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December to remember.JPGIf 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.

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pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAnother 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.

First Latham, then Orrick, and now Sheppard. So far, Gibson Dunn looks like the place to be on the west coast.

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.

Read the full memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Sheppard Mullin Joins California Craze”

wall street bull backside.jpgIt’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.

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Thacher.jpgThacher 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.

Full interview with “NoMoreTP”, after the jump.

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ATL 2008 in review.jpgIn 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.

funny-pictures-cat-eats-baseball-players.jpgUnfortunately, 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.

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Elena Kagan 3 Harvard Law School Above the Law Elana Kagan Elena Kagen.jpgMany 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.

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Pro bono awards.JPGEvery 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.

The NLJ has recognized the work done by Proskauer Rose, Holland & Knight, and Mayer Brown towards resettling Iraqi refugees:

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.

The other big firm winner was Pillsbury Winthrop for its efforts during the election:

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.

2008 NLJ PRO BONO AWARDS [National Law Journal]

Judicial pay raise watch.jpg* 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]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgDLA 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.

At least other top-50 firms did it first. Like Latham and Orrick, this pronouncement is a definite freeze, and not a maybe-we’ll-reassess-if-things-look-brighter-later-in-the-year freeze.

Full text of the e-mail after the jump.

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ATL 2008 in review.jpgThis year, we launched a new feature on ATL: the Caption Contest. We gave you legally-themed photos and asked you to submit potential captions. We thought it was a great idea — let the readers do our work for us!

The contests proved to be widely popular. Wading through hundreds of caption submissions to bring you a top ten list was actually quite time-consuming, but not a terrible chore — lawyers and lawyers-to-be came up with some hilarious material.

Once we narrowed the lists to the top ten finalists, we let ATL readers choose the winners by voting. “Guest” may not win ATL Commenter of the Year, but certainly did come out on top in captioning. Take our most recent contest, Babies in the Corner. Out of 3030 votes, this caption won by a nose (0.8 percent):

Caption Contest 111808.JPG

Don’t move! They can’t lay us off if they don’t see us.

A look back at our three favorite caption contests, after the jump.

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smoking.jpg* Joe the Plumber finally makes it all the way to the top … tax story of 2008 at least. [TaxProf Blog]

* Apparently there’s a law firm out there that goes by the name of “Real Lawyers at Affordable Prices, Fresno.” [Legal Pad]

* If there was one place you should talk like a lawyer, I thought it would be while you were in police custody. If there were two places you should talk like a lawyer, I thought the second place would be “in court.” But maybe I’m wrong. [ABA Journal]

* Not all cigarettes have to be “light” cigarettes. This is great news for teenage smokers who still wish to distinguish themselves from far less cool adult smokers. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

ATL 2008 in review.jpgContinuing with our rundown of the top ten Biglaw stories of 2008, we reach our fourth place story on the business end of things: the dramatic reduction of associate bonuses.

Bonus news is always a big deal around these parts, and based on the way that the 2008 bonus season started, it looked like there might be a fight for control of the New York market. Skadden led off with bonuses that matched 2006 levels (or 2007 levels, minus the “special bonus” portion). At the time, Skadden wasn’t sure they’d be at the top of the market. Skadden’s bonus memo included the following language:

The Firm has historically paid its associates at the “top of the market” in their respective local markets. While we do not know what other firms will do this year with regard to paying a supplemental bonus, we believe that our bonuses this year should be limited to the year-end discretionary bonus. What we will do in the future years, will, of course, depend on business conditions at the time and competitive compensation.

There were more than a few people who thought other firms might come in above Skadden. That didn’t happen. Instead, Cravath happened.

Half-Skadden sets the market, after the jump.

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