Money

Happy Monday, everyone! What better way to start a new week than to bring you more bonus news?

As it turns out, Willkie Farr and Shearman & Sterling weren’t the only firms to participate in the Friday afternoon bonus dump. Two more firms broke word of their bonus intentions before the weekend, and now the question on everyone’s minds is whether they bucked the system and beat Cravath.

We’ve got the announcements from Cadwalader and Proskauer Rose for your viewing pleasure. Did either firm have the guts to top Cravath’s market rate?

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Is it our imagination, or is the 2013 bonus season unfolding at a glacial pace? Maybe because these bonuses are just the reheated bonuses from last year, they feel like they’re coming out of the fridge.

Cravath announced on Monday. Skadden announced on Tuesday. Cleary announced on Wednesday. Nobody announced on Thursday (as far as we know; if we missed your firm’s announcement, please email us or text us (646-820-8477)).

Today we got the Friday afternoon bonus news dump. We have announcements from Willkie Farr and Shearman & Sterling. What are these two firms doing?

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The last time someone willingly entered New Jersey.

* New Jersey continues to mint lawyers despite terrible market conditions. Lat told me I should come up with a good Jersey joke. I said that was fairly well-worn territory and I would feel a bit like #498 at the Houston 500. Lat said, “            ” [Newark Star-Ledger]

* The Obama uncle we mentioned earlier this week? Obama’s roommate before Harvard Law. Why won’t Obama produce his rent deposit!? [CNN]

* The men who stole parts of the Porsche Paul Walker died in were arrested yesterday. They will be charged with felony grand theft, tampering with evidence, and living perhaps too fast… too curious? [TMZ]

* Regulators are having a tough time figuring out what to do with the burgeoning Bitcoin market. Numismatists are equally puzzled by this rarest of rare coin markets. [New York Times]

* Jos. A. Bank, the most prestigious clothier in the United States and/or Canada, has been subpoenaed by the Ohio Attorney General. If the Ohio AG deposes one executive, he gets to depose three additional executives for free. [Washington Post]

* A Q&A with Nelson Mandela’s lawyer. Very cool story, indeed, bro. [Al Jazeera America]

And as an added bonus, after the jump are pictures from last night’s ATL holiday party…

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We’ve seen a surprising amount of drama emanate from the normally hushed halls of One Liberty Plaza in 2013. Cleary Gottlieb, one of Biglaw’s best firms, has been the site of contention and controversy regarding irate ex-staffers, support staff stealth layoffs, and a summer associate with a dark past.

Some of our Cleary readers and sources have objected to this coverage as painting a misleading picture of goings-on at CGSH. Their general view: all this drama is limited to the ranks of support staff — who have been coddled over the years, and are finally now being forced to be more productive. When it comes to the lawyers at Cleary, it’s business as usual.[1]

Is it “business as usual” with respect to associate bonuses? Cleary just announced….

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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?

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about one of Biglaw’s most pressing issues: the failure of senior partners to pass along clients to younger partners. But that is not the only problem some of Biglaw’s senior partners are causing for their firms and the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, a measurable portion of senior partners, those of the august titles and stratospheric billing rates, are among the worst offenders of one of Biglaw’s most notorious shortcuts to extreme profitability: creative time entry and billing.

While I hate to acknowledge, even though I have seen it firsthand, that partners make up time entries wholesale for work never performed, it is not hard to realize that in this age of the multimillion-dollar partner there exists a tremendous incentive for such behavior. Or at least for partners to “round up” time entries, a tacitly accepted practice within Biglaw.

Incentives matter, and the more richly compensated a senior partner is, the more pressure there is on them to put down a solid four to five hours for “reviewing and revising” a draft brief on Tuesday, only to make a similar entry when they review a more robust version of the same brief a few days later. And because senior partners are frequently responsible for a horde of timekeepers below them, the tone set by the lawyers at the top of the pyramid has an impact on the behavior of those lower on the chain….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Creative Billing: Biglaw’s Perennial Profit Engine”

Lat here. Going into the 2013 Biglaw bonus season, indicators were looking mixed.

Cravath, the supremely prestigious and profitable law firm that’s the traditional market leader on bonuses — as in the firm most widely followed by other firms, not necessarily the firm that pays the biggest bonuses — announced another large partner class. Last year, that boded well for bonuses.

On the other hand, Biglaw’s overall performance has been somewhat anemic this year. The stock market might be hitting new highs, but many law firms are running in place.

People have been waiting forever for Cravath to make its big announcement. Now the wait is over: at 4:45 p.m. today, Cravath announced its 2013 year-end bonuses.

How are they looking? What’s getting stuffed inside associate stockings this holiday season?

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I really don’t want to be that guy at the dinner table who points out that the mashed potatoes are lumpy and the turkey is a bit dry. A law school is cutting tuition by half for some students, and for that we should be thankful. This follows a trend, seen here and there, in which law schools are starting to respond to the low interest in legal education by competing on price.

Except it also follows the trend of not really being a tuition “cut.” Instead it’s a tuition scholarship that is worth about half of the tuition, while the school maintains its high listed sticker price.

Well, this is Above the Law, not a Thanksgivukkah meal. Who wants a side of hater?

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It’s Tuesday, November 26, past 5 p.m. Do you know where your bonus is?

When we surveyed our readership about 2013 law firm bonuses, 57 percent of respondents predicted that the first firm (traditionally Cravath) would announce during the week of Thanksgiving. That’s basically over. It’s theoretically possible we could get an announcement later tonight or sometime tomorrow, but it seems unlikely.

So what’s going on? Where. Are. The bonuses?

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The Biglaw year has a rhythm to it. As we approach Thanksgiving, there is an opportunity for each and everyone in Biglaw to take stock. Doing so is important, especially if one falls prey to the peculiar attempts by many to imbue meaning into Thanksgiving by “giving thanks,” before stuffing themselves into a stupor (followed by a six-hour-long “nap” on a relative’s couch and a frantic post-nap drive to some big-chain parking lot for the priceless opportunity to join the unwashed masses in a frenzied dash to save ten percent on the gadget du jour — if that is how people have their holiday fun, more power to them).

If you are going to make giving thanks a holiday focal point, at least do so mindfully. If you are still employed in Biglaw, you have a lot to think about.

If the events of this past year proved anything, it is that the change in Biglaw is irrevocable. In 2008, everyone suffered, driven by economic events bigger than the industry. In contrast, this year proved definitively that there are Biglaw firms that are winners, and getting stronger. But that list of firms is short. Most Biglaw firms are being challenged, and the responses they adopt to confront those challenges continues to be varied. Whether your firm is itching to merge at all costs, or continuing to whistle along as if nothing has changed (while frantically making moves under the radar to avoid giving even a whiff of being challenged), every Biglaw firm has wittingly or unwittingly decided on a future course. At a minimum, Biglaw lawyers should do the same on a personal level, with the understanding that for the great majority of Biglaw attorneys, career changes are more likely than career stability nowadays.

Checklists are helpful for assessing performance and ensuring that important considerations are not overlooked. While everyone’s personal checklist (or questionnaire, if you prefer) may look different, there are at least three categories that should be addressed on any Biglaw attorney’s year-end self-review: financial, professional, and personal. First, the financial….

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