Partner Issues

Hello associates. It is almost bonus season. For most of you, your main hopes this time of year are (1) to get a bonus and (2) no surprises. What kind of surprises are you looking to avoid? Unwelcome ones. Like your firm going from lockstep associate compensation to a “merit-based” system. Or the firm implementing a different bonus hours target at the last minute. That two-week-long summer trip to Barcelona and Ibiza? The one that cost you about a hundred billable hours? Congratulations. That one hundred hours is now costing you twenty grand in bonus money. Thanks for playing the Biglaw associate game.

So Lat asked me to give some insight into what partners think about associate bonuses. From what I can tell, the overwhelmingly majority of partners don’t think at all about associate bonuses. The reality is that nearly all Biglaw decisions are made by a very small group of partners (increasingly with the help of professional non-lawyer administrators). The ones on the Executive Committee. With an assist (on this issue) by the Associate or Compensation Committees.

Here is how it happens….

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Megyn Kelly

* Barack Obama will not be invited to party with the Supreme Court justices to celebrate his reelection — which is too bad, because from what we hear, they really know how to get down. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Here’s a protip that essentially comes straight from David Petraeus. You can add these to the list of crazy things that your jealous mistress will say to any other woman who so much as looks in your direction. [Althouse]

* “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” Career alternative for this attorney: bludgeoning Karl Rove with witty election night insults for his failure to admit Obama won Ohio. [Daily Beast]

* Here’s a list of the five kinds of partners you’ll typically find in Biglaw. All you’ve got to do is find their weaknesses, and use them to your advantage. [Greedy Associates / FindLaw]

* In the days ahead, should law schools cut tuition or cut class size? Obviously the solution is to do a little from column A and a little from column B, but you know they’ll never budge on tuition. [PrawfsBlawg]

Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

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‘Should I stay or should I go now?’

* Since Obamacare’s here to stay, states are scurrying to meet the health care law’s deadlines. Better hurry up, they’ve only got a week left to make a decision on insurance exchanges. [New York Times]

* “It’s been an interesting and tough four years. I just really don’t know. I don’t know at this point.” Two days after the election, it looks like Barack Obama may have to replace Eric Holder after all. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Managing partners at midsize firms are feeling good about about business in the coming fiscal year, and they’re even projecting higher profits per partner. And unicorns, too! [National Law Journal (reg. req.)]

* Where did a portion of the money behind Harvard Law professor and Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren’s Massachusetts race come from? Biglaw firms like Nixon Peabody and Mintz Levin. [Corporate Counsel]

* Apparently a convicted abortion doctor killer is trying to intervene in Paul Ceglia’s ownership case against Facebook via kooky letter. Sorry pal, but there can be only one Jonathan Lee Riches. [Wall Street Journal]

* Now that Barack Obama has secured his seat as a two-term president, in-house counsel in the financial sector can kiss their dreams of Dodd-Frank being repealed goodbye. Here are some issues to think about in light of its new footing. [Corporate Counsel]

* “We’re in the early innings of adjusting what value means.” And these days, it looks like “value” is synonymous with “making less money.” Given the results of this third quarter analysis, it’s quite clear that flat is still the new up for Biglaw. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Blow my whistle, baby? A DLA Piper partner filed a $4M suit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on claims he was maliciously prosecuted as revenge for whistleblowing. [Daily Business Review]

* After being arrested on domestic violence charges, it seems that Steven Guynn of King & Spalding has left the firm. He doesn’t need to sweat his unemployment, because his house is for sale for $3.3M. [Am Law Daily]

* From Biglaw to Midlaw: Morrison Cohen, a midsize firm, managed to poach a partner from Willkie Farr. But how? Apparently this guy was no longer interested in billing “$900-plus” per hour. [New York Law Journal]

* Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will be present at Jared Lee Loughner’s sentencing hearing today, though it is unknown if she herself will speak. His expected sentence is life without parole. [ABC News]

Now is the time on ATL when we dance — around the subject of money. With just two months left in the year, law firms are focused on collections, associates are focused on bonuses, and partners are focused on profits. Even though money is not the be-all and end-all of law practice, as we have emphasized in these pages before, it’s a topic that people follow — and a topic that we will therefore be covering closely in what remains of 2012.

Earlier this week, the American Lawyer magazine touched upon a topic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should in the world of Biglaw: compensation for non-equity partners. Let’s take a look at Am Law’s findings….

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I like talking about partner compensation so much, I wrote a three-part series on the topic. It was nice to hear from Jeffrey Lowe, the Global Practice Leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Practice Group and the brains behind the MLA partner compensation survey, who graciously expressed both his enjoyment of my treatment regarding the survey results and an invitation to contact him directly with follow-up questions.

In response, I proposed a written email interview, which you can read below. Thanks again to Jeffrey for his yeoman’s work on the survey, and his willingness to offer some additional commentary on the always scintillating subject of partner pay….

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Steven Guynn

Back in March, we wrote about Steven Guynn, who at the time was a corporate partner at King & Spalding. Above the Law readers who work at K&S are happy campers, giving the firm a solid grade of B+ in our Career Center. Alas, the allegations against Guynn would seem to merit an F. As you may recall, Guynn was accused of assaulting his alleged mistress, Jeannette Schaefer.

Today we have some updates about Steve Guynn (all via Teri Buhl). First, Guynn is reportedly getting divorced from his wife, Kristie Guynn. Second, the criminal case against him no longer appears in the online docket for the Connecticut courts (perhaps because it has been moved to a domestic violence docket). Third, he is no longer at King & Spalding.

(We reached out to King & Spalding to confirm Guynn’s departure from the firm. They did not respond to our inquiry, but Guynn’s bio has been pulled from the firm website. Here is a cached version, which shows Guynn’s impressive educational and professional background, including the two other top firms where he was once a partner.)

The allegations against Steven Guynn have never been proven. But here is one thing established beyond a reasonable doubt: his multimillion-dollar mansion is fit for royalty. Shall we take a peek?

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As New York firms are slowly letting people back into the office after Sandy, a midsize Cadadian firm is implementing new procedures to make sure employees stay there.

No, they aren’t spanking people or playing other disturbing psychological games. They’re using electronic fingerprint IDs.

Apparently too many employees were dipping out early and taking extensive lunch breaks. The circle of trust was broken, so now everyone pays the price.

Well, not everyone, exactly. And that’s part of the problem…

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Partner meetings should be better. As I discussed in last week’s column, Biglaw firms tend to hold glorified lunches, sprinkled with some generic info-passing, instead of real informative meetings for partners.

It does not have to be that way — even if your Biglaw firm ascribes to a “partners are just our highest-paid employees” ethic. And especially if your firm is serious about involving partners in the firm’s business as much as possible in these days of behemoth Biglaw firms.

What kinds of improvements to partner meetings would I advocate implementing?

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