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The latest major law firm to fall short of Skadden in terms of bonuses: Cleary Gottlieb.

Here’s the official CGSH bonus scale. The specific numbers should look quite familiar to you by now:

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpg2008 and participants in the International Lawyer Program: $17,500 (prorated)

2007: $17,500

2006: $20,000

2005: $22,500

2004: $25,000

2003: $27,500

2002: $30,000

2001 and more senior: $32,500

The Cleary memo concludes by thanking associates for “demonstrating time and again your ability to adapt to the rapidly changing legal landscape presented by current global economic conditions.” E.g., by happily and gratefully accepting Half-Skadden bonuses.

Full memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Cleary Matches Cravath Et Al.”

small joy stick.jpg* Barack Obama has promised to close Guantanamo Bay, but what is going to happen to the most dangerous inmates? Should they be released anyway? What legal basis can the U.S. use to keep them captive? []

* Roman Polanski — the Academy Award-winning director of Rosemary’s Baby, who admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicolson’s house in 1977 — has asked a judge to dismiss his case. Polanski fled to London 30 years ago to avoid a prison sentence and has been a fugitive ever since. [Los Angeles Times]

* The Republican victory in Georgia of Senate incumbent Saxby Chambliss means that the Democrats will not have a flibibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate. The Democrats now hold 58 of the 100 senate seats. The Minnesota senate race is still undecided. [The Guardian]

* A Massachusetts couple’s suit over their public school’s response to their five-year old’s complaint of sexual harassment on her school bus has raised some interesting constitutional questions for the U.S. Supreme Court. [New York Times]

* The SCOTUS also sent a murder case back to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration. The case involved a 16-year-old robber who killed a gas station attendant in a robbery that garnered him $150. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* For love of the law…and video games. A 26-year-old lawyer at Sheppard Mullin manages a 20-person team that deal with mergers, licensing contracts, and other legal transactions that fuel the game industry. Imagine how fun it would be to crash one of their office parties — there is nothing sexier than a lawyer who loves video games. [Los Angeles Times]

wsgr logo.JPG

Here is just one small indication that law firms everywhere are feeling the pinch. As is customary at many firms, a firm-wide email went around Wilson Sonsini today congratulating all of the associates who passed the July 2008 bar exam.

The happy message reads as follows:

Congratulations to our attorneys who passed the July 2008 state bar exams! Please make sure to reach out and congratulate them. This is a big accomplishment!

Well, “!” I say. Everybody enjoys knowing that their accomplishments are recognized.

But last year’s WSGR recognition was a little more remarkable. Last year, this was the happy message that was sent around the firm:

Congratulations to our associates who have recently passed state bar exams!

To celebrate their success, we will be sending a bottle of champagne to our newest bar passers shortly! Please make sure to reach out and give them your personal congratulations. This is a big accomplishment!

Can you spot the extra sentence?

Firms cannot afford to be frivolous during these tough times, but would a $40 bottle of mediocre champagne really break WSGR’s financial back? According to the firm’s list 53, associates passed the July 2008 bar. That’s just over $2,000 in alcoholic costs.

Even if Wilson Sonsini had done the same thing this year that they did last year, the firm would have still saved some money. 72 people passed last year’s exam.

It’s pretty funny to see all the ways firms are trying to stretch a dollar. I hope the recession doesn’t get any worse, or else firms will have to start eliminating “complimentary” bathroom soap.

We have of course heard of other cost saving maneuvers happening at WSGR. If you know what we’re talking about, send us a tip.

Earlier: More Shock Doctrine: Wilmer Hale ‘Clarifies’ Late Night Meals Policy

Holiday presents.JPG* What should you get for your assistant this holiday season? It’s a good question assuming your firm hasn’t already fired all of the assistants. [Corporette]

* Should the government revoke the tax exempt status of churches that financially supported Prop. 8? [TaxProf Blog]

* How about this solution: Bush won’t pardon all his war-on-terror minions, Obama won’t prosecute them, and politics can stay out of the courtroom? I feel like there is a whole constitutional article designed to make this happen. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* … Speaking of pardons, Ted Stevens is ready for his closeup. [WSJ Law Blog]

* I wish the concept of lawyer recall “far fetched” as opposed to “tremendously insightful.” [The Onion via Supreme Dicta]

* Don’t forget, ATL’s Meet the Editors is scheduled for tonight from 6:30 to 11:30 at Professor Thoms’. I’ll be there with Lat, Kash, Marin, and Eliza. We hope to see you there. [Above The Law]

McDermott logo.JPGOver the past few weeks, there has been a lot of rumbling over at McDermott Will & Emery. One tipster succinctly explained what many MWE associates are seeing:

[T]here is literally no work … nothing at work for a few weeks. Apparently everyone is waiting for the axe to fall.

You should watch MWE like a hawk.

More like a buzzard. We’ve been circling over McDermott for days, waiting for something to fall. So far, we’ve not yet been able to speak with a single MWE associate who will stipulate that they have been laid off. But sources both inside and outside MWE claim that a number of stealth layoffs have taken place at the firm over the past month.

The number many tipsters are coming up with is 20.

Now, that number seems high to us. A major firm like McDermott usually can’t keep 20 people silent for all that long. However, when we approached the firm with our information, they would neither confirm nor deny the reports about firm-wide layoffs. A spokesperson for MWE only had this to say:

As a matter of policy we do not publicly discuss personnel matters.

Additional tipsters weigh in after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stealth Layoffs at McDermott Will & Emery?”

debt relief pill.JPGAs many people have pointed out, being angry over “only” a $20,000 bonus is something that most of the working world finds appalling. We get it: “spoiled whiners,” “real people are losing their jobs,” “nobody should complain about a six-figure salary,” yada, yada, yada.

But other people have pointed out that most of the working world doesn’t have $150,000 plus in educational debt to pay off before Biglaw lets you out of white-collar indentured servitude. Most associates don’t blow their bonuses on hookers and coke. (Fools!) Sadly, paying off debt is the final destination for most of the bonus cash.

So, in a way, law schools always take your bonus — at least a significant chunk of it. But maybe this year those schools got an additional tap into your bonus cash. Last week Harvard Law school released its 2007-2008 Report of Gifts. According to a tipster (I didn’t receive the report personally because I try to stay off the HLS grid; it has a lot to do with my hooker/coke/debt decisions), Half-Skadden and Skadden-Mart donated quite a lot to HLS. The report lists those two firms in the $1 million to $3 million range.

Putting some figures together, after the jump.

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partnership announcements.JPGA week ago we asked if new partner promotions were an indication law firm’s financial health. Skadden-Mart just released its new partner roster, and it does appear that the firm’s tepid bonus announcement is reflected in the new promotions.

The New York Times reports that Skadden-Mart made five new greeters partners:

Simpson’s latest class is smaller than the eight partners it elected a year ago and less than half the 13 partners it named in late 2006, when the deal boom was in full swing.

This year, as big mergers are scarce and leveraged buyouts even scarcer, three of Simpson’s five new partners are from the corporate department, all based overseas. The other two new partners, from the litigation and tax departments, work out of Simpson’s New York headquarters.

So at least in this case, Simpson is keeping up the appearance of financial stress that they indicated to their associates week ago.

How is morale over at Simpson? After the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New Simpson Thacher Partners: No Simpson Thacher Dealmakers”

axiom (2).jpgFor those attorneys back on the market, we’d like to note other firm options beyond those with ampersands. A recent issue of Fortune Magazine profiles web-based law firm Axiom. Founded in 2000 by Biglaw refugees, it appears the high-end legal temp agency has been steadily growing.

Back in December 2006, the Wall Street Journal profiled the firm–then with 150 attorneys and offices in New York and San Francisco–noting that its associates make salaries in the high-$100,000s and mid-$200,000s, work 40 hours per week, and offer legal services up to 50% lower than top law firms. It got attention again last year, when it opened a new office in London, and added more attorneys taking its count up to nearly 200.

It looks like this baby is still growing. Its office count is now up to five, with additional offices in L.A. and Chicago, and the attorney count is up to 216. Its website brags of “law redefined” and has bios for its support staff giving them nicknames, like “Last of the Faux-Hicans,” “The Hammer,” and “Jazz Hands.”

A venture capitalist tells Fortune that Axiom is “almost like an online dating service for the legal profession.” (Ed. note: No, that would be ATL Courtship Connections.) Beyond the online component, a big difference from a traditional law firm is that Axiom is a corporation instead of a partnership, and having been funded by venture capitalists, will actually have to go public at some point.

The WSJ law blog notes that some fear the idea of being consigned to “temping hell.” But in a gallery of testimonials, a San Francisco Axiom attorney praises the life-work balance at Axiom, saying, “I will passionately find creative solutions to your company’s thorniest legal issues, but I will also find time to passionately ride my dirt bike in my hot pink riding gear.”

Well, if that’s not an advertisement for temping, what is? What do you think? Ready to send your resume to Axiom?

Legal eagles set free [Fortune]

Axiom: A Different Kind of Legal Practice? [WSJ Law Blog]

Finding Happiness On the Slow(er) Track [Wall Street Journal]

Take the law into your own hands [Financial Times]

philly urban night.JPGPhiladelphia Assistant District Attorney Adam Yanoff just started his job as prosecutor in August. But maybe he should have been a public defender.

Yanoff was busted over the holiday weekend carrying 1.3 grams of crack cocaine and about $20 worth of weed:

The cop observed Yanoff empty the cocaine from a small bag onto a magazine, and then use a straw to snort the substance.

Field research?

In any event, we can likely add another lawyer to the list of those recently out of a job:

Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Lynne Abraham, said Yanoff has been suspended without pay. His case will be handled by the state attorney general.

Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.

Assistant D.A. jailed on drug charges [Philadelphia Daily News]

kirkland ellis logo.JPGThe associates who work at Kirkland & Ellis remain sublimely confident that their firm will pay elite bonuses as opposed to the discount payouts being offered elsewhere.

But in these uncertain economic times, any change in firm policy — even one that seems positive — has to be met with skepticism.

Yesterday, our inbox started buzzing as various Kirkland tipsters let us know that the firm has undertaken a massive change in associate vacation policy. At first blush, the revised policy seems … awesome:

Instead of providing attorneys with a fixed number of vacation days each year, our revised policy will permit attorneys to take time off with pay – for rest and relaxation, or to attend to personal matters – at their discretion, subject only to the Firm’s overall performance expectations. Those performance expectations include, most importantly, that our lawyers will provide the highest quality legal work and service to our clients, contribute to the Firm’s pro bono programs and participate in non-billable efforts on behalf of the Firm. The revised policy aligns our associate paid time-off protocol with our long-standing practice for partners. We also feel it is consonant with both our Firm’s entrepreneurial culture and our associates’ desire to manage their own careers and maintain a suitable work/life balance.

Some associates would undoubtedly prefer to have a fixed amount of vacation time to which they are “entitled.” But most people enjoy being treated like adults with the maturity to manage their responsibilities. People know how to manage their own time better than law firm managers (wow, I just made a federalist argument).

After the jump, Kirkland associates weigh in on the full memo.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kirkland & Ellis New Vacation Policy: Tastes Great, But Is It Less Filling?”

tiny mary j.jpg

* Thailand’s constitutional court decided to disband the country’s ruling party and ban the prime minister from politics for five years. []

* A former federal courts chief is calling for the resignation or impeachment of an appellate judge in California for watching internet porn. In one month, there were 90,000 hits on 1,100 porn sites at the California Judiciary. [Miami Herald]

* Al Franken, the Senate candidate from Minnesota, may appeal to the courts because he argues that 1,000 absentee ballots were wrongly discarded in the recount. [CBS]

* The US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the city of Garden Grove in California that argued that city police should not have to return seized medical marijuana to a chronic pain patient. California’s 4th District Court of Appeal sided with the patient, and now the case is closed, a victory for advocates of medical marijuana use. [The Los Angeles Times]

* At least something is going well for Detroit these days. “U.S. car maker Ford Motor Company Tuesday won its case at a European court over the registration of the word “Fun” as a European trademark.” [CNN]

* Chevron was found not-guilty by a federal court jury in San Francisco; the jury dismissed claims of Nigerian villagers who say they were attacked by company paid soldiers on an an off-shore drilling platform. [Bloomberg]

* Don’t forget, meet the editors is tonight at 6:30 at Professor Thoms’ [Above The Law]

usc law logo.JPGAt least the USC Gould School of Law is being relatively honest. According to the administration, USC students do not get grades on par with students at peer institutions. This hurts USC students in the job market. The most simple way to fix this discrepancy is to just give everybody at USC Law an extra boost to their GPA.

You think it can’t possibly be that simple? Here is the grade reform proposal that USC faculty and student representatives will be voting on, on December 11th:

Proposed Revision:

Under the current grading curve, the average grade in each first-year course is set at 3.2. Under the Dean’s proposal, the average grade in each first-year course would be set at 3.3 rather than at 3.2. The effect of this change would be to raise each first-year grade by .1. For example, a student who would have earned a grade of 3.2 in Torts under the current grading curve would instead earn a grade of 3.3. Similarly, a student whose year-end GPA under the current grading curve would be a 3.2 would instead have a year-end GPA of 3.3.

I don’t see why a major law school would admit that their grading system was a joke that they came up with out of a hat, but there you go. Free points for everybody, because halfway through the 2008/2009 school year USC decided that law school was just too damn hard.

USC’s justifications and rationalizations after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Grade Reform at USC Gould School Of Law: Here’s a Free .1″

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