In our recent New York Times op-edpiece praising lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks, we wrote that the bonuses “are expected to reach $250,000 this year — paid on top of starting salaries approaching $200,000.”
Some people have inquired into the factual basis for our statement. As it turns out, we did some actual reporting to support it. The reporting never made it into the final op-ed piece, but we’re happy to provide the details here.
If you’re curious, read the rest of this post, after the jump.
One legal employer is pondering a hike in base pay from just over $165,000 to nearly $250,000: the United States courts! A bill, co-sponsored by Senators Feinstein, Graham, Hatch, McConnell, and Reid, would set judicial pay at the following levels:
District Court Judges: $247,800
Court of Appeals Judges: $262,700
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court: $304,500
Chief Justice of the United States: $318,200
The Washington Post is lukewarm on the plan:
This relatively lower pay doesn’t appear to be hurting the quality of the federal judgeship applicant pool. Federal judges also are not engaging in a mass exodus to the private sector; bench departures have indeed increased over the last few decades, as supporters of the pay raise say, but so have total judgeships by a nearly proportional rate. Higher pay would be unlikely to greatly increase the number of qualified applicants from the private sector. A lawyer who doesn’t want to exchange his earnings of $1 million per year in a corporate partnership for a prestigious and influential federal judgeship that pays $165,200 probably also won’t leave for one that pays $246,800.
Someone should ask J. Michael Luttig what salary would have kept him in the public sector. (We suspect the answer is “whatever an Associate Justice makes.”)
please do a post of shearman’s pathetic clerkship bonus, currently at $15,000!!!!!!!
Okay, you got our attention with the seven exclamation points.
Lat posted a clerkship bonus List o’ Shame last week that featured the top firms below the new standard of $50k:
1. Wachtell ($0)
8. Latham ($35k) [see update on Latham here]
10. Kirkland ($35k)
11. Covington ($35k outside NY)
14. Wilmer ($35k)
15. Shearman ($15k)
16. Sidley ($35k)
17. Williams & Connolly ($25k)
18. Gibson ($35k)
19. Arnold ($15k $35k)
20. OMM ($35k)
22. Jones Day ($35k)
23. MoFo ($35k)
24. Hogan ($35k)
25. Ropes & Gray ($35K outside NY but $70K for 2yr clerkship)
Shearman has really separated itself from the pack — and not in a good way. Again, the list above is itself a list of shame, so that $15k is really eye-catching. What gives? Administrative note: The power just went out in our “office,” so in the grand tradition of ATL office hours, we’re hanging out at the Panera Bread in Greystone, Alabama. We trust we’ll be swamped with visitors soon!
Yet another article on unhappy lawyers: This time it’s from the UK, where it seems the legal profession has lost its “lustre.”
Nearly a quarter of you want to quit. In a desperately competitive recruitment market, that’s just about the last thing law firm managers need to hear.
Shocking? Yes. Not many apparently sought-after professions have a quarter of their members wanting to quit. The whole issue of work-life balance has now, surely, reached a tipping point – and not just for overworked associates who are looking for a way out.
Thirty one per cent of associates would like to leave the law; 20 per cent of partners would happily quit; 22 per cent of barristers fancy a change; and a hefty 29 per cent of in-house counsel would like a life outside the law.
There’s more on the survey from the Financial Times, which notes that UK salaries have gone up by 15 percent or more recently.
Meanwhile, in India, young lawyers are disillusioned by a cumbersome litigation system, with its “interminable procedural delays” and outright drudgery: “Many young lawyers complained that they only ended up carrying briefs for the senior counsels during their stint.”
Lawyers bitching about their jobs: the universal language.
Are WilmerHale summer associates missing out on the salary bump? Wilmer recently raised first-year salaries to $160,000, and you’d think the firm’s summers would be earning that salary as well. But maybe not. Here’s a disgruntled e-mail from a current WilmerHale summer:
I hope that this is tip-worthy – because it certainly is a topic of hot discussion amongst the Boston summers I know, and I’m curious what is going on at other firms… So here goes:
So I am a summer associate at WilmerHale in Boston. And as abovethelaw knows, after the big, drawn out jumping-of-Boston-firms to match Ropes at 160,000, Wilmer finally caved and went up as well. Now, for whatever reason, the general consensus among the summers is that we’ve been led to believe that the salary hike for associates applies to the weekly rate that summers are paid as well (meaning we should be getting 3100 per week). Wilmer said that the salary raise was effective June 1st.
Lo, however, the WilmerHale Boston summers have received 2 paychecks since then, and both have continued paying the 2800 a week.
More analysis from our WilmerHale contact, after the jump.
Thanks for your responses to our recent call for memos. Here are two more firms that have announced associate pay raises:
1. Crowell & Moring: Starting salaries to $160,000, effective August 1. Minimum billables to 1900 hours, effective September 1. Associates who do not wish to meet the new minimum are invited to reach “alternative arrangements” with the firm.
2. Dow Lohnes: No, Rupert Murdoch is not trying to buy them. Dow Lohnes is an AmLaw 200 law firm with a significant presence in Atlanta. Will their move to the $160K scale encourage other Atlanta firms to follow suit?
Back on Wednesday, we reported that Howrey LLP plans to chuck lockstep compensation for its associates. Starting in 2008, the firm will employ a “competency model,” in which it would “determine salary based on individual evaluations and various forms of progress indicators.”
Today our scoop was picked up by The Recorder (and then by the WSJ Law Blog). From The Recorder:
In a radical departure from the status quo, Howrey is getting rid of lockstep compensation for its associates….
While Howrey first-years will start at the market rate — the firm recently raised them to $160,000 — all other associates will advance through different levels based on personal evaluations instead of seniority. Each level has a salary range, and [partner Henry] Bunsow said top performers would be paid more than market, while some could make less.
“The goal is not to have associates make less than their counterparts at other firms,” Bunsow said. “If poor performers can get a better deal somewhere else, that may be a marketplace reality — we would hope that this system wouldn’t promote that.”
“The goal is not to have associates make less than their counterparts at other firms” — sounds a bit defensive, but whatever.
This system will be highly customized, but complicated:
The evaluations will be based on performance and experience, which could shorten the partnership track for some and lengthen it for others. Since Howrey is a litigation-focused firm, factors like writing, deposition, trial practice and client presentation skills will be considered, Bunsow said. Although there will be bonuses based on hours, that will be just one of many considerations in the evaluation, he added….
Associates will be assigned to partners who will be responsible for their development and their individual evaluations. A full-time staff person will be hired to oversee the program and to make sure that associates feel they are being treated fairly, Bunsow said.
Okay, we’re getting a headache. This sounds like the brainchild of a Soviet bureaucrat.
And this is just the simplified version. If you’re interested in the dirty details, an internal Howrey email — which includes mention of a “Competency Czar” — appears after the jump.
A quick reminder: We want your memos. We hear rumors of associate pay raises at particular firms all the time, but we generally don’t treat the news as official until we see a memorandum (assuming there is one). Please send them to us by email.
We reprint below two memos that arrived in our inbox not too long ago. First, there’s a memo from LeBoeuf Lamb, placing their associates in Hartford — recently covered here — on the $160K scale.
Second, there’s a memo from Foley & Lardner. It has raised its starting salary to $160,000, but not effective until September 2007, and it’s not following the standard $160K scale all the way up the ladder. Our source wrote:
Attached is the memo Foley & Lardner circulated today regarding adjustments to compensation. This was circulated a day after a separate memo from management announcing the increases and advising that management would review compensation prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year and would consider making modifications to amounts and structures at that time.
Management also referenced in the memo “exploring alternative career paths for associates,” but provided no additional information as to what that means.
Sounds a tad Orwellian to us. “Alternative career paths” = flipping burgers in the Foley cafeteria? But maybe we’re just being paranoid.
If you’re interested, you can check out the memos after the jump.
We thought we were done with our series of posts profiling various “secondary” legal markets. But then several of you reminded us about Pittsburgh.
So sure, Pittsburgh. From a recent Pittsburgh Business Times article:
[S]tarting pay for law school graduates entering the local work force is increasing this year….
Pitt grads joining Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and Duquesne University School of Law alums tapped by Pepper Hamilton LLC, both Downtown [in Pittsburgh], will earn $145,000, according to the schools and the firms, which are both based in Philadelphia. Top dollar for a local firm was $125,000 in 2006.
We recently wrote about the two-tier associate compensation system just announced by Thelen. Associates who work 2,000+ hours a year are paid on the $160,000 scale, while associates who work less remain on the old $145,000 scale.
Sounds sensible and fair, right? Well, maybe not so much. What if you WANT to be on the faster track, earning a market-rate salary, but the firm won’t let you? We hear that Thelen is effectively telling some of its associates, “Please, guys, don’t work so hard — ’cause we can’t make it worth your while anyway!”
Here’s one source at the firm on how the two-tier system is being received:
Most people seem cool with it because it included hours-based bonuses for hitting 2000, 2100, and 2200. But there are some slow practice groups in certain offices where a decent number of associates got put on the lower tier, and those people are less happy.
Indeed. We received an email from one of those less-than-happy campers. It’s pretty scathing — but deservedly so.
Check it out, after the jump.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.