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.
Before those big Supreme Court opinions start drifting in, let’s put in a quick word about clerkship bonuses.
As several commenters suggested yesterday, we contacted Latham & Watkins to find out about their clerkship bonus policy. We confirmed that the firm effectively pays a clerkship bonus just shy of $50,000, which does not vary depending upon which office you work in, and we learned some additional information as well:
* Latham & Watkins pays federal clerk bonuses at approximately $50,000, which comprises a $35,000 bonus plus a $13,333 bar study / bar exam and review fees bonus.
* Clerks to federal magistrate judges do receive the federal clerkship bonus.
* Latham & Watkins paid its 2006 U.S. Supreme Court clerks a ‘signing bonus’ of $200,000. In 2006, six Supreme Court clerks joined Latham & Watkins in the firm’s Washington, D.C., San Diego and San Francisco offices.
* “As a leading global law firm with a diverse national presence in the U.S., Latham & Watkins regularly evaluates its compensation.”
We thank Latham for furnishing us with this helpful information. Update: As for multiple clerkships or years of clerking experience, the firm does not have a fixed and easily summarized policy, since more factors come into play. If you’re in that boat, you should consult with Recruiting. Further Update: Don’t shoot the messenger. If you don’t like Latham’s clerkship bonus policy, that’s fine, but don’t blame us for communicating it to you.
Commenters, you’ve ticked us off. We are no longer going to reach out to firms for information about their clerkship bonus policies, because (1) it doesn’t affect that many people, at least compared to base salary increases or year-end bonuses, and (2) we’re tired of your ingratitude and abuse.
We will still cover clerkship bonus news, by posting information that tipsters send in to us. But we’re no longer bothering with affirmative outreach to firms on this front, since such “sua sponte” efforts are not appreciated. In light of all the other things we cover, it’s just not worth our time and effort.
As associate salaries climb (further) into the stratosphere, will firms start experimenting with different compensation schemes? Is lockstep compensation for associates headed for the dustbin of history?
As we mentioned yesterday, Thelen Reid just moved to a two-tier system. And now we’re hearing that Howrey LLP may have something odd up its sleeve.
Today the firm had a meeting / conference call about compensation matters. Here are two reports:
“They are planning to adopt a sweeping salary change that amounts to ‘it depends.’ It seems that they will determine salary based on individual evaluations and various forms of progress indicators. Who knows what this means. They said that “market rate” is not the upper cap, and that all-stars could make more than market. This plan is basically final, but they will be speaking to people in focus groups to fine tune the policy.”
“Switching to a ‘competancy’ model as of 2008. First years at 160 but from there based on skills – some above and some below market. Details not released yet as focus groups will be used to fine tune the program.”
Interesting, albeit vague. We’re eager to see what results from this process.
Is Howrey adopting an innovative approach, one that will result in a more flexible and/or meritocratic associate compensation structure? Or is it just an attempt by the firm to get away with paying below-market salaries?
We’re more or less done with our series of posts profiling various “secondary” legal markets. We thought about putting up the Portsmouth thread that some trolls commenters have been demanding, but we decided against it after reading this.
So now we’re going to loop back to a city that we previously covered, to wit, Miami. We have a news hook for this post: a recent story, from the Daily Business Review, about how 2006 treated South Florida’s top law firms.
More details about this market, after the jump.
Some good news for law clerks heading to the New York office of Covington & Burling after their clerkships. A source at the firm directed us to check out this updated section of their website:
We reward judicial clerks who come directly to the firm following their clerkship(s) with credit for purposes of both salary and partnership consideration, together with a $50,000 bonus for one clerkship and a $70,000 bonus for two clerkships for those who have clerked for a federal judge, or for the highest court in any state or the District of Columbia.
So add a new member to the $50K/$70K Club. But note that Covington is taking the Ropes & Gray approach: the new and improved clerkship bonuses are paid out in New York only. In Washington and San Francisco, the firm still pays a $35,000 clerkship bonus. Update: Also noteworthy, per a commenter: “This is different from the other $70K bonuses in that it only applies to people with two-clerkships, rather than one two-year clerkship.”
In addition, we’ve heard a rumor that Willkie Farr & Gallagher has raised its clerkship bonus to $50,000. But we haven’t seen the email, and Willkie’s website and NALP form don’t reflect this info. If you can confirm, please drop us a line.
A “List of Shame” for top firms paying below-market clerkship bonuses, after the jump.
Associates at Thelen Reid were clamoring for a post shining the spotlight on their firm. Here are some representative emails:
“Since your posting on Bingham worked so well, how about starting one on Thelen? The silence from OTC [Office of the Chair] is deafening, and people are super-disgruntled.”
“We’ve waited long enough here, and they haven’t said anything. We’ve come up badly in who knows how many articles. We’re the highest ranked firm (#17) on the Cal Law 25 not to raise, and several below us already have. And several firms that would be below us on the AmLaw 100 (we would be #69, but AmLaw refuses to count firms as merged unless the merger happened by a certain date, and our merger was officially Dec 1, 2006) post-merger have raised, and we haven’t. And our PPP [profits per partner] is quoted in one article as $860K and in another as $850K, $15K-$25K behind Pillsbury who has raised.”
“[A]lthough management hasn’t said anything, popular opinion is that they will raise first years to $160K and compress everyone else across the board, mainly because that’s what they always do. I don’t quite understand how they feel they have “matched market” without lockstep salaries.”
We meant to do a Thelen Reid post some time ago, but we never got around to it. And perhaps now one is no longer needed, since the firm has matched — sort of.
More details, after the jump.
We did a post on associate salaries in the Texas markets last month. But since a number of you have been clamoring for another, and we haven’t done one as part of our recent series on various non-New York markets, here’s another post going out to the Lone Star State.
In our last Texas post, we included some starting salary information for various Texas offices. Today we’re going with a different theme: compression. From a Texas tipster:
Leaving aside the fact that the large Texas-based firms (and many national firms with large Texas presences) are playing a game of petrified chicken on the latest round of raises, I have seen no coverage at all on the massive compression resulting from the last round of raises. These firms at issue are some biggies: Baker Botts, Vinson & Elkins, Akin Gump, Fulbright, etc.
Here’s how it worked after last year’s round of national raises: First years in Texas got a big increase, from about $110k to $135k. 2nd and 3rd years also got around a $15k increase. And that’s pretty much where it stopped. 7th years received a $5,000 raise, to about a $185,000 base. To put that in perspective, it’s about 50% less than a 7th year currently makes (at the same firm or a national that pays a uniform scale) in LA, NYC, DC, etc. That is, a 7th year at BB in Texas makes $185,000; a 7th year at BB in NYC makes $275,000. Sheeeeeit! And don’t look for explanations in billing rates. The vast majority of work done in Texas by these firms is billed at national rates — the same charged in DC and LA (though maybe 10% less than in NYC).
The point: screw the first years! They now make only $50,000 less than the folks up for partner. Not that partnership chances have increased.
Counting on you to get the ball rolling!
Franky, relatively broke and senior in Texas
Feel free to bitch and moan — or, if you’re not from Texas, to remind them that they pay no state income tax and have a relatively low cost of living — in the comments. Thanks. Earlier: Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Unhappy, Texas
To wrap up the week, we stay in the West and move up the coast to Portland, Oregon. Portland is the nation’s 23rd largest city, and probably the greenest one. We hear the quality of life is pretty good, but what about the money?
This comes from a February New York Times article:
Holland & Knight’s new associates are paid between $93,000, the rate in Portland, Ore., and $160,000 , the rate in New York.
Is this representative of where Portland’s at generally? Discuss Portland associate salaries and other issues of interest in the comments.
Perkins Coie is raising to market in California, with a catch. To get the raise, associates must 1) be “on pace” of 1900 hours; and 2) have “no outstanding timesheet penalties.”
The memo’s after the jump.
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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!