Despite 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.
We’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.
You 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
We 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.
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]
For 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.
A CLE allowance of five grand sounds pretty great. Is our tipster correct about this? And is any other firm similarly generous?
P.S. CLE is on our mind because we just paid our New York bar dues (and filled out our CLE certification). We still keep up with our CLE requirements, ’cause you never know. And we’ll be scooping up some CLE credits on Friday and Saturday, when we’ll be covering the 2007 ACS National Convention here in DC. Marsha Marsha Marsha!!! Update: Yeah, we know we aren’t required to stay current with our New York CLE. But doing so gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, that’s all.
Our series about fringe benefits / perks rolls on. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that has surfaced previously, but hasn’t received a dedicated post of its own: flextime and telecommuting.
We’ll kick things off with an interesting article that’s all about, well, some firms’ LACK of flexibility when it comes to arrival times:
Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw recently asked securitization associates in its New York City office to be at their desks by 10 a.m. Actually, 9:30 a.m. would be even better, says that office’s partner-in-charge, Brian Trust.
According to the request, which took the form of a memo, some partners and, surprisingly, “several associates” were concerned that their colleagues were physically absent during “normal business hours.”
Not so surprising was the reaction the memo got when it ultimately made its way to legal news Web sites and blogs. “When you stop giving us assignments at 6 p.m. that require us to be there until midnight because you’re totally disorganized, we’ll come in at 9 a.m. or whenever you want,” fumed one writer who posted on the Wall Street Journal’s blog. “Other than that, shut your trap, collect your quarterly profits and let us handle our business.”
When we worked at McDonald’s years ago, we had to punch in and punch out. But Mayer Brown isn’t exactly Mickey D’s.
Discussion continues after the jump.
Working in the legal profession, and especially at a large law firm, generally comes with a lot of fringe benefits. So our series of posts on Biglaw perks is by no means complete.
Here’s the perk that we’ll discuss today: office art (or a decorating budget). If you’re going to spend thousands of billable hours a year in that space, shouldn’t it be beautiful?
When we were at a firm, if you asked the office manager, you’d be taken to a special art closet. It was full of random items that were deemed unsuitable for other spaces within the firm — e.g., hallways, conference rooms, partner offices — but were there for the taking by associates. We selected this weird orange-brown-white composition, a painting that looked a lot like a collage. It had a certain “so bad it’s good” quality to it.
Other firms will give you a budget for decorating your digs. We hear, for example, that Kirkland & Ellis gives associates something like $300 $350 for art and office decor. A source tells us: “People use it to frame their diplomas and bar admission certificates. It’s nice.”
So, what does your employer do for you on this front? Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks. Update: To read about law firm art collections (as opposed to art in associate offices), see here. “A Robe Called Paul Weiss” [WSJ Law Blog]
We continue our series of perk posts. Today we cover a perk that we expect will generate some heated discussion: part-time status.
From a reader:
In keeping with your recent series of posts regarding law firm perks, I thought I would suggest a thread on the availability of part time options. This isn’t exactly a perk, but some real info might be appreciated by those law students and attorneys who want to have a career and family. It’s especially timely in connection with this recent article.
I can tell you that I was at Cadwalader and saw part time people being treated like utter crap; they worked their tails off and still got treated with contempt by the partnership, and even worse, by senior associates and of counsel who no longer gave them good work. I can also say that, per the article, 9 hours a day in the office doesn’t exactly seem like part time (who can’t bill the cited 1900 hours per year at 9 hours a day in the office, plus extras at home?).
More discussion, plus links to a few recent articles about working part-time, after the jump.
Although located uncomfortably close to the site of yesterday’s steam pipe explosion, Davis Polk & Wardwell has some of the nicest offices around. When we were in law school, Davis was known as “Land of the Beautiful People.” They had the most gorgeous offices, and the best-looking associates (and summer associates).
DPW also seems to have great — or at least distinctive and unique — perks. First we heard about their marriage bonus. And now, in the wake of yesterday’s calamity, we get this news:
I am an associate at Davis Polk, a few blocks from the explosion in midtown [yesterday] afternoon. We were evacuated and I took the firm-provided emergency kit as I left. No real news from the evacuation but here is something that came up as I was walking home.
A friend from White and Case was having a drink at a nearby bar and I stopped on my way home. She saw my emergency kit and asked what it was. I said “you know the emergency kit that all the firms give you on your first day.” Well, needless to say she was pissed that White and Case has no such kit!
I think this would be another fun “perks” thread. So kicking it off, the Davis Polk kit has a flashlight, glow stick, emergency blanket, battery powered radio. But the real kicker is that we have this hood that you can wear in a smoke-filled room and still breathe for about a half hour.
So if a “dirty bomb” goes off in New York City someday (God forbid), bet on the Davis Polksters to emerge alive. Along with a few Milberg Weiss partners cockroaches. Update: From our original DPW source:
“By the way, forgot to mention that besides the f’ing awesome smoke hood, the safety kit also has potassium iodide tablets to prevent radiation poisoning.”
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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.
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