Not many firms try to trump Cravath, the traditional market leader when it comes to year-end bonuses. Most major firms are followers.
There are a few exceptions, and one of the exceptions is Skadden Arps. Back in 2008, Skadden announced bonuses before Cravath, and those Skadden bonuses turned out to be much higher than Cravath’s. When most other firms subsequently followed Cravath instead of Skadden, my colleague Elie Mystal mocked these firms for their “Half-Skadden” bonuses.
Skadden just announced its 2013 year-end bonuses. Did it beat the Cravath bonuses, or did it join them?
It joined them. It seems that Skadden has learned its lesson since 2008. When bonus season rolls around, it’s Cravath’s world and the rest of us are just living in it.
As longtime followers of bonus coverage know, Skadden does not issue a universal bonus memo listing every associate class and their bonus. Instead, a memo from executive partner Eric Friedman goes out to each class that states the applicable bonus for that particular class. (We’ve pasted the Friedman form memo on the next page; it’s pretty much the same as last year’s memo.)
We’ve heard from the following Skadden classes: 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007, and 2005. Skadden has followed the 2013 Cravath bonus scale at all of these seniority levels except for the class of 2013. Skadden is paying class of 2013 members a flat $2,500, instead of Cravath’s prorated $10,000. There’s not a huge difference there.
So we’re guessing that Skadden has matched Cravath across the board (not counting the minor divergence for the class of 2013). But if you’re from one of the missing classes and received news of a non-Cravath bonus, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).
Congratulations, Skadden associates, on this repeat of the 2012 bonuses. Some might disagree with me, but as I said when Elie and I debated Biglaw bonuses on CNBC this afternoon, this is good news. In uncertain times, holding your ground is something worth celebrating.
(If you’re interested, you can check out the form memo from executive partner Eric Friedman on the next page.)
The ruins of a house on the outskirts of Tacloban, capital of Leyte.
Law firms and the legal profession have a long and distinguished tradition of contributing to the public interest. Earlier today, we highlighted five Biglaw firms that are pro bono all-stars.
Most pro bono cases involve clients and causes here in the United States. But in today’s increasingly global world, law firms look beyond borders when it comes to helping the needy.
Yesterday we commended Skadden for its generous support of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. And today we recognize several other law firms that have joined in this worthy cause….
In fact, some of them acted (or at least announced their actions) prior to Skadden. As we noted in an update to yesterday’s post, Weil Gotshal donated $50,000 to Typhoon Haiyan relief, through Oxfam and the Red Cross, as announced last Wednesday by Barry Wolf.
And some could end up making even larger donations (subject to employee matches). For example, take Kirkland & Ellis:
[T]he Kirkland & Ellis Foundation will create a matching fund to help the people of the Philippines. The Foundation will match contributions made by Kirkland partners and employees up to an aggregate of $100,000. In recognition of this unique need, the usual minimum to qualify for matching has been waived and donations will not count toward annual matching limits.
You can read the full Kirkland memo on the next page. The same goes for Akin Gump, which could also end up donating up to $100,000. It will contribute $50,000, $25,000 to UNICEF and $25,000 to Mercy Corps, and will match up to an additional $50,000 in contributions to either of these organizations.
International offices are joining in as well. The Hong Kong office of Clifford Chance donated HK$50,000, and the London office donated £50,000 and will also match employee contributions.
And so are small law firms. For example, Woodruff Johnson & Palermo, a personal injury law firm is Illinois, is collecting not just monetary donations but also supplies.
If you’re aware of additional firms that are lending support to Philippine typhoon relief efforts, please note them in the comments or email us, subject line: “Typhoon Relief.” We will update this post accordingly (or possibly write a new post). Thanks once again to all the firms that have come forward to help those in need.
UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): Orrick, through the Orrick Foundation, is matching employee donations to three organizations — Action Against Hunger, UNICEF, and the International Rescue Committee — up to an aggregate of $50,000. Memo on the next page.
UPDATE (11/20/2013, 5:00 p.m.): First, Linklaters is (1) donating £10,000 to the Red Cross and (2) matching individual donations up to a maximum of £10,000.
Second, several Asian-American lawyer groups are organizing a fundraising event taking place on Monday, November 25. If you’re in New York, please consider attending. Details are available at the AABANY website and on Facebook (where you can RSVP).
(Flip to the next page for the Kirkland & Ellis and Woodruff Johnson memos.)
The Empire State Building, lit up with the colors of the Philippine flag to show support for Typhoon Haiyan victims. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Navarrete.)
When disaster strikes, lawyers are there (and not just to hand out their business cards). Lawyers and their law firms have responded swiftly and generously in the wake of natural disasters, giving of their time and treasure to help the victims of calamities around the world.
Lawyers and their law firms, especially Biglaw firms, have come to the aid of people affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and earthquakes in Haiti and China. We have chronicled and commended these efforts in Above the Law over the years.
In light of this track record, it should come as no surprise that one of the world’s top law firms is giving generously to support relief efforts in the Philippines, my ancestral homeland, where thousands have died due to Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). Which firm, and how much is it giving?
In light of the devastation caused by the recent typhoon in the Philippines and the tragedy that continues to unfold, the Firm will make an aggregate contribution of $50,000 to Doctors Without Borders and the Salvation Army World Service Office. Both of these agencies are accepting contributions and are actively providing assistance and relief in the Philippines. The Firm will provide an additional $25,000 by matching individual employee contributions of up to $500. Only contributions to registered 501(c)(3) organizations providing direct relief in the Philippines are eligible for this match. Please complete and submit the attached form to [redacted].
Kudos to Skadden for its generosity. If you work at Skadden, please consider taking advantage of the employee match by donating to support Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts. In addition to Doctors Without Borders and the Salvation Army, other organizations are listed over at Charity Navigator.
Is your law firm providing support to Philippine typhoon victims? If so, feel free to mention in the comments, email us (subject line: “Typhoon Relief”), or text us (646-820-8477). If we receive enough tips, we may do a follow-up post. Thanks.
P.S. Even if your firm isn’t taking action, you should definitely consider donating on your own. It’s almost December, and you know what that means: time to rack up your tax deductions for charitable contributions.
UPDATE (5:15 p.m.): Weil Gotshal donated $50,000 to Typhoon Haiyan relief, through Oxfam and the Red Cross, as announced last Wednesday by Barry Wolf. Thanks to Weil for its tremendous gifts.
UPDATE (11/20/2013, 5:00 p.m.): Several Asian-American lawyer groups are organizing a fundraising event taking place on Monday, November 25. If you’re in New York, please consider attending. Details are available at the AABANY website and on Facebook (where you can RSVP).
* The rocky relationship between McKenna Long & Aldridge and Dentons is being doubted by everyone, and it looks like Dentons may be on the verge of receiving the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. [Daily Report]
* Stephen DiCarmine, Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former executive director and resident fashionista, just hired a criminal defense attorney. We trust this man — jailhouse stripes must be so hot right now! [Am Law Daily]
* Skadden cares about its people. The firm is trying to prevent a man who killed one of its legal secretaries, got high, and then ate six waffles from collecting any of the funds from her 401(k). [New York Daily News]
* Just imagine if this great profile were written in true BuzzFeed listicle style. It’d probably be called something like “3,742 Words on Why Mary Bonauto Is the Most Awesome Marriage Equality Lawyer Ever.” [BuzzFeed]
* “I think it’s fair to say the hiring plan is kaput.” As we previously reported, the Law Clerk Hiring Plan is dead, and the heat is on to figure out a way to lure federal judges back to OSCAR. [National Law Journal]
Would you rather be a great lawyer or be perceived as being a great lawyer?
For many people, I think the answer to that question varies over time: At age 30, you’d rather be a great lawyer. At age 60, you’d rather be perceived as being a great lawyer.
Because, over time, your reputation may come to track reality. If you’re perceived as great when you’re 30, but you’re actually no good, that truth may out over time. As you age, your reputation may catch up with you.
By the time you’re 60, your professional horizon will have shortened, and it’s less likely that the world will unearth your incompetence. If you’re perceived as being a great lawyer when you’re 60, you may well make it to retirement unscathed.
What of law firms? Would you rather that your firm be great or be perceived as being great?
The answer may be the same for institutions as it is for individuals, and the answer may again turn on your time horizon: If you’re actually great, you’re likely to prosper over time. If you’re (incorrectly) perceived as being great, you’re likely to prosper in the short-term and fail over time.
What does that tell you about law firm mergers that are meant to increase the “brand awareness” of a law firm? The firm will merge and improve its public profile (and image) in the short-term, without necessarily tending to quality. That may well improve short-term performance, but perhaps at the expense of long-term success.
Finley Kumble plainly followed that strategy. Steve Kumble is quoted as having said, “When we’re the biggest, people will think we’re the best.” I’m not sure that anyone ever viewed Finley Kumble as the pinnacle of quality, but the firm surely gained prominence by expanding rapidly and improving its brand awareness, until the firm exploded.
There’s plenty of pseudo-empirical evidence that suggests that the marketplace generally perceives bigger as better. From the late 1980s through roughly 2000, Baker & McKenzie, Jones Day, and Skadden were the three largest law firms in the world, with Baker & McKenzie the largest and Jones Day and Skadden running neck and neck for second place. Which U.S. law firms had the strongest brands this year? You guessed it.
Zoom out from the U.S. to the entire world, and big still matters. A recent analysis by Acritas says that the five law firms with the strongest brands globally are Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters, and DLA Piper. Those may not be precisely the five largest law firms in the world, but they’re all contenders. And I’ll wager that the recent moves by Norton Rose Fulbright and, if it closes, Orrick and Pillsbury Winthrop, will catapult those firms (even) higher in the brand awareness charts.
I recently dined with a senior administrative guy from one of those five best-known global firms, and he told me that he thought the trend to globalization favored his gargantuan firm. “If I were a great law firm with a presence in only one or two cities, the trend in these brand-awareness studies would worry me. To remain at the top of the heap in today’s world, you simply must get bigger.”
But that’s all reputation; what of quality?
Let me start with the obvious: All of the huge global firms appear near the top of the brand awareness charts, and no huge firm appears at the bottom (or falls off the charts entirely because no one has ever heard of it). Thus, in one sense, Kumble was right: Bigness alone adds value.
At that point, please lay out the eggshells for me to walk on. I work for the world’s leading insurance broker for law firms; I’m not about to criticize any particular law firm in public.
To the contrary: I think you’re all great! Lawyers are like the children in Lake Wobegon: They’re all above average! In fact, that’s understating it: You’re all the very best in the world! It’s a zillion-way tie for first place! (By the way, do you need a good broker? Send me a note through the e-mail link at the end of this column.)
I’ll say only that there must be some large firm whose quality has become spottier over time as the firm pursued growth as an end in itself. And there are surely some small- and medium-sized firms that consist entirely of top-notch lawyers; those firms are overlooked in the marketplace only because fewer clients have had personal contact with lawyers at the firm.
But perhaps that’s irrelevant. Reputations are odd things and are often very sticky. Maybe reputations do conform themselves to reality over time, or maybe that’s true only in an abstract world in which information is perfect and time unbounded.
Or, as yet a third possibility, maybe the meaning of “quality” is so amorphous in the field of professional services that reputation is what matters and reality doesn’t exist.
* The Magic Circle isn’t very magical across the pond in New York City. Four out of five firms from the U.K. — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters — have yet to pull rabbits out of their hats in the Big Apple. [Am Law Daily]
* Dewey know how much this failed firm’s old domain name sold for at auction? At the conclusion of the sale, it ended up going for $210,689, which was just a shade over the initial asking price of $200,000. Someone just got ripped off. [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* The judge on this case against Skadden Arps isn’t sure that document review should count as anything other than practicing law, “even if it’s not the most glamorous.” Ahh, the luxurious life of a contract attorney. [Am Law Daily]
* Professor Raymond Ku has filed an amended complaint against Case Western Law Dean Larry Mitchell, and now the allegations are even juicier, including a possible ménage à trois. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
* The number of people who took the LSAT in October has dropped for the fourth year in a row, this time by 11 percent. “This is a big deal” for law professors interested in keeping their jobs. [National Law Journal]
Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.
The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.
Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…
Acritas ranks Biglaw firms based on feedback from their most important clients: general counsel at companies across the globe with revenue of at least $1 billion. Here’s how the survey was conducted:
All interviews were conducted by telephone in local languages across 55 countries between January and September as part of the ongoing Sharplegal 2013 survey.
The Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index is determined through four open-ended questions from the full survey to ﬁnd out from general counsel:
- The ﬁrst law ﬁrms to come to mind
- The ﬁrms they feel most favorable towards
- The ﬁrms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals
- The ﬁrms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation.
As noted in Morning Docket, DLA Piper, the recently crowned King of the World in terms of revenue, did not take the title of the best brand. Instead, the firm that was dethroned from the seat of power on the Global 100, Baker & McKenzie, came in first place in the Acritas ranking, for the fourth year in a row.
Here are the top 10 global Biglaw brands of 2013, per Acritas (click here to see the full list):
Much of this list has changed from last year’s ranking. While B&M maintained its position (as did DLA and Allen & Overy), the rest of the top 10 shuffled around, and one of the most prestigious firms got booted from the list of the best-known firms in the world altogether. Skadden, once seated at #7 on the Acritas ranking, has landed inelegantly at #13. According to Sarah Chisman-Duffy, head of Acritas Asia-Pacific, Skadden doesn’t have a “clear vision of where it sits in the market.” Ouch. We think Skaddenites will feel better after rolling around in their billions of revenue. White & Case also fell from #10 to #11.
But Baker & McKenzie better watch its back in the global legal marketplace, because rival firms, dubbed the “rapid risers” by Acritas, are quickly catching up — their brand strength has increased dramatically over the past four years. Congratulations are due to the following firms: Kirkland & Ellis (also a rapid riser on the Am Law Global 100); DLA Piper; King & Wood Mallesons; K&L Gates; and Gibson Dunn.
Once again, this ranking speaks volumes as to which Biglaw firms are on top when it comes to client loyalty, but there are only two U.S.-based firms in the top 10 of the Acritas Global Elite (Hogan Lovells is a product of a U.S./U.K. merger). What does this say about our lawyers? Our Biglaw firms might be doing something right, but surely there’s a way to do things differently to propel additional firms to success.
* “The multimillion dollar question is: Is it going to happen and for how long?” Surprisingly, health care attorneys from large firms are being quite blasé about the Congressional battle over Obamacare. [Blog of Legal Times]
* The 2013 Global 100 is out, and with an 8.6 percent growth in revenue, DLA Piper was able to really show the world the benefits of churning that bill, baby! We’ll have more on this news later today. [American Lawyer]
* This is getting exhausting: Dentons, the three-way merger product of SNR Denton (a merger product itself), Salans, and Fraser Milner Casgrain, is in talks with McKenna Long & Aldridge for yet another merger. [Am Law Daily]
* The director of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s enforcement unit will be stepping down to spend time more with family. The countdown until he returns to Skadden Arps starts now. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Ted Olson and David Boies, perhaps more commonly known these days as the gay marriage dream team, will be working together to challenge Virginia’s ban on marriage equality. [National Law Journal]
* Should law school be two years long? Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency (3 points) is beating the pants off Northwestern’s dean (-4 points) in this debate. [Debate Club / U.S. News & World Report]
* The Italian Court of Appeal is retrying Amanda Knox of a crime she’s already been convicted and acquitted of, and the chances she’ll be extradited if convicted again are slim to none. Buon lavoro. [CNN]
* Paul Bergrin, more commonly known as the “Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” was handed a life sentence yesterday. At least he’ll have street cred with his gen pop friends. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
If you’re working in-house and dealing with bet-the-company litigation, you want the very best litigators in the world to be on your side. You want a firm with litigators so strong that it will make opponents gasp in fear at the very mention of its name. You want a firm that is known internationally for “go[ing] for the jugular” and coming out on top.
But how can you ensure that you’ve picked the right firm? BTI Consulting Group just made it a little easier with the release of its annual ranking of the firms “most likely to trigger dread” in opposing counsel, as determined by a poll of about 300 in-house attorneys. After reviewing all responses, BTI named the “Fearsome Foursome,” the most-feared litigation firms in the country.
Which firms returned to this year’s list and which firms dropped off of it? Check out the latest rankings…
Before we get to the nation’s most-feared firms, here’s some additional information on the methodology behind how they were named, courtesy of Law360 (sub. req.):
The recognitions were based on about 300 one-on-one interviews with litigation heads, general counsel and other law departments leads conducted between March and June, according to BTI. The represented companies had an average annual revenue of $14.3 billion.
This year, the following firms were dubbed the Fearsome Foursome and honored for their ability to strike fear in their opponents’ hearts and minds throughout the course of high-stakes litigation:
Only one firm, Boies Schiller, slipped off the list of honorees this year, while the rest continue to reign as returning champions. Taking the firm’s place is Quinn Emanuel, a litigation powerhouse that was previously honored on the BTI list in years past. (Don’t worry about this one, Boies Schiller — you’ve earned more than enough recognition as a bad-ass firm thanks to David Boies and his Prop 8 success.)
BTI President Michael Rynowecer had this to say of the 2014 Fearsome Foursome: “They have a take-no-prisoners attitude, and they don’t contemplate not winning. They bring the right people, the right chemistry. It’s all about the level of commitment, and not just in courtroom strategy, but in getting the right resources together.” In other words, these are the firms you want to have in your corner if you want to win big.
The BTI report also named four firms as “Awesome Opponents,” additional firms that corporate counsel would prefer to steer clear of in litigation: Boies Schiller, Cravath, Hogan Lovells, and Jenner & Block. Congratulations to all firms that were honored this year for their cutthroat litigation skills.
Do you think the Fearsome Foursome and Awesome Opponents actually earned their titles this year? Can you think of a law firm that deserves to be recognized but hasn’t been? Please give us your thoughts.