Perks / Fringe Benefits

I got a raise when I had my baby, which was a very nice gesture from the Breaking Media CEO. It was also the only way I could keep working here. You see, child care costs are such in this city that before my raise I would have saved money by quitting my job and taking care of the baby full time, instead of having to pay somebody to look after him while I’m at work. Now, I’m a little bit past the break-even point, so I take what they pay me, give it to my creditors and my child’s nanny (we can only afford to have her for 30 hours a week, but I’ve gotten much better at typing with one hand, as I’m doing right now), and have a little bit left over to buy liquor and ad-free porn (err… typing practice). My wife’s salary handles all the rest — trivial items such as “rent” and “food.”

So yeah, I pretty much write every day just because I love spending time with you guys [weeping softly].

It turns out, I’m not alone. An article in the New York Times details the child-care squeeze on middle-class families. We’re not talking about “working poor” families who have always struggled with child care costs while Republicans berate them for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. The article focuses on mothers with good jobs, professors and lawyers, who can’t really afford to pay someone to take care of their brood.

I suppose it’s not really a “Biglaw” problem. If you have one of those jobs, you can probably afford child care, or (more likely) afford for your spouse not to work. But if you don’t cash in with Biglaw, you’d probably settle for having your kids raised by wolves if the wolves came cheap….

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For those AUSAs taking the plunge into Biglaw because they orgasm over having a “former federal prosecutor” handling their “white collar” work, my advice is call me when you realize you’re merely reading compliance documents and walking corporate executives over to your old office to give proffers. For now, you can stop reading here.

Leaving government work to “open your own shop” is a unique proposition. If you’re leaving Biglaw, your main concern is not making what you’re making now. If you’re “going solo” right out of law school, you’re worried about making any money at all.

Leaving government service is leaving a guaranteed salary, the precious “benefits,” and if you’ve been there for a good amount of years, a level of comfort not found in small law firms (with the exception of the federal public defenders who have fallen victim to the sequester and deserve better). The main reason people leave government is the perception that there is more money in the private sector. That was mostly true before the economy tanked. Now it’s not so certain, and it’s something you need to consider before cashing out on your accrued vacation and sick time…

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When a Biglaw firm drops out of the Am Law 200 and starts hemorrhaging attorneys, you know that things are starting to turn sour. Much like the partners who fled Dewey & LeBoeuf like rats from a sinking ship, a mass attorney exodus is just a sign of other unfortunate events to come.

If a firm’s not careful, one of the first assets to go underwater will be retirement benefits for both current and former employees. That’s when the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation swoops in to rescue severely underfunded plans from certain doom at the hands of Biglaw firms experiencing financial woes.

Which law firm turned to the government for help this time, and how underfunded was its pension plan — was it short by $9 million or $39 million?

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It doesn’t have to be this way.

If someone asks you whether they should go to law school, here is a very safe response: “Sure, provided that you get into a top law school and can go for free.” Even the biggest critics of legal education would admit that, assuming you want to be a lawyer, going for free to an elite law school is not a bad idea. See, e.g., Professor Paul Campos, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link).

How can this be achieved? It’s not impossible. As we’ve mentioned before, more than 10 percent of law students graduate with zero debt, and another 5 percent or so graduate with less than $20,000 in student loans. Some of these students receive generous scholarships from their schools; others have savings or come from well-to-do families.

But there are other options. For example, does your employer offer tuition reimbursement?

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This strikes me as the kind of situation in which a guy can’t bother to actually be a partner to his wife, so he buys her an expensive bauble and expects her to shut up about it.

A Harvard Law professor is asking whether or not female associates would welcome their law firms covering the price to have their eggs frozen for later use. Egg freezing is expensive, and many insurance plans don’t cover it. So law firms could incentivize female associates to devote themselves fully to their careers during their best child-producing years, without those associates “losing” their ability to have a family later on.

Yeah, as if it’s significantly easier to raise a family when you are a partner…

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He’s smiling because he has long forgotten that night at the printers.

Folks often overlook the value of a good 401k plan. But in Biglaw, a good 401k plan is essential because lost in the cocktail of a good salary, crippling debt, and 5-Hour-Energy-fueled document reviews is the fact that you need to start planning for retirement now. Look, there’s a couple ways this legal career is going to go: you can become rich and not even need to care, or more likely you’ll eventually end up as a permanent associate, government lawyer, low-level in-house functionary, academic, temp attorney, or worse, blogger.

The point is you need to set up your road to retirement while you’re still rolling in Benjamins and ordering Seamless at 3 a.m.

Thankfully, someone has gone to the trouble of ranking 401k plans offered by law firms. Without further ado, let’s see those rankings!

Well… I guess the further ado of clicking through to see the full story….

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When it comes to the employee benefit known as “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits” (aka the “gay gross-up”), maybe the pertinent question should be which firms don’t offer it. Since our recent write-up, we’ve heard about more leading law firms that offer this perk, taking the total number of firms that have it to more than 40. (The new firms are mentioned below.)

So let’s move on to the next front, which we also alluded to in our prior post: adoption and surrogacy-related benefits. They’re not nearly as common as tax equalization for same-sex health benefits, but a handful of firms appear to offer them.

Let’s find out which ones, shall we?

UPDATE (2/8/2013, 1:00 AM): A noteworthy update about the legal status of surrogacy, after the jump.

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(Plus an update on the gay gross-up.)

In the world of sports, the figure of coach has taken on near-mythological status. Some coaches — such as the late Joe Paterno, before his fall from grace — are treated like gods, due to their legendary leadership and inspiration abilities.

What about in the world of Biglaw? Well, it’s catching on there too. An increasing number of law firms are making career coaches, including on-site coaches, available to their attorneys.

What’s behind this trend? And is it one worth celebrating? We share some survey results, as well as comments from a former associate who worked with a career coach….

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It has been a long time since our last listing of the major law firms that offer the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)

As we’ve explained before, this benefit is necessary because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Let’s hope that this benefit is no longer necessary in the near future. This Term, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of DOMA (assuming they don’t dodge the issue on jurisdictional grounds). If SCOTUS goes the way of the lower courts, DOMA will go down, and the gay gross-up won’t be needed.

In the meantime, though, the benefit is needed. Let’s take a look at which firms should be added to our list….

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I think we can say that the notion of spring bonuses is officially dead. It’s already June, and the summer solstice is right around the corner. The lockstep Biglaw firms are just not going to be paying spring bonuses this year.

But spring/summer tips are still alive and well. When Sullivan & Cromwell announced its spring bonuses, I wrote, “This isn’t a bonus, it’s a tip.” S&C paid its associates between $1,000 and $5,000 this spring, a sum that is really a tip when you are a Biglaw Manhattan attorney.

Now Skadden is getting into the tip-giving game. The partners there are digging deep into their pockets and coming up with some loose change to dispense to their associates. If you work really hard at Skadden, you might just get a gift card! (Hey, it’s more than what Cravath is doing.)

So how much are we talking about?

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