Becoming a Biglaw partner does not necessarily mean you’ll live happily ever after. It doesn’t even guarantee financial security. Indeed, some partners end up filing for personal bankruptcy.
But that’s an anomalous case. Partnership at a major law firm might not guarantee you happiness — sometimes you have to leave the partnership to follow your bliss — but it generally brings with it tremendous pay and prestige.
That’s especially true of partnership at the nation’s 10 most prestigious large law firms. Most of them have only a single partnership tier — equity or bust, baby — and sky-high profits.
Who are the new partners at these 10 firms, and what do their selections reveal about Biglaw today?
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….
In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.
Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…
Back in 2007, Simpson Thacher led the charge to $160,000. Not Cravath, not Skadden, not Sullivan & Cromwell — it was STB that was first out of the gate with associate salary raises. Simpson Thacher is one of the most respected law firms in the country, and it used to be a compensation leader.
But those days appear to be long gone. Now, the firm is just a follower. Its theories about associate compensation seem to have nothing to do with the health of the firm, and everything to do with doing whatever Cravath tells it to do.
Associates are the firm seem quite disappointed by that….
* Judge Ellen Huvelle has ordered the government to turn over to her an executive order that the feds claim is subject to executive privilege. Judge Huvelle rejected the administration’s argument that privilege exists because, “we don’t want to give it to you.” [Politico]
* Pepper Hamilton has joined the greener pastures of Silicon Valley, opening an office with three partners poached from Goodwin Proctor. [Reuters Legal (sub. req.)]
* Speaking of poaching, Martin Dunn, former deputy director of the SEC and O’Melveny partner is joining Morrison & Foerster. [The Blog of the Legal Times]
* And while we’re at it, M&A partner Sean Rodgers has left Simpson Thacher to merge with Kirkland & Ellis. [The AmLaw Daily]
* Publisher ALM (The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal, The New York Law Journal) has a new technology partner and hopes to boost its readership. If they want to boost their readership, wouldn’t starting a new law school be a better investment? [Talking Biz News]
* Conservative groups are miffed about video of this Democratic party lawyer “attacking” a Republican at the polls and trying to “steal” an election. It seems like he put his hand over the lens of a camera phone, but sure, this is exactly like telling minorities the wrong day to vote. [Bearing Drift]
Today, we turn toward the other major category of Biglaw practitioners: corporate/transactional attorneys. Unlike litigators, about whom the public at least has some notion, however distorted, of what they do, most people have no clue what corporate lawyers are up to. No young person daydreams about “facilitating a business transaction,” while there are some who aspire to argue in a courtroom. As noted last week, this litigation/corporate information imbalance is reinforced by the law school curriculum, which remains largely beholden to the case method of instruction.
When comparing the experiences of corporate lawyers versus litigators, there is a familiar litany of pro and cons:
* Biglaw’s billing bonanza: at least 12 firms are advising on the multi-billion dollar deals going on between Microsoft / Nokia and Verizon / Vodafone, and Simpson Thacher landed a seat on both. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]
* Standard & Poor’s is now accusing the Department of Justice of filing its $5 billion fraud lawsuit in retaliation for downgrading the country’s credit rating. Aww, we liked the “mere puffery” defense much better. [Reuters]
* The new ABA prez doesn’t think Obama meant what he said about two-year law degrees. He thinks it’s about cost. Gee, the ABA should probably do something about that. [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]
* Meanwhile, New York Law School wants to condense its offerings into a two-year honors program that comes complete with a $50,000 scholarship. Sweet deal if you can get it, but it sounds like most people won’t. [Crain's New York Business]
* Stewart Schwab, the dean of Cornell Law School, will be stepping down at the end of the academic year. The search for someone new to oversee the filming of amateur porn in the library is on. [Cornell Daily Sun]
* Crisis? What crisis? Nothing is f**ked here, dude. Amid plummeting applications, GW Law increased the size of its entering class by about 22 percent. The more lawyers, the better, right? /sarcasm [GW Hatchet]
* Jacked up! Attorneys for NFL player Aaron Hernandez got a stay in the civil suit accusing the athlete of shooting a man in the face until after the athlete’s murder charges have been worked out. [USA Today]
* Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is heading to prison in Alabama for 30 months. Among the items he improperly purchased with campaign funds was a cape. How awesome is that? [Reuters via Yahoo! News]
* The Bureau of Prisons is planning to move its female inmates out of Danbury to convert it to a men’s prison. The author behind Orange Is the New Black has a different plan. [Jezebel]
* Reminiscent of the gun post a while back, more proof that women have all kinds of room to store contraband. [Legal Juice]
* Simpson Thacher lawyers reached some “unsettling conclusions” about the Clinton Foundation. Probably spending too much time with that Lewinsky Foundation. [New York Times]
* You thought there was animosity toward lawyers in the U.S.? Check out how much they hate them across the pond. [Legal Cheek]
For many law schools, the bidding process for the upcoming on-campus interview season closed yesterday. In bidding, schools quite reasonably advise students to select potential employers that align with their aspirations and geographic preferences. For example, the section of the Duke Law web site devoted to OCI admonishes students to “thoroughly research” potential employers and to “focus only on employers in whom you are genuinely interested and that match your career goals.” Presumably, one career goal shared by all law school graduates is to eventually be free of debt. As previously and repeatedly noted, for most, a Biglaw associate position is the only employment outcome which gives the graduate a plausible prospect of paying off his student loans.
So what shapes student perception of large law firms and drives the decision of the law student in prioritizing their OCI bids? No doubt there are unique versions of received wisdom that get passed from generation to generation of students at every school. And of course there are plenty of media entities measuring firms against one another: revenues (AmLaw), “prestige” (Vault), practice area prowess (Chambers) and so on. This being the time of year where Biglaw careers are just starting to be built, we thought it would be interesting to look at how students themselves rate law firms. Which firms are the law student favorites?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.
Next in our series on a taxonomy of law firms are the capital-markets centric firms.
If you think this moniker roughly translates to the classic New York white shoe elite, move to the head of the class.
But, as much in our world at the start of the 21st Century, it’s not exactly that simple. Here’s what’s different about these firms.
First, recall that we’ve hypothesized seven primary species…