Please think for a second before you hit “send” and launch your next e-mail.
There are actually a bunch of things you should think about before sending your next e-mail, but today I’ll rant about just one: the “subject” line.
My rant comes in three parts.
First, the “subject” line has the potential to be helpful. At a minimum, an intelligent subject line can get my mind in gear for the information that I’m about to read, and perhaps can give me some sense of the urgency of your communication. At a maximum, an intelligent subject line can convey an entire message.
So use the thing! Please don’t send me e-mails with subject lines that are entirely blank. You’ve missed an opportunity to make communication easier, and you’ve forced me to pop open your e-mail to learn what you’re writing about. Put a few words in the subject line, to tell me what’s coming.
Second, please remember who I am and who you are. If you work at Kirkland & Ellis, it wouldn’t be too helpful to receive many e-mails with subject lines that read “Kirkland & Ellis.” That subject line wouldn’t distinguish one e-mail message from the other. You are Kirkland & Ellis; you don’t need to be told that every e-mail is about Kirkland & Ellis….
The end of the year was a pretty interesting time for partners at K&L Gates. Our sources report that right before the close of the year, the partners received a blistering message from Peter Kalis, the managing partner of the firm. Just 24 hours later, K&L Gates partners received an email from Kalis that was full of appreciation for the firm’s great 2010.
The two emails aren’t exactly contradictory in substance. But when it comes to tone, let’s just remember that partners have bosses too…
Here at Above the Law, we’re trying to help you. We write about lawyers who do embarrassing things so that you can learn from their examples. Heck, you should get ethics CLE credit for reading this site.
One of our most widely-used lessons — now part of new employee training at a Wall Street firm, in fact — is the cautionary tale of Acela Bob. Pillsbury Winthrop partner Robert Robbins conducted what should have been a confidential conversation about impending layoffs at his firm — in a loud voice, using his cellphone bluetooth, on a crowded Acela train. An ATL reader heard the whole thing and tipped us off; we wrote it up. Shortly thereafter, Pillsbury — which had not yet admitted to any layoffs — confessed that cuts were coming (and “apologize[d] for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public”).
Here’s one lawyer who apparently never heard about Acela Bob, or perhaps forgot the story: James J. Kirk (no relation to Captain James T. Kirk).
If you thought that obsessing about money and feeling underpaid and underappreciated when it comes to your compensation stops once you become a Biglaw partner, think again. Am Law Daily reports on a new study done by Major Lindsey & Africa. The study shows that 61% of partners think they should be paid more.
To which I say, yay (or “Huzzah” if you prefer). Welcome, Biglaw partners. For too long you have talked in the shadows, wondering how your pay stacked up to that of your peers, hoping to somehow find a way to maximize your earning potential. We know your struggles: mortgages, private schools, alimony or divorce settlements (for the unluckiest among you) — it all adds up. You’re working just as hard as you’ve ever worked, dealing with the pressure that can only come from having final responsibility over a project or an entire client strategy. And there’s always the expectation to bring in business, keep business, and generate new business, even during a down economy.
You put in all that time and effort for a take-home pay that shames you when you talk to your friends in finance and business. It’s not right, is it? So welcome, welcome, this is a safe place. Your financial desires commingled with your sense of entitlement will find friends here…
I like what Steven Harper’s doing these days. After 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis, he retired from the fray, and he now comments on big law firms from an outsider’s perspective, at The Belly of the Beast. Although Harper’s critiques are often cutting, I think they reflect his underlying concern, not animosity, about law firm life.
But, to my eye, Harper recently missed a trick. In a recent column at the AmLaw Daily, Harper speculated that big law firms may prefer lockstep compensation to merit-based systems because merit-based reviews require partners to invest nonbillable time thinking carefully about associate performance. There’s no incentive for partners to invest that nonbillable time, says Harper, so firms settle for lockstep — and firms thus delay giving meaningful (and ultimately helpful) guidance to associates.
I think it’s worse than that. I think there’s actually an invidious incentive for partners at large firms to mislead associates about their performance. Why?
Being married to a Paul Weiss partner is nice; getting divorced from a Paul Weiss partner is even nicer. Thanks to the prestigious firm’s eye-popping profits, getting divorced from a PW partner should give you a seven-figure payday (assuming the Paul Weiss partner has been a partner for a while and is the “monied spouse” — a pretty safe assumption, unless you work at, say, Goldman Sachs).
But when you get that gigantic payment — like winning the lottery, but without all the taxes — can you feel confident in its finality? Or do you have to worry that your ex-spouse, a partner at a firm known for its aggressive and brilliant lawyering, will find a clever way to get some of that money back from you, years later?
Consider the tale of Steven Simkin, a Paul Weiss partner of almost three decades, and his ex-wife Laura Blank, who works in education. It involves a multimillion-dollar marital estate, residential properties in Manhattan and the tony suburb of Scarsdale, and an investment account with one Bernie Madoff.
And yes, for your voyeuristic pleasure, the tale comes with hard numbers, lots of numbers…
Also, in case you missed them because of the holiday break, be sure to check out his recent posts on in-house compensation and bonuses.
First, a story. Then, my point.
(If I promise a point at the end, maybe you’ll persevere through the story.)
When I was a partner at a large law firm, sending out bills, I took the job seriously. I sat in a coffee shop one Sunday afternoon each month and went through every !*@!! time entry in every bill to be sure that (1) I could understand what task the lawyer had performed and (2) the time spent was not disproportionate to the work performed. Only then would I approve the bill.
Editing bills is like torture. In fact, strike the “like.” This is torture. At the end of three or four hours of editing bills, you’re ready to jam toothpicks into your eyes. So I took a lesson from Tom Sawyer and whitewashing fences: I conned my teenage son into thinking that editing bills was a very important job. He bit! (Other than falling for this, the kid is actually pretty smart.) During Jeremy’s sophomore through senior years of high school, he and I did some father-son bonding on the third Sunday of every month at the local coffee shop. I bought the kid a caramel frappuccino (“venti” if we were doing north of 500 grand in bills; otherwise, grande; always with whipped cream). He took half the stack of bills; I took the other half; we edited. (Stay calm. I didn’t charge clients even for my own time spent doing this, let alone the kid’s. This was on the up and up.)
We hope you’ve enjoyed following our series on Top Partners to Work For, as we’ve made our way around the country highlighting the law firm partners who are not only great at what they do, but are also great to work for. As we mentioned earlier, this survey is now closed — but we’ll run it again in the future, so keep an eye out for it.
Earlier this month, we introduced six Chicago partners for whom associates enjoy working. Today we wrap up our coverage by leaving you with top partners who shine in the legal markets of Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, New Jersey, and even Hong Kong. Although some of these markets may be smaller, the firms are some of the biggest and best in the profession: Fish & Richardson, Ropes & Gray, Goodwin Procter, Jones Day, Brooks Kushman, Skadden, and Drinker Biddle.
Let’s take one last look at the partners who made the list….
As we head into the home stretch of our Top Partners to Work For series, we want to thank all of our readers who submitted such glowing partner nominations. If you work for an outstanding partner whom you think should be included on the list, we will be accepting new nominations in another survey in a few months.
Over the past three weeks, we highlighted the best partners to work for in New York; Washington, D.C.; and California. Our round-up wouldn’t be complete without a stopover in the Windy City, before moving on to some of the smaller legal markets to close the series.
CHECK YOU EMAIL — for some happy bonus news. On Friday, litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel announced its 2010 bonus schedule. And it was good.
It’s a little more complex than the standard bonus scale at a lockstep firm. As in years past, Quinn Emanuel bonuses reflect a combination of seniority and hours worked. But one associate provides this concise summary: “Quinn matches Cravath, plus hours increments of $5K at each hour state, plus additional 50% paid in June 2011. So this raises the bar.”
Says a second source at QE: “I’m relatively pleased. So many people are billing so many hours here (we’re swimming in work) that these bonuses will be very substantial. The reason for the June payout is pretty clearly that the firm is try to retain some associates. Our turnover is massive. Anyway, enjoy!”
So, in essence, Quinn is paying 150 percent of the widely adopted Cravath bonus scale, subject to two caveats: (1) there’s an hours requirement of 2100 hours to get the Cravath-level bonus, and (2) the additional 50 percent payment will be paid in June 2011, to associates in good standing and on pace with their hours at that time. (Think of the June payment as a retention bonus of sorts.)
Let’s take a look at the memo, which contains the fine print (such as treatment of pro bono hours), and which also mentions modest bonuses for class of 2010 members — a nice touch, considering that the “stub-year bonus” is a rare thing these days….
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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