Last week I discussed the associate bonus process from your typical partner’s perspective. I want to talk a bit more about ways firms can take advantage of the glut of prospective associates out there, while increasing the odds of finding those rare jewels who will make partner — with each associate making less, but getting a better lifestyle (and a shot at a Biglaw career) in the bargain.
Some caveats. First, the ideas below are not intended for the Simpsons — thisSimpson, not those Simpsons — of the world. They will continue to attract the very best, and should continue their current structure. Why? Because the Cravath model that the elite firms instituted makes for great partners and strong law firms. The problem is that almost every Biglaw firm adopted the Cravath model, and not all of them should have. Most firms do not have the institutional client base of the elite firms, and therefore don’t need the tremendous fixed costs and inflexibility with respect to associates that the Cravath model brings. As firms expand, contract, or just struggle to stay afloat post-Biglaw Breakdown, it seems like a great time to try some new approaches to talent structures and compensation. There is nothing wrong with some experimentation, as long as the protocols are transparent, and management is prepared to cut bait quickly if things are not working out.
Now over the years we have seen firms experiment with their junior associate hiring models. Most of these programs involved trying to turn junior associates into some form of quasi-apprentices. None seem to have taken root. And in my mind there is no sense in implementing a drastic, global overhaul of your associate model, before trying some more limited changes on the practice group level.
* Billable hours in Biglaw are down 1.5 percent, and 15 percent of U.S. firms are planning to reduce their partnership ranks in early 2013. Thanks to Wells Fargo for bringing us the news of all this holiday cheer! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Hostess may be winding down its business and liquidating its assets, but Biglaw will always be there to clean up the crumbs. Jones Day, Venable, and Stinson Morrison Hecker obviously think money tastes better than Twinkies. [Am Law Daily]
* How’s that “don’t be evil” thing working out for you? Google’s $22.5M proposed privacy settlement with the FTC over tracking cookies planted on Safari browsers was accepted by a federal judge. [Bloomberg]
* Perhaps the third time will be the charm: ex-Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins was convicted, again, for helping Refco steal more than $2B from investors by concealing the company’s fraud. [New York Law Journal]
* H. Warren Knight, founder of alternative dispute resolution company JAMS, RIP. [National Law Journal]
When I receive the sections of the Sunday New York Times that get delivered on Saturday, the first one I reach for is Real Estate. And one of the first features I read is The Hunt, Joyce Cohen’s delightful column chronicling the victories and defeats of those who dare to take on the New York City real estate market.
A recent installment of The Hunt featured a lawyer who was previously a movie star. With two daughters and a penchant for entertaining, she and her husband had outgrown their three-bedroom condominium on the Upper East Side. They wanted a townhouse. But with a budget of no more than $2 million, they had their work cut out for them.
Who is the actress turned attorney — a star of one of the most iconic films of the 1990s, in fact — and where is her new home?
* BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 charges and pay $4.5B in fines, but before going through with it, several Biglaw firms helped the company sell off assets to fund litigation- and spill-related costs. [Am Law Daily]
* According to HBR Consulting, compensation for in-house attorneys has risen over the past year — including bonuses, which went up to $62,500. Sorry, but Biglaw isn’t following suit. [Corporate Counsel]
* It’s better to leave well enough alone: Pryor Cashman was ordered to pay more than $21K in legal fees for filing a frivolous motion over its repeated attempts to dismiss a case. [New York Law Journal]
* Judge Susan McDunn, who claimed that her “life [was] being ruined” by the secret lawsuits of many powerful Chicagoans, has resigned. Looks like her $182K salary wasn’t enough to buy crazy pills. [Chicago Tribune]
* Everyone wants to know who Obama will appoint to the high court during his second term as president. Our very own David Lat chimed in with his suggestions on this panel of notable Supreme Court watchers. [BuzzFeed Politics]
* “If you are writing a biography and either you or your subject are married to a third person, and you have sex, you have done something wrong.” Well, that’s one way to reduce the amount of scandal in your life. [Instapundit]
* Who is the shirtless FBI agent who allegedly sent a sexy picture to Jill Kelley of the Petraeus Pentagon — a picture that got him kicked off the case — and how bodacious is his bod? [Business Insider]
* There is no “best way” to ask for a raise, especially in this economy. But if you’re feeling sassy, you can take some of this sound advice. [Corporette]
* Apologies to all you Beliebers, but California’s Paparazzi Law was just invalidated as unconstitutional. [Cheat Sheet / Daily Beast]
* A time when you really shouldn’t have to yell, “Don’t tase me, bro!”: when you’re trying to use a garden hose to prevent your house from catching fire. [Legal Blog Watch]
Time to start practicing the Cravath walk? (Google it if you’re not familiar.)
In an excellentessay reflecting on his time at Cravath, lawyer turned author James B. Stewart had this to say about the associates who made partner: “They weren’t necessarily the brightest…. They weren’t, as I had expected, the hardest-working…. They weren’t the most personable…. Finally it came to me: The one thing nearly all the partners had in common was they loved their work.”
Move over, Virginia. Cravath is for lovers — of work.
The firm just named its latest class of lovers. How many new partners did CSM just make, and what might this suggest about the firm’s market-setting bonuses?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the first of a three-part narrative detailing the make up of a lateral move, and is written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link.
The call came on a cool, clear Thursday morning in April: “Bill” was in trouble. He had joined a midsize firm as a partner nine months earlier. Now, despite assurances to the contrary, the firm had accepted a representation that would be adverse to Bill’s main client. He needed to move, and he needed to move fast.
We met for more than an hour that afternoon covering all the critical issues: his professional history; his expertise; his clients and potential conflicts; his billings, collections, and rates; whether he would be bringing anyone with him; the kind of firm and culture that he was looking for, including additional support he would need; how much longer he wanted to practice; and the level of compensation he could expect.
Each year, about one in 20 partners faces a lateral move. The process can seem irrational and daunting, especially to first-timers. Having gone through a lateral move myself, and overseen the hiring of numerous laterals as a managing partner, I’m more familiar with this arcane ritual than most. Now, after 10 years as a recruiter guiding dozens of candidates through the process, I offer an “anatomy” of a lateral move, using Bill’s experience to demystify the journey and explain how firms evaluate candidates, which materials candidates should typically produce, the normal sequence of events, and how candidates can best prepare for them….
I write about law school debt, often and passionately, because at the end of the day there are real productive people who are getting ruined by taking out more money than they can reasonably pay back. Not all of these people are “deadbeats,” and not all of these people are too stupid to understand a loan agreement. Many of them are people who simply thought that in America education was the path to upward mobility.
But unfortunately, in America today, education is also the path towards financial instability, or even disaster. People who take the shot at bettering themselves through education can easily find themselves with bad jobs and a mountain of debt that will take decades to pay off.
It’s not just happening to kids. The New York Times had a big article yesterday that highlighted all of the parents who have taken loans out for their children’s education and now can’t pay off the loans. And since we’re talking about parents, we’re dealing with people who maybe don’t have decades to get their financial houses back in order.
In one shocking case, a man took his own life; in the suicide note, he said: “I can’t even answer the phone in my own home no more. I can’t live like this no more.”…
Hello associates. It is almost bonus season. For most of you, your main hopes this time of year are (1) to get a bonus and (2) no surprises. What kind of surprises are you looking to avoid? Unwelcome ones. Like your firm going from lockstep associate compensation to a “merit-based” system. Or the firm implementing a different bonus hours target at the last minute. That two-week-long summer trip to Barcelona and Ibiza? The one that cost you about a hundred billable hours? Congratulations. That one hundred hours is now costing you twenty grand in bonus money. Thanks for playing the Biglaw associate game.
So Lat asked me to give some insight into what partners think about associate bonuses. From what I can tell, the overwhelmingly majority of partners don’t think at all about associate bonuses. The reality is that nearly all Biglaw decisions are made by a very small group of partners (increasingly with the help of professional non-lawyer administrators). The ones on the Executive Committee. With an assist (on this issue) by the Associate or Compensation Committees.
* Barack Obama will not be invited to party with the Supreme Court justices to celebrate his reelection — which is too bad, because from what we hear, they really know how to get down. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Here’s a protip that essentially comes straight from David Petraeus. You can add these to the list of crazy things that your jealous mistress will say to any other woman who so much as looks in your direction. [Althouse]
* “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” Career alternative for this attorney: bludgeoning Karl Rove with witty election night insults for his failure to admit Obama won Ohio. [Daily Beast]
* Here’s a list of the five kinds of partners you’ll typically find in Biglaw. All you’ve got to do is find their weaknesses, and use them to your advantage. [Greedy Associates / FindLaw]
* In the days ahead, should law schools cut tuition or cut class size? Obviously the solution is to do a little from column A and a little from column B, but you know they’ll never budge on tuition. [PrawfsBlawg]
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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