from Brian Dalton, Breaking Media Director of Research
The ATL School and Firm Insiders Survey asks self-identified current students, alumni, and practicing lawyers to rate major aspects of life at their law school (academics, social life, clinical training, career services, financial aid advising) and/or law firm (compensation, hours, morale, culture, training). We then translate these ratings into letter grades, where the mean score for each particular ratings category is the equivalent of a “B.”
We require a minimum threshold of responses for each institution before we publish any survey-based ratings content. Using a standard formula for statistical validity, we adhere to a threshold that gives us an 85% confidence level and a 10% margin of error. The precise threshold number will of course vary depending on the size of the individual institution. For example, for a law firm of 1,000 attorneys, we would require 50 responses in order to publish ratings for the firm.
Top Practice by Headcount and Top Schools data is provided by Leopard Solutions. Leopard Solutions is a leading provider of attorney data to legal recruiters, law firms and law schools. We track attorneys in over 1500 law firms around the country and document their practice area, specialties, honors, languages advanced degrees and more. We provide an overview of each law firm as well as detailed information on individual attorneys. The data can be used to track trends, movements, growth and more.
Leverage is the number of attorneys minus equity partners, divided by equity partners.
Salaries & Compensation
Advances, Bonuses, Benefits & Stipends for First-Years
* “Those who support limits see the court right now as the T. rex from ‘Jurassic Park.’” Folks are pretty worried even more campaign finance laws will fall thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCutcheon v. FEC case. [New York Times]
* Skadden Arps and Simpson Thacher are at the top of their game when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Both firms did very well in new deal rankings released by Bloomberg, Mergermarket, and Thomson Reuters. Nice. [Am Law Daily]
* Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown has reportedly ditched Nixon Peabody to try his hand at a U.S. Senate run in New Hampshire. We hope he doesn’t lose his shirt again. Oh wait… [Boston Globe]
* As it turns out, the book in the Harvard Law library once believed to be bound in human skin is actually bound in sheepskin. Congrats, this is slightly less creepy. [Et Seq. / Harvard Law School Library Blog]
* Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was turned away from a flight to the U.S. after her admission to coke usage in a trial. She should probably stop sticking her nose in other people’s business. [The Guardian]
* Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t quite ready to publicly weigh in on whether computer data is considered a protected “effect” under the Fourth Amendment. “[T]hat may well come up [before the Supreme Court],” he says. Thanks NSA. [Business Insider]
* “[I]t doesn’t take many bad apples in a barrel to cause a stink.” No matter how hard Biglaw firms try to keep their confidential information locked down, someone’s going trade on it. It looks like STB is learning that the hard way. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* The day after Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Judge Bernard Friedman, couples who rushed to marry were met with some serious Sixth Circuit sadness. Way to stay and spoil all of the celebrations, judges. [New York Times]
* “We’re not the Cleveland Browns,” says one of Case Western Law’s interim co-deans. With that kind of a glowing endorsement, we don’t see how this law school could possibly fail. [Crain's Cleveland Business]
* Rutgers Law-Newark has a new low-bono fellowship program “believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.” Some other law schools might have a bone to pick about that statement. [New Jersey Star-Ledger]
Over the years, we’ve covered many Biglaw employees who have been accused or convicted of insider trading. This should come as no surprise, given the confidential and market-moving information that regularly flows through the hallways and computers of leading law firms.
The latest accusations of insider trading involve a lawyer who worked at a white-shoe law firm. This individual stands accused of taking confidential information he was privy to by virtue of his work and passing it along through a middleman to a broker, who then allegedly traded on it. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the scheme generated over $5.6 million in illegal profits, with over $168,000 going to the Biglaw tipster.
At which elite law firm did this defendant work, and from which school did he receive his law degree?
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]