Money

100 dollar bill Abovethelaw Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe’re sorry to report that we haven’t heard serious and credible raise rumors lately. In fact, we’ve heard more gossip about layoffs in recent weeks than about associate pay increases. The rumors of “NYC to 190″, which used to flood our email inbox, have gone the way of Testa Hurwitz.
But here is some reason for optimism. From the National Law Journal:

Nearly two decades ago, [Georgetown law professor] Philip G. Schrag said he saw the need to help law students with crippling law school debt….

Help is finally on the way with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. Passed by Congress on Sept. 7, the bill aims to help law students and other graduates with high debt through an income-based loan-repayment plan. The bill also would allow for loan forgiveness for qualifying employees after 10 years of service to government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

Tex Frank explains why this might be good news for some of you, at Overlawyered:

Bush has indicated he’d sign the bill.

The market currently reflects a private-public pay gap reflecting the fact that public jobs are generally considered to have better working conditions and that private-sector law firms need to offer substantially higher pay to encourage attorneys to work there. If the government is providing thousands of dollars of loan subsidies to government and non-profit attorneys, the private sector will need to raise its salaries to continue to compete, some of which will be swallowed by the partners, but most will be swallowed by the clients, who, increasingly facing bet-the-company litigation, have inelastic demand for top law firms. Too, as attorney salaries increase, and loans are subsidized by the government, law schools will be empowered to extract some of that surplus by raising tuition.

Winners: most attorneys, law school employees, and some clients of non-profits. Losers: taxpayers, clients, partners at non-top-tier firms.

Do you concur with Ted Frank’s analysis? And what about graduates of non-top-tier law schools, who are the focus of this week at ATL — how will they be affected by this legislation?
(We’d think that they would be thrilled by anything that might ameliorate crushing loads of educational debt. But if this change could be bad news for non-top-tier firms, it could indirectly be bad news for non-top-tier grads, insofar as non-top-tier firms provide jobs for so many of them.)
Taxpayers to provide additional subsidies for law-school education [Overlawyered]
Law School Loans About to Be Lightened for Some [National Law Journal]
Bush Will Sign Loan-Relief Bill for Public-Interest Lawyers [Daily Journal (subscription)]

Double Indemnity Insurance Law Defense Coverage Litigation.jpgAs we previously mentioned, this week is Non-Top-Tier Law School Week at ATL. Even our open threads on job hunting will reflect this theme.
One graduate of a non-elite law school sent us this suggested topic:

Lots of non-top tier law students end up working for insurance companies.

The dumb ones end up doing insurance defense (hired by insurance company to defend slip and fall, med mal, etc). The smart ones do insurance coverage (represent the insurance company which denied coverage).

How about postings where we can compare salary info? Salary info at these firms is much more guarded. I have no idea what anyone else makes.

So, what ARE salaries like in this area? From our tipster:

I’ll get the ball rolling from the insurance coverage perspective. When I started as a first year at one NYC insurance coverage firm, I was making $75,000 with no bonus (and a billable hours minimum of 1900).

Now, I am a fifth year doing insurance coverage at a different firm in NYC, my salary is $128,000, and our firm offers a $7,500 bonus to associates deemed the cream of the crop at year end. Name partners are rumored to make a boat load of cash, but other partners are rumored to be nothing more than senior associates. Our minimum billables are 2100.

More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Where Do Non-Top-Tier Grads Go? Hello, Insurance Law!”

Boston MA small Boston Massachusetts skyline Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOur recent open threads, dedicated to discussion of year-end bonuses in different legal markets, haven’t been generating THAT many comments (at least compared to prior open threads). Maybe it’s too early for bonus discussion. Or maybe people just aren’t expecting much this year, given the recent base salary increases. So this may end up being the last post in the series.
Some of you have requested an open thread for discussion of law firm bonuses in BOSTON. Here you go.
Please discuss Boston bonus policies and expectations, in the comments. Thanks.
Earlier: Year-end bonus open threads for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC.

Never heard of Duval & Stachenfeld? Well, that’s about to change, thanks to the firm’s innovative approach to associate compensation, which is getting some media mentions. From an article by Kellie Schmitt in The Recorder:

The 50-lawyer firm, based in New York but with a small L.A. office, starts first-year associates at $60,000 — or $100,000 below the starting salary at many Am Law 100 firms.

Mid-year and senior associates, however, are promised the same total pay — or more — that they’d earn at Latham & Watkins or Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

For third-years on up, the firm says it checks what top New York firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore are paying in base salary and bonuses, and matches that. Last year, the firm added a $10,000 sweetener.

So what exactly is the point of this unusual system?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Attention Tier Two Grads: Duval & Stachenfeld Wants You”

Washington Monument small Above the Law blog.JPGWe have to step away for a bit. We’ll leave you with another open thread to discuss year-end bonuses. Today we focus on our base of operations: WASHINGTON, DC.
If your firm has a stated bonus policy, what are the basic terms? If not, what are you expecting by way of a bonus this year? How will the move to $160K affect year-end bonuses in the D.C. market?
Please discuss these and related subjects, in the comments. Thanks.
Earlier: Year-end bonus open threads for New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Will Work for Food 2 Above the Law blog.JPGOn the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal, there’s an excellent article, by Amir Efrati, about the not-so-hot job prospects for non-top-tier law school graduates. Here’s the lede, which nicely summarizes the situation:

A law degree isn’t necessarily a license to print money these days.

For graduates of elite law schools, prospects have never been better. Big law firms this year boosted their starting salaries to as high as $160,000. But the majority of law-school graduates are suffering from a supply-and-demand imbalance that’s suppressing pay and job growth. The result: Graduates who don’t score at the top of their class are struggling to find well-paying jobs to make payments on law-school debts that can exceed $100,000. Some are taking temporary contract work, reviewing documents for as little as $20 an hour, without benefits. And many are blaming their law schools for failing to warn them about the dark side of the job market.

It’s a most worthwhile piece (although somewhat reminiscent of this article, by Leigh Jones for the National Law Journal). Here’s our favorite part:

Some un- or underemployed grads are seeking consolation online, where blogs and discussion boards have created venues for shared commiseration that didn’t exist before. An anonymous writer called Loyola 2L, purportedly a student at Loyola Law School, who claims the school wasn’t straight about employment prospects, has been beating a drum of discontent around the Web in the past year that’s sparked thousands of responses, and a fan base. (“2L” stands for second-year law student.) Some thank “L2L” for articulating their plight; others claim L2L should complain less and work more.

Loyola’s Dean Burcham says he wishes he knew who the student was so he could help the person. “It’s expensive to go to law school, and there are times when you second-guess yourself as a student,” he says.

One tipster quips: “Loyola Dean David Burcham wants to find and help Loyola 2L. How? By refunding his tuition?”
So, will the real Loyola 2L please stand up — and email us? We’d love to discuss potential opportunities with you. Thanks.
Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers [Wall Street Journal]
The Dark Side of the Legal Job Market [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: It’s Hard Out Here for Non-Top-Tier Law School Graduates

Chicago Sears Tower Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgSo you can’t get a decent horse meat sandwich in the Windy City. How about a decent year-end bonus?
In the comments, please discuss the subject of year-end bonuses for law firm associates in CHICAGO. Topics might include hours cutoffs for hours-based policies, historical patterns in bonus size (e.g. what happened last year), and gossip about what might happen this year.
And how about those legendary Kirkland & Ellis bonuses? Pretty sweet, aren’t they?
P.S. In case you missed it, since we posted it at an odd hour, our L.A. bonus thread appears here.
Earlier: Year-end bonus open threads for Los Angeles and New York.

Hollywood sign Los Angeles LA City of Angels Above the Law blog.jpgAs we announced earlier today, we’re doing a series of open threads on year-end bonuses. We’re organizing them by city, since bonuses tend to vary by legal market.
This post — which some of you have been eagerly anticipating, judging from the attempts to hijack the New York thread — is about LOS ANGELES. Please discuss bonus policies at L.A. law firms in the comments. Thanks.
Earlier: Year-bonus open thread for New York.

Wachtell Lipton Rosen Katz CBS building Abovethelaw Above the Law Blog.jpgAs you’ve made clear to us, through comments and via email, you’re dying to talk about year-end bonuses. For example:

– If your firm has a bonus policy that’s spelled out in advance, what are the general terms?

– If it’s a bonus based on billable hours, what are the cutoffs?

– If your firm doesn’t have a bonus policy, what are you expecting (or hoping) to receive this year as a bonus?

Here’s an open thread for discussion of bonuses at law firms in New York. We’ll roll out posts for other major legal markets over the next week or two.
We might compile bonus information in a more organized fashion at a later point in time. But for now, this will have to do. Have at it!
Update (1:10 PM): Originally this post was oriented around firms (alphabetically), but we’ve decided it makes more sense to organize by city. As this commenter correctly notes, “bonus policies vary more along market lines than firm lines.”

100 dollar bill Abovethelaw Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGAfter we did a post about foreign clerkships, we received a number of follow-up inquiries. Readers wanted to know whether any firms pay clerkship bonuses to (1) staff attorneys and (2) administrative law judge clerks:

“I was wondering if there are bonuses offered for ALJ clerkships – you can clerk in D.C. for, among others, the EPA, the FERC, the Department of Labor . . . It seems like some firms carefully excludes these from their bonus policy, but others are a bit less clear on the question.
It seems to me, though, that if you’re going to a firm that does a lot of regulatory work, a clerkship with the appropriate agency would be quite valuable.”

“What about former administrative law judge clerks? For example, how much would one of the clerks coming from a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission judge this past summer pull from a DC energy firm?”

“Do you have information on whether firms pay clerkship bonuses to staff attorneys at circuit courts?”

We’re don’t know of such firms, but we’re not omniscient. If you know of any, please share your info in the comments. Thanks.

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