusations of liberal court-packing, D.C. Circuit nominee Nina Pillard faced questions on abortion and religion during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. [USA Today]
* Biglaw isn’t as dead as we’ve been told and made to believe. Some of the largest firms are actually doing quite well, says American Lawyer’s editor-in-chief, who’d like her job to retain some meaning for now. [Am Law Daily]
* Fried Frank knew that it’d take a banker to pull the firm from its monetary funk, so it picked up David Greenwald, deputy general counsel of Goldman Sachs, to act as co-chair through 2015. [New York Law Journal]
* With the change in SEC policy, from allowing companies to use neither-admit-nor-deny language, to forcing them to admit guilt in “egregious” cases, lawyers may soon be very busy. [Corporate Counsel]
* Raj Rajaratnam is a firm believer in the “three strikes and you’re out” theory of law. A month after the Second Circuit affirmed his insider trading conviction, he’s asking for a rehearing en banc. [Bloomberg]
* You’ve seen Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg give Justice Antonin Scalia the finger in prose, but now you can hear what it would sound like in operatic form as composed by a recent law school graduate. [NPR]
* The Fourth Circuit upheld Obamacare’s employer mandate against Liberty University, calling it a constitutional tax, just like the individual mandate. Now’s a perfect time for a sip of Campari. [WSJ Law Blog]
* The Fried Frank toner bandit was sent to the slammer, but alas, it’s unlikely that the firm will be able to recover any of its losses. Too bad, it could use the cash after its 2012 performance. [Am Law Daily]
* Crisis? What crisis? The dean of UC Davis Law refuses to trim class size, but that doesn’t really matter — the application cycle is handling the situation quite nicely. [Sacramento Business Journal]
* Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane won’t defend the state against a lawsuit seeking to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage. She’s choosing the people over politics. [New York Times]
* With his trial quickly drawing to a close, George Zimmerman is growing increasingly worried about his future. Let’s face it, even if he’s acquitted, living in hiding isn’t a very good look for him. [ABC News]
But this has started to change over the past few years, as managing partner Thomas Reid discussed in an August 2011 interview with Am Law Daily. In the August 2010 to August 2011 period, DPW hired a half-dozen prominent lateral partners.
And the lateral hiring spree continues (although not without the occasionalsnag). Let’s hear about Davis Polk’s latest high-profile hire, a new lateral partner at Paul Hastings, and an addition to the leadership of Orrick….
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and with regard to economic recovery, Biglaw firms seem to have taken that up as their new motto.
Yes, partners are still living as large as they ever were, but their success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics. The divide between the “haves and the have-nots” in the world of major law firms has grown to epic proportions, and some Am Law 100 staples have fallen out of the top hundred firms altogether. Welcome to the new normal.
Are you ready to get excited about “modest” and “spotty” gains across the board? Let’s dig in….
* “Yes, it is true.” Justice Scalia admitted in a speech this week that he was guided to the right by his colleague, Justice Thomas, who’s apparently “a very stubborn man.” [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* It’s about time to say so long to your ticking tax time bomb: in President Obama’s proposed budget for 2014, he eliminates taxes on forgiven loan debt under all IBR plans. [Bucks / New York Times]
* “I am the luckiest man in the world.” Larry Macon, an Akin Gump partner from Texas, had nearly finished the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded, but lived to tell his tale. [Am Law Daily]
* Because sometimes you need to steal $374K worth of copy toner. This ex-Fried Frank staffer pleaded guilty to grand larceny, and is looking at up to 15 years in jail. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Judge Victor Marrero isn’t a fan of SEC policy, but when it comes to this civil insider trading case, SAC Capital may get to walk away without admitting or denying anything. [DealBook / New York Times]
* This Yale Law graduate is suing Brooks Brothers over a three-button suit, and wants $2K for the 90 minutes he spent arguing over it in the store. Who is the $1333/hour man? [New York Daily News]