It’s that time of the year again, says one ATL reader:
now would be a good time for the old “how much are you giving your secretaries for the holidays?” story
It’s customary for associates at large law firms to give a cash gift to their administrative assistants, often along with a card or small gift. Not everyone opts for cold, hard cash — some do AmEx or Visa gift cards.
This year has been a tough one. Some associates have had their salaries frozen and have gotten “baby bonuses” in comparison with years past. Are you planning to let the economic pain trickle down?
Some discussion and advice from last year, after the jump.
We don’t have all of the details, but multiple sources report that WilmerHale is laying off 57 staffers today (secretaries and paralegals). We understand that the staff is being informed right now.
We don’t have information about what (if any) severance package is being offered to the departed staff. Our sources report that the layoffs will affect staff in Boston, D.C., and New York offices.
Spokespeople for WilmerHale did not respond to an immediate request comment. But we hope to have more information as people are informed of their job situation.
Good luck, WilmerHale friends. UPDATE More from our tipsters, and a statement from the firm, after the jump.
Stalking, cat fights, cheating, assault, and a secret marriage. This is the scandalous news out of Vinton, Virginia (pop: 7,782) this week, thanks to a lawyer-lawyer-paralegal love triangle.
If you surf over to WDBJ to check out the tale, we advise watching the video and skipping the transcribed broadcast. It hurt our head to translate it. And it hurt our eyes to Photoshop the image at right — click to enlarge (if you dare).
Two bankruptcy law attorneys, Jeffrey Kessler and Ann Marie Miller (an Appalachian School of Law ’06 grad), had been partnering on cases and in the bedroom. Ick. Apparently, Kessler then started secretly dating a younger woman, paralegal Jennifer Kelley.
That’s when things got messy — and, allegedly, violent.
The legal job market is a little dicey right now, leading some law grads to question the worth of their shiny new J.D. degree. Suffolk Law grads — and not just the ones who can’t get dates — are really questioning the value of their degrees, after an ill-timed job advertisement from Weil Gotshal & Manges went out on their career services list-serv:
Dear 2009 Graduates,
I wanted to make you aware of a great opportunity currently posted on Symplicity. Please find the job information below. Interested parties should apply through Symplicity with a resume and cover letter.
Employer: Weil Gotshal & Manges, LLP (Boston, MA)
Title: Paralegal Position for ’09 Graduate
Description: This posting is for the class of 2009 grads who are not deferred for another position. Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, flexibility with overtime required.
Yay, that Suffolk law degree can get you into Biglaw! But there’s a catch.
More after the jump.
At what point does a salary freeze start to feel like a salary cut? Staff at O’Melveny & Myers are about to find out. O’Melveny just announced a new salary ice-age for its staff. Above the Law obtained this internal memo sent to O’Melveny staffers:
We are committed to taking proactive steps to maintain our financial strength in the face of unprecedented economic times. As part of this effort, we continue to look at how we can prudently and efficiently manage our costs and have therefore decided that there will be no salary increases this year and the performance evaluation cycle will be extended from 12 months to 24 months. Your performance evaluation will now cover the period between July 2008 – July 2010. We will consider salary increases at the end of the new performance review period in July 2010.
O’Melveny has already been through layoffs. In March, 200 people were let go, including 110 staffers. So on the one hand, a salary cut is a lot better than being out on the street.
On the other hand, staffers don’t make much to begin with, and nobody wants a static salary. O’Melveny staff better start rooting for the rest of the American economy to continue its deflationary trend.
O’Melveny confirmed that the freeze only applies to staff.
Will we see more ice-age freezes this summer? Stay tuned.
Check out the full firm statement after the jump. Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: O’Melveny Fires 90 Lawyers, 110 Staff
* A word of advice to the new summer associates: Paralegals can’t be trusted. [Legal Intelligencer]
* SCOTUS dismissed the lawsuit that sought to punish top Bush officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for detaining Muslims that were not involved in 9-11. [Christian Science Monitor]
* Military commission trials for Guantanamo detainees present many of the same challenges that the Bush administration faced, in spite of Obama’s facelift. [New York Times]
* The White House passed on an opportunity to bring a case involving gays in the military to the Supreme Court. Are they stalling and playing politics or are they right to say that the law should be changed in the legislature and not the courts? [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
* What do potential SCOTUS nominees and ambulance chasers have in common? Uh, hopefully nothing…[Esquire]
* The court will hear a case against Sarbanes-Oxley in the fall term–is this the time to question too much oversight? [Washington Post]
Though the magazine’s publisher, Chere Estrin of EstrinLegalEd, filed for Chapter 11 in December (Bankruptcy Petition # 2:08-bk-32520-BR), the magazines struggle on. We surfed over to their websites and discovered that KNOW is down to 6 issues per year, and that Sue just released its inaugural issue, albeit a digital version only. According to the website:
Sue is a 100-percent digital publication. It looks just like a hard-copy magazine except that you will view it on your PC. You can even ‘turn’ the pages. The inaugural edition is Feb./Mar. 2009.
Well, that sounds snazzy. We didn’t get a chance to peruse the digital mag, but it must be good given its endorsements. The homepage proclaims:
Sue Magazine has been recognized in AmLaw Online; The National Law Journal; The ABA Journal; Above The Law and other prestigious publications.
We’ve been called many things, but prestigious is a new one.
Last week, we posted an open thread to discuss end-of-the-year gift giving to your secretary and/or paralegal. We’ve waded through the many comments to fish out some points of consensus.
A few secretaries appeared on the thread to urge associates to give cash or an AmEx/Visa gift card equivalent, and not a gift card to a specific restaurant, bookstore or department store. As one secretary says, “if you decide on giving gift certificates/store cards – I sincerely hope your next bonus will be paid in the same currency.”
New York appears to have its own scale. Even with the bonus slash, many associates are still giving their secretaries $100 per each year the associate has worked at the firm.
For those outside of New York, your little gift bundle of holiday joy can stay in the $100-250 range, with junior associates giving about $100, mid-levels giving about $150, and senior associates giving $200+.
In case comments are not indicative of general trends, here are some polls to see what your peers are doing. New York is its own world, and gets its own poll:
One commenter says that even if you have a bad secretary, “one of those ‘can’t make a copy’ people,” associates should still give a small gift, but should not feel obligated to give a hefty cash bonus.
More polls — about who you are giving to, and how to handle gift-giving if you’ve changed secretaries — after the jump.
With the holidays two weeks away, many are starting to think about the frantic search for gifts for loved ones… and loved support staff. A Consumer Reports survey indicates that 76% of Americans will cut back on gift giving this year. Surprise, surprise. But what does it mean for planning your gift for your secretary and/or paralegal?
Writes one ATL reader:
I’m a NYC 4th year and for three years have given my secretary $100 per year I’ve been at my firm (plus a small — $25 — physical gift as well). If I follow that pattern, I’d give her $400 cash in a few weeks.
My secretary is great and I would like to show my appreciation. But this year, with my job hardly safe and my bonus likely to be at Half-Skadden levels (if I even survive long enough to get a bonus), does the $100 per year rule still apply in NYC?
I think we need a full post on this. It’s not 2007 anymore.
For the uninitiated, it’s customary for associates at large law firms to give a cash gift to their administrative assistants, often along with a card or small gift. Not everyone opts for cold, hard cash– some do AmEx or Visa gift cards. (If you do choose to go with bills, please make sure they are not of the soiled, dog-eared variety.)
One secretary wrote to us this year to voice opposition to the inter-office gift giving (and she’s not the only one):
How should a legal secretary ask her lawyers to not give her gifts? I don’t think Christmas has any place at work, and, though I respect and appreciate my lawyers, I don’t want them giving me gifts. I find it awkward and embarrassing on many different levels. I’ve been at my current job 5 years and tried at first simply not reciprocating. But they never got the message. I’m dreading this year’s ordeal like the plague. They make a little ceremony of calling me into an office as if I were in trouble. Please ask your readers what I might say that would stop the gifts without offending my guys. Thanks!
So, here’s an open thread to discuss your gift-giving plans in the current economic environment. Are you scaling back this year due to a diminished bonus? What’s the scale in your town? Does your paralegal get to sit on Santa’s lap as well? And if your secretary wants no part in the 12 days of Christmas, how should she let you know?
Thacher Proffitt & Wood has been struggling for some time. A memo sent by managing partner Paul Tvetenstrand to TPW staff the Wednesday before Thanksgiving provides the latest evidence of the firm’s faltering state:
From: Paul D. Tvetenstrand
To: Non-legal staff
As you are aware. The past year has posed many challenges for the firm given the downturn in the economic climate which has affected our clients and ultimately the firm. Unfortunately given this continuing downturn the firm will not be able to pay any bonuses or year end service awards this year. We truly appreciate the contributions each of you has made in these trying times and we wish we were able to recognize each of you as you deserve.
I’m not at all sure why TPW tried to bury this information within the Thanksgiving news cycle. Did they think TPW staffers were not going to notice? Maybe they were thinking of maintaining their industry reputation, but most people who have been paying attention already know that TPW is in serious trouble.
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In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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