Perks / Fringe Benefits

We continue our series of posts on the perks / fringe benefits of large law firm life. Today we cover a rather important subject that we have not yet hit. From a tipster:

Operation youre the doctor Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgI really like your series of posts on this topic. As a rising 2L about to enter OCI season, I am curious to know which firms have nice fringe benefits and which ones have cut all possible corners to match market pay.

However, you seem to have left off the grand-daddy of ‘em all: healthcare! I would imagine different firms have different health care and dental benefits.

Now, we weren’t sure this would be that interesting a topic. We’d expect most top firms to have similarly top-shelf health insurance plans. But our tipster provided some anec-data that suggests otherwise:

I heard of one southern California litigatrix leaving one of the L.A. “Big 3″ for another because [of health insurance issues]. She had regular health problems, and the difference in health plans was significant to her well-being.

Very interesting. Maybe we should we all move to Cuba? Michael Moore says the health care over there is faboo.
Please discuss legal employers and their health care benefits, in the comments. Thanks.

Simpson Thacher Bartlett LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe recently started a discussion about maternity leave policies at large law firms. Shortly thereafter, one such firm — Simpson Thacher & Bartlett — made changes to its maternity leave policy.
From a tipster (and confirmed for us by James Cross, co-chair of the firm’s personnel committee):

Simpson just announced a 50% increase in the paid time off for maternity leave (increased from the standard 12 weeks paid to 18 weeks paid portion of the 6 month maternity leave policy) in addition to other family/work/life balance benefits. I know it’s not as exciting and sexy as salary increases, but as quite a few of us women are associates these days, this would make a significant difference to me when selecting a law firm.

Also, since we started the last bump in raises, it may cause a ripple effect in the benefits arena across true top tier law firms. Perhaps even a pre-cursor to another salary bump.

Very nice! We applaud Simpson for taking this step, and encourage other large law firms to follow suit.
Update: On the subject of paternity leave, an STB source tells us: “As far as I know it’s consistent with what is posted on our website for recruiting: 4 weeks paid (and 12 weeks unpaid) paternity leave. I do not believe this has changed.”
Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave

charity helping hands Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgToday’s Biglaw benefit of the day: charitable contributions (matching or otherwise).
Let’s start with the gold standard of perk providers, Kirkland & Ellis. From a tipster:

K&E matches charitable contributions, up to $500 a year, for associates. And for summer associates, too.

You can donate to any nonprofit, not just your law school. I thought that was pretty cool.

Indeed — the flexibility is nice. Wachtell Lipton makes charitable contributions on behalf of its associates, or at least they did when we were there, but these donations would just go to your law school.
(But hey, don’t look a gift-gift horse in the mouth. The donations by WLRK were made in your name, no matching from you required, and they were good-sized: several hundred dollars. Nothing that would embarrass you in the annual list of alumni givers.)
What’s your firm’s approach to charitable contributions? Please share in the comments. Thanks.

camp law firm retreat Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOur series of open threads on the workplace perks provided by large law firms continues. How could it not? The fringe benefits of Biglaw are seemingly unlimited.
Today’s reader request:

Another perk post option: a thread exploring BigLaw firm retreats, and other company-sponsored social events.

We like this idea. We’ve heard of firms holding lavish retreats, both for summer associates and full-time lawyers, in some delightful destinations. In many cases, lawyers can bring their spouses, turning the retreat into a paid mini-vacation.
By way of example, Hogan & Hartson has a retreat for its summer associates at a resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In recent years, Kirkland & Ellis has held a firm retreat for its full-time lawyers at the luxurious Hotel Hershey. Who wouldn’t want to hit the Chocolate Spa, for a “Couples Cocoa Massage” with Pepperdine Law Dean (and K&E Of Counsel) Ken Starr?
In the comments, please describe your fabulous firm retreat, in all of the mouthwatering, travel-porn detail you can muster. Thanks.

opportunity knocks knocking on heaven's door Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.jpgIt’s often said — especially by associates who have nothing to do the whole day, then get an assignment at 5 p.m. that’s due the following morning — that lawyers (read: partners) aren’t very good managers. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, since very few of them are trained in management. This also explains why many top firms have a CEO or CFO — an MBA-type, rather than a lawyer, tasked with overseeing the business aspects of Biglaw (so the lawyers can focus on lawyering).
If you’re an associate with an MBA degree, will law firms compensate you for that additional expertise? One reader is curious:

I was wondering if you could start a thread or do some research about JD/MBA bonuses. I’ve heard, for instance, that Weil gives a $50K bonus plus a year’s credit, while Willkie gives a $40K bonus plus a year’s credit. I’ve also heard that Latham gives a $20K bonus and no credit.

I’m trying to get a better sense of what market is for JD/MBA. I’m also curious about what happens when you clerk (i.e., whether it would be similar to doing a 2 year clerkship and hence a 70K bonus at top firms).

Are these figures correct? Any other thoughts or additional information on this subject? Please share what you know, in the comments.
Here’s a related inquiry, from a second reader:

Please consider opening a perk thread dealing with non-CLE continuing education — that is, firms which will pay for or assist with tuition costs for ongoing educational programs or degrees, such as MBAs.

We tend to doubt there are many firms that will pay for their associates to get business degrees, since firms have little incentive to make their associates even more attractive to investment banks and hedge funds than they already are. But we’re happy to pose the question to our readership. Anyone?
P.S. We already did a perk thread on regular CLE, which you can access here.

She's Having A Baby Maternity Leave Paternity Leave Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgDespite all the Biglaw bitching from unhappy associates, it’s generally agreed that the perks of law firm life are pretty sweet.
We continue our series of posts on the fringe benefits of Biglaw. From a reader:

How about a post on (paid) maternity/paternity leave and part-time schedule policies?

We already did a post on part-time policies. But we’re happy to dedicate this post to discussion of maternity and paternity leave policies.
This idea was seconded by another reader (albeit with reservations):

Eventually you may want to get into maternity/paternity leave policies, but I think the comments on that one may be a little out of control.

We’re guessing this reader was alluding to past commenter infighting, on the subject of parenting responsibilities and high-powered legal careers. See, e.g., the child care post and the part-time status post.
Vigorous debate is great. But this time around, please try to keep things civil. Thanks.

Swiss Miss Swiss Mister Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re by no means done with our series of posts about perks or fringe benefits at legal employers (mainly law firms). Here’s one reader request that we just received:

One perk topic that you could do is free food, snacks, coffee, etc. On those Vault surveys, some firms claim to provide free Starbucks coffee and snacks.

So that’s today’s topic: free food and drink, furnished by your legal employer. And we’re not just talking about how, after a meeting breaks up, an email goes around about which conference room has the uneaten sandwiches — that’s standard.
At Wachtell Lipton, where we once worked, each floor has a kitchen — called “the pantry,” but really it’s a kitchen, with space for a small table and chairs — stocked with drinks and snacks. The snacks include Pepperidge Farm goodies, such as a wide variety of cookies and Goldfish crackers, and fresh fruit (but who eats that). The stainless steel refrigerator is full of bottled water and soda — including Fresca.
Fresca soft drink beverage Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgYou don’t even have to get up out of your Aeron chair to go to the pantry if you don’t want to. The firm employs a small army of matronly women, in black and white uniforms, to bring your favorite hot or cold beverage to you in your office. There’s no need to tell them what you want, unless you’re deviating from your usual order, since they maintain a list of all the attorneys on the floor and their favorite things to drink. And did we mention they have Fresca?
We had some discussion of free food and drink in our post about the summer associate who got no-offered for stealing firm-provided Swiss Miss. But this is the “official” post. So please have at it in the comments. Rising 2Ls going through fall recruiting are dying to know who will keep them well-hydrated and well-fed, as they toil into the wee hours of the morning!
Earlier: X-Summers: The Swiss Mister

sunset fishing sabbatical sabbattical law firm Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe have a law professor friend who’s basically getting this entire year off. With pay. It’s one of the nicest perks in academia, and it’s called a sabbatical.
As it turns out, some law firms offer them too — although they’re not usually quite as grand. They’re more like longer-than-usual vacations (the subject of yesterday’s perk post).
But hey, a perk is a perk. So today’s open thread on a law firm perk or fringe benefit will focus on sabbaticals. Here’s what Perkins Coie does, according to an article last year from CNN/Money:

At this Seattle-based law firm, lawyers with 7 years of tenure, salaried staff with 10 years and non-exempt, hourly staff with 13 years may apply for two months of paid leave to spend any way they wish.

The only two requirements: they can’t work for another company and they have to let the firm know what they’re planning to do and why those activities are meaningful and rejuvenating to them.

Sabbaticals aren’t limited to the biggest of Biglaw, like Perkins Coie or Cadawalader (which, according to Vault, gives you a month-long sabbatical after five years). Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus, which has 300 lawyers over nine offices, has this policy:

After five years with the firm, associates are eligible to take an “associate sabbatical.” The firm provides two weeks paid vacation with two round trip tickets to Europe, Hawaii, or the Caribbean, plus $5,000 spending money. The billable hour target is reduced to 1,775 from 1,850 for the year.

Does your firm offer sabbaticals? If not, do you wish it did? (Okay, dumb question — of course you do.)
Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks.
Sabbatical year [Wikipedia]

vacation Miami South Beach Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgFor our continuing survey of the perks or fringe benefits of large law firm life, we turn our attention to a subject we’ve received multiple requests for: vacation. Here’s a representative email:

Most Biglaw associates get four weeks of vacation. Do most people take much of their vacation time? If so, is it easier to take it in one big block or a few smaller blocks?

In our experience, it depends. When we were at a firm, we usually took a week at a time. But we had one colleague who would work like a madwoman for almost the entire year, then take a three-week jaunt off to some impossibly exotic location.
Here’s another email:

I had always assumed that all firms gave 4 weeks of vacation as standard, but I have learned recently that that is not the case. For example, a friend of mine recently lateraled to [firm X], and discovered when she arrived that they only get 3 weeks vacation. (This was not mentioned in her offer letter!)

Also, at Kirkland & Ellis, first through third years apparently get 3 weeks of vacation, while more senior associates get 4 weeks.

Giving more vacation as you get more senior is how the federal government works. You have to accrue vacation (“annual leave”) before spending it, and your accrual rate goes up as your tenure with the government increases. When you first start, you accrue at a rate of just four hours (or half a day) per two-week pay period. We had a colleague who made the most of this limited leave time by taking many three- or four day weekends.
Vacation has surfaced as a discussion topic in several prior perk threads, but this is the “official” post. So please discuss your employer’s vacation policies — and your strategies for making the most of it — in the comments. Thanks.

We resume our occasional series on the perks or fringe benefits of Biglaw life. Today’s thrilling subject: bar dues. From a reader:

Would you mind including paying for bar dues/section memberships and ABA memberships/section dues in your series on fringe benefits at law firms?

Okay, sure. We don’t know if this will be terribly exciting, since (1) most big firms pay for bar fees and ABA dues, and (2) the sums in question aren’t very large. We have a vague recollection of some top firm — Cleary? — that had a “tradition” of having lawyers pay their own bar fees, but we don’t think that’s the case any longer (and Cleary’s NALP form says they pay bar fees and bar association membership dues).
So we’re not expecting much — but we’re happy to be proven wrong. Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks.

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