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perfume_poster.jpgSome people love perfume. Some people hate it. Susan McBride says it makes it “difficult for her to breathe and impossible to do her job.”

McBride filed a suit against the city of Detroit last year under the Americans with Disabilities Act, because of her government co-worker’s perfume. The Detroit News reports that Michigan District Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff has ruled that the suit can proceed:

Associated Content has more details:

[McBride] claims that in addition to wearing a strong personal fragrance that made her sick enough to leave the office, her co-worker also utilized a plug-in air freshener. The unnamed co-worker had allegedly agreed to discontinue the use of the plug -in air freshener but refused to do without perfume.

McBride, who is looking to have the workplace ban the use of such items to accommodate her sensitivity to them is seeking undisclosed damages as well. She has had to take time off of work, has required medical treatment for her illness, and has also had to suspend the fertility treatment she had been undergoing due to the medications she has needed to take resulting from the sensitivity.

The suit smells like money to us, especially given Michigan’s past treatment of perfume-hater suits. A radio DJ was awarded $10.6 million in 2005 after being sickened by a colleague’s “romantic, sensual, emotional” perfume, per the Detroit News.

There is no identification of the offensive perfume. If the co-worker wore one of those terrible pharmacy-purchased vanilla-scented ones, we suspect the jury will be full of pity for McBride.

Judge says perfume lawsuit can proceed [The Detroit News]

Detroit City Employee Sues City Over Co-Workers Perfume [Associated Content]

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgAt this point, why would you pay market rate? Half-Skadden opened the door, and now other firms are crashing through like there’s a sale at Wal-Mart.

The latest predictable news comes from Dewey & LeBoeuf:

Class of 2008 — $17,500 (pro-rated)

Class of 2007 — $17,500

Class of 2006 — $20,000

Class of 2005 — $22,500

Class of 2004 — $25,000

Class of 2003 — $27,500

Class of 2002 — $30,000

Class of 2001 — $32,500

Dewey also announced bonuses for their London office. See the full U.K. scale, plus read the full U.S. bonus memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Dewey & LeBoeuf Pulls a Half-Skadden Too”

funny-pictures-happy-can-empty-inside.jpgWe received almost two thousand responses to last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on attorney morale. That’s way up from the survey we did in April.

Your morale, not so much.

Roughly 43% of practicing attorneys who responded to the survey are in poor spirits:

  * 24% said their morale was “bad”, up a bit from 21% in April.

  * 11.5% said their morale was “awful”, which is about the same as April.

  * 7.6% of respondents said their morale “couldn’t be worse.” This is actually down from 9.6% in April, suggesting that some of the most enthusiastically mopey April associates have now found unhappiness of a less extreme sort. (Either that, or they discovered that their morale really could be worse.)

Survey Results: How’s Your Morale?

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Structured Finance and Real Estate attorneys are still the mopiest, with 69% and 66%, respectively, feeling “bad” or worse. This is actually a big drop for real estate associates since April, when only 56% said they were unhappy.

Interestingly, only 31% of law students said they were happy, with 50% saying their morale was “bad” or worse.

But, the glass is still almost half full. Surprisingly, morale, while not exactly great, hasn’t really fallen much since April.

  * 23.7% of practicing attorneys who responded to the survey, said their morale was “good”, which is only slightly down from April’s number (25.8%).

  * 13.3% said their morale was “great”, which is actually up a little from April (11.5%)

  * And 3.2% of practicing respondents thought their morale “couldn’t be better,” basically the same as April.

So, overall, about 40% of respondents are still happy.

Patent associates were the happiest lot, with 58% declaring their morale to be at least “good.”

Bankruptcy associates, energy attorneys and judicial clerks were close behind at 57%, and trademark lawyers branded themselves 51% happy.

More results after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Life Survey: Got Morale?”

Reed Smith.jpgReed Smith officially announced massive layoffs today. They didn’t do it “stealthily,” but you can’t really fire over 115 people and have it go unnoticed.

A firm-wide email explained the bloodbath:

Today we are laying off approximately 115 support staff personnel across our US offices. These layoffs include people in all of our support areas, including IT, finance, marketing, practice administration, knowledge management, human resources and office services. In addition, in London we are today commencing what is known as a redundancy consultation exercise, under procedures unique to the UK, that could result in the elimination of up to 7 support staff positions there. Lastly, we are also commencing a UK redundancy consultation exercise that could result in the elimination of up to 11 associate positions in the Business & Finance department in London due to overcapacity.

“Redundancy consultation exercise?” You have to love the British use of the English language.

I guess we have to be happy that Reed Smith decided to announce these layoffs officially. Reports have come in from multiple tipsters that the firm has been “quietly shedding people” for weeks. These moves will come to no surprise to Reed Smith associates working out of the New York office.

It’s sad to see the firm cutting so many people just after they acquired a large chunk of Thelen refugees. A couple of weeks ago, we reported:

Reed Smith is another firm profiting from Thelen’s demise. Check out the pun-aided press release from the firm:

“Reed Smith LLP, one of the 15 largest law firms in the world, experienced a power surge today, with the addition of a 14-member group from Thelen, headed by renewable energy law pioneer Ellen L. Bastier.”

These attorneys also come from San Francisco. Kudos to the new hires.

But, to quote Bill Simmons paraphrasing The Wolf, let’s not start licking each others’ popsicles just yet.

Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Orrick was happily announcing 27 new partner hires from Heller — 27 new partners then, 40 freshly unemployed associates now.

Pushing 115-plus Tony Rocky Horrors out of a window might be excessive, but Reed Smith people should have expected a “reaction.”

Read the Reed memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Reed Smith Cans Staff, Associates, ‘And Your Little Dog Too’”

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]

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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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Did Harvard Law School Take Your Bonus?”

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]

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