Perks / Fringe Benefits

It feels a little bit weird to talk (and bitch) about the high-end lifestyle enjoyed Biglaw associates on Veterans Day. We’re all very thankful for the people who risk their lives to keep us safe, secure, and free.

Okay, random moment of conscience over. Where are the goddamn bonuses?

The first Biglaw bonus memo still hasn’t dropped — when it does, please email us at [email protected] or text us at 646-820-TIPS, ASAP — but we do have associate benefits news. Yesterday, Proskauer Rose told its associates that they would all be getting a free iPad and a desktop PC. Or a free laptop with a docking station. And candy floss. And free Rock Band 3 peripherals.

Okay, I made the last two items up, but you get the point. We don’t know what Proskauer’s cash bonus will be, but we do know that Proskauer associates won’t have to spend it on fancy gadgets…

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The iPad: much cooler than a Crackberry.

The recession is officially over, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But don’t just take NBER’s word for it; there are other signs, too.

Like the return of law firm perks. Sources report that Edelson McGuire — a Chicago-based boutique with some high-profile clients, like Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich — is giving away iPads to everyone at the firm. The lucky recipients include attorneys, administrative staff, and even some law students who are working for the firm part-time.

This is not ordinary behavior — the trend among law firms is still to roll back perks, not to expand them — but Edelson McGuire isn’t an ordinary firm. How many firms have conference room tables that convert to ping-pong tables? Or have a neat firm website, where each attorney profile contains such fun facts as daily coffee consumption, favorite time of day to work, and “pre-court ritual”?

Is giving away iPads a new law firm trend? Edelson McGuire isn’t the first firm to do this in 2010….

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'And then I told him I'd file a motion to compel his a**....'

It’s important to think about — and not just think about, but save for — your retirement. This is especially true now that Social Security is looking less than alluring. (When I see that money taken out of my paycheck, I just kiss it goodbye, forever.)

When it comes to providing for associates and other employees, most large law firms take a fairly straightforward approach: they offer 401(k) accounts, but no matching employer contributions. One of the few Biglaw firms that provided a match, K&L Gates, stopped that policy back in 2007.

With respect to retirement provisions for partners, there’s more variation from firm to firm. Some shops provide for retired partners in very generous fashion. For example, retired partners at Wachtell Lipton can receive annual seven-figure payouts for many years after leaving the firm (although sources at my former firm tell me some of this money represents a return of capital to the retired partners, and as such will vary from partner to partner).

A million-dollar retirement benefit is no doubt very pleasing. But at other firms, aging partners are less content with their arrangements….

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If you’re a gay employee and have a domestic partner who receives health benefits through your employer, you have to pay more in federal income tax — about $1,000 a year, on average. This is because federal law, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, the feds treat employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners as a form of taxable income (if the partner is not considered a dependent).

(Note, however, that this could change. A federal judge in Boston recently struck down part of DOMA. Stay tuned to find out what happens on appeal.)

Earlier this month, we wrote about a perk that Google extends to its gay employees who find themselves in this situation. As reported by the New York Times, Google “essentially [covers] those costs, putting same-sex couples on an even footing with heterosexual employees whose spouses and families receive health benefits.” Google makes an extra payment to gay employees to make up for the increased tax burden — a perk that we dubbed “Google’s gay gross-up.”

We asked you, our readers, if any legal employers also offer this benefit. As it turns out, several do.

Find out which employers provide this perk — and vote in a poll on its fairness, which was hotly debated in the comments to our prior post — after the jump.

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It’s good to be gay at Google — or a “Gaygler,” as they call themselves. And not just because the company sometimes has a float in the San Francisco Pride parade.

The New York Times recently reported:

[Last] Thursday, Google [began] covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.

“It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,” said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of “Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.”

Why do gay and lesbian employees pay more in taxes to begin with?

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Welcome to the next in our series on the results of the 2010 ATL/Career Center Associate Satisfaction survey.  We’ve used the survey results to revamp the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link, with completely updated profiles and each week, we are highlighting insider information that Members shared about their firms in the eight key areas of associate satisfaction covered by the Career Center.  Today, what’s in it for you – Benefits.  

  • This West Coast firm, specializing in representing high tech and life sciences clients, offers its associates the opportunity to participate in an investment partnership fund that invests in select clients.
  • This Midwestern firm, known for its work for Major League Baseball, lacks an on-site cafeteria or gym but makes up for it with "on-site massage and yoga classes."
  • This firm, known for its strong IP and technology practices, keeps its associates satisfied (calorie-wise) with bi-weekly attorney lunches, monthly "wine-and-cheese" hours, free soda, and "free pizza and beer every other Friday" in select offices. 
  • Associates at this New York-based firm, well-known for its bankruptcy and restructuring, litigation and private equity practices, receive a $750 annual subsidy to cover gym membership fees.  

More fun perks — perhaps your firm should adopt them? — after the jump.

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In a move that can best be described as cheap, Latham & Watkins joins a growing list of firms that will not allow associates to accrue vacation time. Why would a firm deny its associates the opportunity to get paid out for unused vacation days when they leave the firm (voluntarily or involuntarily)? Because it saves them money, of course.

I suppose Latham could have put it this way: “We’ll no longer honor accrued vacation time because we don’t want to be on the hook for extra paychecks after we s***can you.” But where’s the fun in that? Instead Latham tried to sell associates on the idea that its change in vacation policy would allow associates to take unlimited vacation days.

Latham associates weren’t fooled by the memo. Check it out and see if you would have fallen under the spell of spin …

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Most Biglaw New York lawyers would die of malnutrition without SeamlessWeb. Malnutrition, people! Because nobody has time to run down 50 floors to grab a bite to eat after hours.

Given the recession, charging 6:30 steak dinners to clients is no longer cool. But Schulte Roth & Zabel could be taking its anti-Seamless policy a bit too far. Here’s the email Schulte attorneys received last night:

The Firm cafeteria goes to great lengths to provide menu choices that reflect your preferences, and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve those offerings and keep the cafeteria operating as efficiently as possible. Attorneys and legal assistants working in the office on a client-related matter past 7:30 p.m. are encouraged to patronize Café 23, which is open for dinner Monday through Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Beginning April 5th, 2010, you will not be able to place orders through SeamlessWeb until 8:30 p.m. on weekday evenings.

We recognize that this change will cause some of you to rethink your dining options and, to that end, we ask you to let us know what types of food you would like the cafeteria to provide at dinnertime and then give Café 23 a try. Please email your comments and suggestions to [Redacted], Director of Food Services. Thank you.

Screwing around with SeamlessWeb is one sure way to piss off everybody that works for you. And boy are Schulte associates pissed …

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Akerman logo.JPGWe previously reported on Ropes & Gray hoarding Tamiflu for its employees. Reaction was mixed. Some people applauded Ropes looking out for the health of their employees and their families; others feared that Ropes was unwittingly contributing to a drug-resistant strain of the H1N1 virus.
But there are many ways to prevent an outbreak of piggy pestilence at a law firm near you. One of the most, dare I say rational, measures is to make sure that people who are sick aren’t coming into work.
That’s what they are doing at Akerman Senterfitt. The Washington Post reports (gavel bang: ABA Journal) that the firm is allowing people with the sickness to take time off of work, without counting it against their allotted leave time:

When Great Falls resident Carolyn Cuppernull’s 10-year-old daughter came down with swine flu, she didn’t have to take time off work to stay home with her.
Cuppernull is senior marketing manager of the Washington office of the law firm Akerman Senterfitt. Under the group’s former policy, she would have had to use paid leave to stay home if she or a relative got sick. But the firm recently updated its rules to allow employees to stay home with full pay — without using leave time — for H1N1-related absences.

Now that’s a way to make sure your office doesn’t suffer a swine flu outbreak without potentially contributing to the mutation of a global super virus.
Of course, there is a downside.

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New York University Law School NYU Law School Above the Law.JPGThe competition between NYU Law and Columbia Law is always fierce — even when it is a race to the penny-pinching bottom. Two weeks ago, we told you that Columbia is now charging students for plastic forks (though chopsticks remain free).
Not to be outdone, a disgruntled NYU Law tipster reports:

So I’m in my last year at NYU Law and just had a fairly shocking experience…. I went to the lounge to get a cup for water from the water fountain. I grabbed a cup and walked away, and the cashier yelled at me. I thought she thought I was stealing a cup of coffee, so I told her I just wanted water. She said “that’s 25 cents.” I said “no, I just want water.” She said “I know,that’ll be 25 cents. We have to pay for those cups.” The worst part? It was a cup from Starbucks with the “we proudly serve Starbucks coffee” logo on the side.

Indignation from our tipster, plus a clarification about Columbia cutlery, after the jump.

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