Now that we’re a few days into 2009, we’re going to pick up the pace in our 2008 round-up posts. Some of you are getting impatient. Complained a commenter: “At this rate, we’re going to get to #1s sometime in June.”
So, onward. We previously wrote about the #5 gossip story in Biglaw. Today we’re going to hit two birds with one stone, announcing the #4 and #3 stories in law firm land (on the gossipy side; the hard news / business stories are on a separatelist).
Although they’re not in the top two, these tales were in some respects the most fun for us to cover. Take a trip down memory lane, after the jump.
* HLS graduate, public defender, and video game designer Melissa Brooks Batten was shot to death by her estranged spouse just days after obtaining a restraining order against him. David Giacalone writes “We certainly don’t often think about domestic violence reaching our profession, but when it does it should motivate all of us to work harder to help prevent domestic violence throughout our society, and to protect its potential and actual victims, through better procedures and education.” [f/k/a]
* AirTran removed passengers from a flight because they were talking about which seats were “safest.” Oh, did I mention that the passengers were Muslim? They were Muslim. What country do we live in again? [WebCPA]
* The IRS really needs to get one of them “take a penny, leave a penny” jars. [TaxProf Blog]
* Here are nine reasons not to attend law school. Shockingly “because business school is easier and shorter” didn’t make the list. [Legal Geekery]
* Apparently, Christmas used to be more fun before the church got involved. This week’s Blawg Review pays homage to that finest of pagan traditions. [Charon QC via Blawg Review]
A few bonus announcements trickled in over the holidays. Here’s a round-up of recent bonus announcements that have not yet been covered in these pages. If you have new news, e-mail us at email@example.com.
1. Sheppard Mullin (New York): Sheppard Mullin is paying above market rate for attorneys who racked up the hours this year. Baseline hours are 2000 in New York (and 2100 outside of New York, see below). Bonuses range from $20,000 to $70,000, plus discretionary bonuses of $20,000 to $50,000. Reaction at the firm, after the jump.
2. Sheppard Mullin (outside New York): Associates in California and D.C. had to rack up a few more hours than their NY brethren to qualify for bonuses, with 2,100 as their baseline. And their lockstep bonuses for additional hours are not as generous. Details after the jump.
3. Akin Gump (outside New York): We posted on the New York market/ half-Skadden bonuses for Akin New York associates, announced on New Year’s Eve. Associates outside of New York received an e-mail saying that “merit bonuses” will be given based on “productivity, quality of work and Firm citizenship.” Check out the e-mail, and news of a freeze watch there, after the jump.
4. Linklaters (all U.S. offices): This Magic Circle firm announced bonuses and salary increases for U.S. associates right before Christmas. The London-based firm is following Cravath’s lead, paying half-Skadden bonuses to all U.S. associates, with no hours requirement. The firm will have normal class-year raises. Per our tipster, “the firm had a good first half, including in NY, so a Latham-style salary freeze would have been pretty shocking.”
5. Arnold & Porter (New York): Associates outside of New York got individualized bonus memos last week. New Yorkers got their bonus announcement on Jan. 2. Per our tipster, “the scale was as expected, the half-Skadden, which is significantly less than the bonus in non-NY offices, but at least is “market,” unlike our salaries.” Our tipster says the first A&P paycheck of the year remains at 2008 levels.
If you think about it, it kind of makes sense. You’ve just been through the holidays, which is nothing more than an annoying reminder of all the love and happiness other people pretend to have. Meanwhile you’re sitting there trying to choke down a forkful of stuffing while your spouse drunkenly tells the exact same story you’ve heard on the order of 1400 times before, not counting the time you actually witnessed the described events.
So you try to zone out in front of the tube, but the Television God has determined that if you purchase a new Lexus you’ll feel like a kid again. As if some girl who is so rich her family could afford a real live pony is going to go all weak in the knees over a freaking SUV. But whatever, the economy is so bad you can’t even afford a canister of “new car smell.”
Holidays and poverty, they’re murder on marriages. In the U.K. the lawyers are prepared:
And with 17 per cent of divorced men blaming financial problems for the end of their marriage, the credit crunch is putting extra pressure on relationships in trouble.
The report doesn’t discuss how American divorce lawyers deal with the first full work week after Christmas, but in Britain they apparently call it “D-Day.”
The traditional New Year rush to end marriages after the stress of Christmas means divorce lawyers brand today D-Day, or Divorce Day, kick-starting their busiest week of the year.
After the jump, we’re reminded that divorce rarely if ever helps anything.
Another day, another firm, another salary freeze. The latest is from Sheppard Mullin:
We feel it is critical to rigorously control expenses during these times. As part of our management of expenses, we have decided to “freeze” Associate compensation for 2009. This means your base compensation will be the same as in 2008. Special Counsel and Senior Attorney compensation will also be frozen, with minor exceptions.
A tipster reports a calm over at Sheppard that is very Zen:
Yes. Sheppard is freezing salaries. I’m not thrilled about it, but it is consistent with Sheppard’s conservative style. We had an hour and a half Associate Issues conference call to discuss it … Sheppard will re-evaluate the policy every quarter and Management suggested that Associates who make their hours (1950 or so) will probably also get an end of the year bonus to make up for any lost salary.
I’m sure associates would prefer to get that “suggestion” in writing, but so long as all remains quiet on the layoff front nobody is complaining.
It’s a new year, and for Biglaw that usually means it is time for firms to go out and get a loan.
Obviously, this year it might be a little more difficult than usual. The American Lawyer is reporting that the credit crisis is coming to a partnership near you:
Law firms, typically considered good credit risks, are now experiencing the toughest and most expensive lending conditions in years. “Even good borrowers, prime borrowers, are having more restrictions and more difficulties than they used to,” says Altman Weil consultant James Cotterman.
Most firms will still be able to get loans to cover their immediate expenses. But to do so they will have to submit to more vigorous financial vetting than they did in the past. And, of course, it’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to borrow money:
Meanwhile, firms that didn’t secure a credit line early last year, and who went looking for it in recent months, discovered that credit wasn’t cheap anymore. “We just took out some lines from several different banks,” says the head of one firm, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly. The firm let its credit lines expire in 2003 and relied instead on capital contributions from partners. The banks used to give the firm credit for free. “Now we had to pay for the lines,” he says.
Rates have doubled, from below 1 percent in 2007 to 2-3 percent today for the top 50 firms, says Andrew Johnman, head of professional services at Barclays plc. “If they need additional money or if they need an amendment to their credit facility, then we reprice it to current market pricing,” he says.
Apparently, banks are worried that additional firms will dissolve like Heller and Thelen. More on that after the jump.
Thacher Proffitt & Wood made its dissolution official last month. Last Monday, the firm officially rescinded offers to approximately twenty 3Ls who were bound there after graduation.
One would-have-been Thacherite said no one was surprised to have the offers rescinded but that the soon-to-be law school graduates are still “bummed.”
The “firm did it right.” The partners in charge of Thacher’s summer associate program called all of the 3Ls on Monday. With the firm bound for nonexistence by May, the reason for the call was fairly obvious. The partners offered to do anything they can to help: forward resumes on, provide references, resend offer letters, etc. (Though those not rescued by Sonnenschein may be a bit busy looking after their own job prospects.)
Law students who placed their eggs in the baskets of failing firms Thacher, Thelen Reid, and Heller Ehrman may no longer be looking forward to cap-and-gown day. One Thacherite-would-have-been talked to us about what it’s like to see one’s Biglaw prospects dissolve. “When you take an offer from a 150-year-old firm, you think it’s pretty solid,” said the UnThachered 3L.
In an ATL / Lateral Link survey posted on New Year’s Eve, we announced your nominees for the 2008 ATL Commenter of the Year.
Almost 1,800 of you have voted since, and several of the nominees posted their thoughts in comments to the survey post.
Nominee Jack Bauer wrote in:
It’s good to know that I still have some friends. My track record with friends isn’t exactly stellar, seeing how I shot Curtis in the throat and I’m pretty sure Tony has become a terrorist. For those of you who had to work over Christmas, don’t feel too bad, I got a weekend assignment dealing with breach of contract in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the terrorists appear to have taken out Jack’s friends’ communication network. Only 81 of them were able to vote for him.
Hang in there, Jack. You may not have made it to Day 2 in our poll, but we’re still looking forward to a strong season from you in 2009.
Read on after the jump to see more of our nominees’ comments and learn the results.
Many have speculated that Harvard Law School’s hot and high-powered dean, Elena Kagan, might be a Supreme Court nominee in an Obama administration.
Dean Kagan is one step closer to sitting on the Court. Assuming her confirmation process goes smoothly — which it surely will, given how universally adored and admired she is, by liberals and conservatives alike — Elena Kagan will soon be arguing before the SCOTUS, as the Solicitor General of the United States.
As expected, President-elect Barack Obama has selected her as his SG nominee. From a message just sent out by Dean Kagan:
I am writing to all of you – the community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Harvard Law School – to let you know that today President-elect Barack Obama will announce his intention to nominate me to serve as Solicitor General of the United States. If confirmed by the Senate, I will resign the deanship of the Law School and take a leave of absence from the faculty.
If Dean Kagan makes the jump from solicitor general to justice, it won’t be unprecedented. The justice for whom she clerked, Thurgood Marshall, served as SG from 1965 to 1967, until President Johnson appointed him to the Court.
Back in 2007, Dean Kagan lost out on the presidency of Harvard University. Near the end of the Clinton Administration, she was nominated to the Most High D.C. Circuit, but never confirmed. Is 2009 going to be her year?
The full announcement from Dean Kagan to the HLS community, after the jump.
Every year, the National Law Journal names individual people and firms that have done outstanding pro bono work. This year perhaps more than others, it is especially important to recognize those that gave their time to charity. With the economy crumbling, there is a huge need for free legal services.
Eric Blinderman, international legal counsel to Proskauer Rose, had gone to Iraq in March 2004 as an associate general counsel for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Later, he served as chief legal counsel and associate deputy to the Regime Crimes Liaison. In 2007, Blinderman’s firm officially became a part of The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Refugees, a nonprofit organization founded that year to help resettle Iraqis in danger because of their affiliation with the United States. Holland & Knight had already been collaborating with the project, and Mayer Brown signed on this year.
Firms nationwide were inspired by the historic 2008 presidential election to devote pro bono time to protecting access to the voting booth. Lawyers went to court in several states on voter access issues, most frequently to prevent a voting reform law, the Help America Vote Act, from becoming a barrier to the ballot. The law required states to match voter rolls with another database, usually the registry of driver licenses, to create a more accurate list of voters.
Read the full list of winners here. And please share your stories about other great pro bono acts in the comments.
* The Washington Post editorial board sounds the call for a judicial pay raise, lamenting the fact that with salaries at $170k, most federal trial judges make less than Biglaw junior associates. “Increasingly cut out of contention for these important and prestigious positions are workaday lawyers most familiar with the realities of the business and legal arenas,” says The Post. [Washington Post]
* … Or maybe wannabe judges should migrate to L.A. County, where judges make $250k per year (factoring in benefits). Judges there are fighting off a Judicial Watch lawsuit that seeks to cut their pay. [Los Angeles Times]
* A Liberian immigrant tried to sneak monkey meat into New York from Africa. Judge Raymond J. Dearie rejects her faith-based objection to smuggling charges, writing that nothing in her religion “required her to abstain from truthful completion of paperwork.” [Associated Press]
* Democrat Al Franken will soon claim victory in the Minnesota Senate race, but incumbent Republican Norm Coleman will try to get the Minnesota Supreme Court to count some additional absentee ballots. This drawn-out vote counting is really impinging on the contest’s drama. Maybe they should just thumb wrestle for the seat. [Reuters]
* Gambling addictions and attorney trust funds are not a good combination. A New Jersey attorney admits to stealing $4 million from his clients to fund his love of Atlantic City slot machines. [The Star-Ledger]
DLA Piper’s associates received an e-mail today at 4 p.m. about bonuses. The memo says less about bonuses though than it says about 2009 salaries. (Bonus decisions will be made later in January, as they were last year.)
The salary decision for 2009? Another major firm is getting its freeze on. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail:
DLA Piper, because of its global platform and practice diversification, is well-positioned competitively and financially to weather this downturn, but neither we nor our clients are immune from its impacts. This difficult business environment is certain to continue in 2009, and as a matter of prudent management, the firm will not increase associate salaries for 2009 in the U.S. Associates moving to the next class year will continue to receive the same base compensation as they received in 2008.
We asked our tipster about the reaction around the office:
Well, it’s only been an hour, but I think it’s a terrible move. DLAP already has a reputation as a scrimper among the top-50 – this will not help.
Jiminy jillickers! ATL editors are going all over the place over the next month or so. Or at least all over the Eastern Seaboard. If we aren’t heading to your neck of the woods on these trips, never fear, we may hit you up on the next time around. We’ve already hit up Houston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the past year.
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
Fund deals, startup capital raises, PIPE deals and loan syndicates are just a handful of the transactions benefiting from the JOBS Act. InvestorID FirmTM is a platform designed to help attorneys equip their clients with the workflow, marketing and compliance tools to publicly solicit a securities offering online. By providing clients with the tools to painlessly navigate the regulatory landscape of general solicitation, InvestorID FirmTM helps attorneys add value above just legal services.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) went into effect in 2013 and permits Regulation D offerings of securities to be advertised publicly. This means that funds and companies can now use social media, emails and web sites to market transactions to new “accredited” investors.
However, with these new powers come new pain points. InvestorID FirmTM provides a secure, fully hosted, cloud-based platform with a breadth of tools for your clients, including: