Money

One of the most noteworthy deals of the new year is Google’s recently announced $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs, a maker of Internet-connected devices like thermostats and smoke alarms that was founded by former Apple engineers. Orrick, a firm known for its strong roster of tech clients, is advising Nest. The Orrick team is led by the firm’s chairman, Mitchell Zuklie.

That’s not the only noteworthy news out of Orrick this week. Yesterday the firm announced its 2013 associate bonuses. How are they looking?

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Good news: According to the Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group (and its partner, the Hildebrandt Institute), firms are looking at nice, steady profit growth in the coming year. It’s not super, but who can be choosy in the current market? And partially driving this growth is an expected uptick in demand, so that’s good.

Bad news: While the media latched on to the favorable demand projection, the report expects firms to be more profitable because they are finally taking Citi’s advice on how to become more profitable — and that doesn’t bode well for rank-and-file attorneys.

Let’s see what’s in store for 2014….

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There are only so many ways that we can tell our readers that the Biglaw boom years are over. Slow firm growth in terms of attorney headcount is now praised. Law firm mergers are common occurrences, if only because there’s always someone to save from a fate suffered like that of Dewey and the failed firms of yesteryear — Brobeck, Coudert, Heller, Thelen, and Howrey. Alternative fee arrangements are trending, and discounts are handed out as if clients are enrolled in fast-food loyalty programs (buy one multi-million dollar patent suit, get the next one 75 percent off!).

But just because the heyday is over does not mean that Biglaw’s all-stars are going to charge their clients any less cash. Back in the day, $1,000 per hour billing rates were considered obscene by some. Now, even in a still recovering economy, four-figure billing rates are just business as usual. In fact, some partners are edging closer and closer to a $2,000 per hour fee every day.

So which firms have the highest partner billing rates? Let’s find out…

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Ted Olson’s hourly rate.

* While we’re celebrating recently anointed Biglaw partner classes, let’s take a minute to call out the firms that haven’t bestowed the honor upon a single woman this year. Cheers, jerks. [Am Law Daily]

* The results of the NLJ’s Law Firm Billing Survey are out, and lo and behold, one of the top partners in the country is pushing $2,000 an hour for his services. Congrats, Ted! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Everyone’s buzzing about the federal law clerk who’s been accused of attempted aggravated rape and solicitation of a minor under 13. Don’t let that legendary 4.0 GPA go to waste. [Times-Picayune]

* Congratulations to Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm founded by former SCOTUS clerks and hedge-fund alumni, on raising $260 million for its new fund. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Iowa is thinking about allowing law grads to practice ASAP instead of having to pass a bar exam. Paired with its recent tuition cuts, the Hawkeye State is looking better and better. [Des Moines Register]

* If you’re in the unfortunate situation of still having to look for a law job once OCI has ended, then you might want to start considering applying for some of the other law jobs that don’t want you. [Mashable]

* The incarceration of a blogger known for making salacious allegations against federal judges raises First Amendment concerns. [New York Times]

Keith Lee

I was sitting in my office yesterday afternoon when my phone dinged. It was one of my law partners. He had sent me a picture of our other partner standing in front of an auditorium with about seventy-five people in it. They had gone to one of the local law schools here to speak about dealing with clients. Like many other law schools, this law school is focusing on providing their students some manner of real-world experiential education in the elusive hopes of making students “practice-ready.” An impossible task, but at least students are exposed to practicing lawyers, even if just for a day. I mean, it’s better than a seminar on Harry Potter and the Law.

After speaking for a bit, they took questions from the students. Eventually, someone asked what to do about a difficult client. The response?

“Double the retainer.”

After the crowd chuckled, he added: “In all seriousness, double the retainer.”

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Gov. Chris Christie

* The Supreme Court has been “surprising[ly] silent” when it comes to how to apply Obamacare’s contraception mandate to religious non-profits. We imagine at least one justice will raise hell about it during their first judicial conference of 2014. [Los Angeles Times]

* Contrary to what was apparently popular belief by some, Justice Sonia Sotomayor doesn’t wear dentures. She was very candid about her oral hygiene at a recent speaking event — her teeth are so great because she’s had a lot of work done on them. [Washington Post]

* In your face, Cravath! James Woolery is movin’ on up to officially taking the rein at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. Fun fact: Chuck Woolery of “Love Connection” is his distant cousin. [Am Law Daily]

* The U.S. Attorney’s office Chris Christie used to be in charge of will investigate Bridgegate. Word on the street is that the governor had just finished reading War and Peace when he heard the news. [Bloomberg]

* Sumner Redstone donated $10 million to Harvard Law School so that its graduates can pursue public interest careers — because otherwise they’d be too poor to “build a better world.” [National Law Journal]

It may be 2014, but Biglaw firms are still rolling out their 2013 year-end bonuses. While some firms are busy cutting supplemental checks for their associates, others are just getting around to making their first round of payments.

If you have any bonus news that we haven’t covered, even announcements dating back to last year, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). We’re trying to keep as accurate a record as we can of Biglaw bonuses that were announced in 2013, but we can’t do it without your help.

As for today’s bonus news, we’ve just received word that Kasowitz Benson unveiled its bonus structure yesterday afternoon. This is standard fare for the litigation powerhouse, which typically announces during the first full week of the new year. So what’s the good word on 2013′s bonuses? Did associates get more money if their legal minds were superior to all others?

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Leigh Dollard: Hmm, apply to law school or pay my bills?

Have you heard of Tips for Jesus? Since September 2013, this incredibly rich mystery man — rumored to be Jack Selby, formerly of PayPal — has been traveling the country, dropping insane tips of up to $10,000 wherever he wines and dines. He’s “[d]oing the Lord’s work, one tip at a time,” and he’s documented this journey of generosity by taking pictures of his checks and uploading them to his Instagram account. He hasn’t explicitly stated why Jesus is involved, but who cares, it’s free money. This man knows the service industry can be thankless, so he’s giving back in the best way he knows how.

The cash that Tips for Jesus has laid out has been completely life-changing for some of its recipients. One of the latest beneficiaries of his kindness was a cocktail waitress in California who received a $5,000 tip this past weekend. What’s she planning to do with the money?

She wants to be a lawyer….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi of Ms. JD suggests five New Year’s Resolutions for every associate’s wallet.

Being financially conscious requires a disciplined mind and willpower similar to what you would need to succeed at losing weight. You’re not going to lose those 10 pounds by carving out an exception, for say, your daily caramel latte from Starbucks. No ifs, ands. or buts when it comes to meeting financial goals. If you’re ready for the challenge, here are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions that you can tailor to your personal financial needs.

1. Aim for quarterly progress in paying down your law school loans.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Welcome back. Did everyone have nice holidays? With Christmas and New Year’s Day behind us, it’s back to work for many folks (although we’re guessing that a fair number of people are still off today and tomorrow).

Going back to the office means going back to a favorite topic here at Above the Law: bonuses. As we mentioned when listing of our 10 most popular posts of 2013, our third most-popular category page on the site was Bonuses. If you have bonus news to share with us, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).

Let’s kick off 2014 with some happy news. Which firm just cut a second round of checks to its associates, and how much are we talking about?

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