Money

[A] focus on profit undermines the differences between the practice of law being a profession rather than solely a business. It is easy to anticipate the assertion that we choose not to report aggregate annual average profit numbers because they are not as high as some other firms. But that assertion simply assumes that the way things have been done in the past is the way they should be done in the future.

– Global chief executive officer Elliott Portnoy and global chair Joe Andrew of Dentons, explaining in a letter to the American Lawyer the reasons why the firm will no longer report its average profits per equity partner.

(Dentons, a verein that recently merged with two firms, had PPP of $625,000 in 2013, which put the firm in 96th place on the Am Law 100 when ranked by PPP.)

Upon reaching my mid-thirties with a wife, a kid, and a dog, it became apparent that the “dream” of renting a tiny box on the island of Manhattan was over. My family and I decided against the Brooklyn half-step, because paying Manhattan rent for a slightly bigger box that would itself be too small for our family in ten seconds seemed stupid. So we zeroed in on buying in Westchester because: Grand Central >> the holding pen at Gitmo >> buying a mule >> Penn Station >> Chernobyl >> Port Authority.

The problem of course with buying property in Westchester is that we’re poor. Not “poor” in the “I need government assistance” sense (though, more on that later). Not even poor in the “I’m a salaried employee and don’t mind when Charles Barkley makes fun of my city” sense. I mean poor in that uniquely NYC/LA/London sort of way that makes you feel “How IN THE F**K do I not make enough money to afford this?”

The other problem was that I’ve spent the better part of the last six years screaming at people to avoid crushing debt obligations. To buy a house, I’m going into more debt than I’ve ever been before, and we know that things didn’t go so smoothly the first time.

But… kids man, what are you going to do? As part of my ongoing attempts to make egregious mistakes and then write about them, here are five things I didn’t really understand about the house-buying process. Note, I had my lawyer hat on, which means I wasn’t flummoxed by things like “taxes” or “closing costs.” Still, there’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t come up in Real Property or Trusts and Estates…

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This should be a no-brainer.

– President Barack Obama, who once profited from ridiculous tuition rates, after signing a memorandum expanding a program to cap student loan repayments at no more than 10 percent of what borrowers actually earn in the workplace. The President’s comment was directed at a related bill in Congress to allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates.


If you’re a frequent reader of this website, you know that we continuously talk about the effects of law school debt and the need for tuition decreases so young lawyers can go on to lead normal lives after graduation instead of wearing their debt around their necks like slowly tightening nooses.

As time goes by, more and more law schools are starting to listen and reform — though in some cases, we imagine it’s only because they’re now feeling the pain of a decrease in tuition dollars due to low enrollment and smaller classes.

Until all law schools get in gear with the way things work now, we’ve got a list of law schools where life could be good after graduation. At these law schools, the average graduate has a starting salary that outweighs his average debt load…

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Despite making six figures, some Biglaw associates are still unhappy with the amount of money they take home. Starting salaries at some firms are larger than at others, and for all of the intense labor that comes with being an associate, it’s just not fair.

How should Biglaw firms respond to these complaints? Some of the more enlightened members of law firm leadership would increase their associates’ salaries to match the rest of the market, but most would happily continue to work their associates to the bone and ignore their wage woes.

One firm apparently thought it had found a way around associates’ salary grievances, but it may have just backfired. Straight from the firm that produced the sexist women’s style memo seen ’round the world, we bring you what seems to be one of the craziest incentive programs we’ve ever heard of…

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To quote a recent headline, Midyear Bonus Bonanza Unlikely In 2014. We’d agree with that, at least as a general matter. Midyear bonuses are so “unlikely,” in fact, that we haven’t received any emails from anxious associates asking us about the possibility of midyear bonuses.[1]

But there are exceptions to every rule. Which highly profitable, finance-focused law firm just announced bonuses for both lawyers and staff?

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Biglaw = big a-hole?

[T]he experience [of working at Cahill Gordon & Reindel] tested my ethical compass, and it coarsened my behavior. I was sometimes a jerk in dealing with my adversaries. I was sloppy in accounting for my time. I managed to care deeply about whether associates at the firm across the street were making a few dollars more. I did almost no pro bono work.

Don’t get me wrong. You get excellent training at big law firms. Many of the lawyers there do good and honorable work. But the big firms are built on a set of ethical tensions.

Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times, offering commentary on his time spent in Biglaw in an article written for the Harvard Crimson. Liptak worked at Cahill from 1988 to 1992.

If you plan to work in Biglaw, you know it’s likely you’ll be able to command a very high hourly rate. Just how high we’re talking, though, depends on the area of law in which you choose to practice.

We already knew that litigators handling bet-the-company cases collected nice fees — in some instances up to $1,500 per hour — but there are other practice groups that rake in crazy cash, too.

Keep reading to find out where you’ll be able to make the most bank in Biglaw…

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Fighting over the Lawyerly Lair.

Law firms are relatively secretive institutions. Since they’re not public companies — at least not here in the United States, in the year 2014 — they aren’t required to reveal that much about their internal workings. Here at Above the Law, we do what we can to shed light on how law firms work, but there’s only so much we can do.

Every now and then, public filings disclose information about law firm operations — including information about one of the most sensitive subjects, partner pay. Sometimes we learn about partner compensation when a partner files for bankruptcy. Sometimes we hear about it when a partner goes through an ugly divorce.

That’s once again the case today. A complicated divorce, complicated enough to spawn ancillary litigation in the form of contempt proceedings, sheds light on how one white-shoe law firm pays its partners….

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Ronan Farrow

A few days ago, lawyer turned television personality Ronan Farrow commented on Twitter, “All my business meetings are like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and all my dates are like ‘Schindler’s List’, am I doing something wrong.” The tweet was widely retweeted and favorited by Farrow’s 250,000-plus followers (despite receiving criticism from some quarters).

It’s surprising that Farrow’s dating life isn’t going better. In addition to being extremely handsome, he’s a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate with his own television show and celebrity parents (Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra). What more could one ask for in a lover?

How about some solid real estate? Well, Ronan’s got that too — a New York apartment that he purchased for a seven-figure sum….

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