Like most days, I started my morning with a Red Bull and the best morning man in the business, Pat Kiernan. Everything was proceeding normally, until I received this tip in the ATL inbox:
Women lawyers at City firm Clifford Chance have been given a £90 lingerie allowance.
Now, as you can well imagine, I don’t normally “spring” into anything — much less action. But within nanoseconds of receiving this information, I fired off a flurry of emails.
It turns out that the story comes from the Guardian – U.K. Here are some additional details about this (lacy?) fringe benefit:
Women lawyers at top City firm Clifford Chance are bucking the trend for reduced expenses now that their £90 lingerie-and-blouse allowance, if they work later than 11pm, has been reinstated. Inevitably dubbed the “90 nicker knicker allowance”, this may or may not be the most reliable indicator yet that the credit crunch is over. (Business is apparently so hectic that the firm has also installed sleeping pods.)
If you “work” later than 11 o’clock, you get to buy new panties? Why didn’t I think of that? More importantly, why didn’t Ben Franklin think of that and put it in the Constitution?
After consulting colleagues in London, a spokesperson for Clifford Chance in New York got back to me about bringing this commitment to sensual excellence to America. Sadly, it turns out that what sounds like one of the greatest Biglaw perks ever is in fact just a pedestrian acknowledgment of basic hygiene.
First they came for the Kleenex. Then they came for the coffee.
All around the country, law firms large and small are cutting costs by revoking perks. Today we heard from an unhappy camper — perhaps deprived of their customary caffeine? — at Foley & Lardner:
I can handle them taking away the Christmas party and giving us a 10% pay cut. But ratcheting up the cost of my soda by 150% is where I draw the line!
From an internal memo that went around this morning:
Vending machine prices – It has been several years since we last changed the price of beverages in the vending machines, yet our costs have increased steadily over those years. In order to bring the prices we charge in line with current costs, the price for soda and water will increase to $.75 and the price for juice will increase to $1.00. The new prices are still well below those found in public vending machines or stores, but will reduce or eliminate the need for the office to subsidize these items.
Frankly, we’re a bit puzzled. Isn’t it in Foley’s business interest to have well-caffeinated associates? Could the associates deprived of discounted Dr. Pepper have a Good Samaritan claim — oh, never mind….
The full memo — apparently there’s no such thing as a free lunch, at least at Foley & Lardner — after the jump.
It has been a tough two weeks for employees at McDermott Will & Emery. First the firm cut the salaries of summer associates. Then MWE fired 72 people.
Today, word came down to all associates and non-attorney personnel that the firm is also cutting benefits. A firm-wide memo explained:
The Firm has evaluated its employee benefit plans and is making changes effective July 1, 2009.
We began our evaluation late last year in response to the deteriorating economy and the fact that changes to employee benefits plans were occurring throughout corporate America. After a thorough review by our benefits consultants, we were informed that our plans were above market and that specific changes, if implemented, would bring our plans more in line with the market.
Right. Who wants to pay an “above market” benefit package?
Remember, McDermott is the firm that canceled aspects of its coffee service. At the point where the firm is looking to save nickels and dimes on coffee, it shouldn’t be surprising that it has found a way to save some money on more important employee benefits.
A tipster reports that the top line changes to MWE’s benefit structure include an increase in some premiums and deductibles, as well as a reduction in the percentage of pharmaceutical costs that are covered by the firm’s health plan. Suddenly, the nationwide health care debate expected to take place in Congress this summer just became much more important to employees at McDermott.
In fairness, MWE isn’t the first firm to go down this path. Last month, Kirkland & Ellis made similar changes to its health care coverage for associates.
Read the full memo after the jump.
Not all firms are cutting back on the perks. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has an enthused article today about the perks to be had at the small Tennessee firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson.
The article, “Legal firm helps its employees find essential balance,” talks about the firm’s AMAZING perks:
Something refreshing for body and soul is happening within the 119-year-old walls that house a venerable Memphis law firm.
Refreshing as a good yoga session. Strengthening as a brisk core-body workout. And uplifting as guest speakers whose work has made Memphis a better place.
Sweet. You can work out at work! And they friggin’ bring in guest speakers at lunch. Wow! Do they have as much free coffee as you can drink too?
If you thought firm life in Memphis couldn’t compare to Biglaw in the big city, think again:
That quest for balance explains why Leah Hillis strolled down the hallways on a recent lunch hour wearing workout clothes for a yoga session.
The associate attorney headed for the firm’s large, third-story storeroom overlooking Court Square… Other exercise classes to strengthen the core-body are Mondays and Fridays in the same unfinished space, which holds files of old cases, surplus furniture and cleaning supplies.
The classes are inexpensive: $4 for yoga and $3 for the core-body sessions.
Only $4 to work out in the storage closet!
If that’s not your cup of tea, you can spend lunch with a guest speaker during one of the firm’s “fireside chats” in the Crump Room. A recent speaker mentioned in the article is a Holocaust survivor. Fun times. Law and life: Legal firm helps its employees find essential balance [Memphis Commercial Appeal]
Law firms are dealing with the Great Recession in many different ways. As we’ve chronicled in these pages, layoffs and salary cuts are commonplace, practically clichéd.
Some firms are cutting costs more creatively. From a source at Kirkland & Ellis:
We just got a memo from K&E about a massive increase in our health care premiums. I’m not happy at all…. By my rough math, my deductible tripled, but the cost increased $100/month. So they’re screwing us two ways. Again, if my math is right.
From a second tipster:
This change effectively reduces associate salaries by approximately $1,000-$2,000 per year, although made under the guise of a change in the health care plan (perhaps in attempt to avoid blog coverage of salary cuts?).
K&E’s health care coverage was already pretty poor compared to other biglaw firms. This change makes their health care for associates (and other employees earning more than $90K) even worse. Also disturbing is that part of the justification for the change is to “bring the amount paid for health care coverage for associates closer to the amount paid by partners of the Firm…..”
My (albeit limited) understanding of health care coverage for partners in partnerships is that by its nature it is always different from the partnerships’ actual employees (i.e., associates)…. Additionally, we all know K&E partners make a ton of money (as evidenced by their high ppp, which have not been reduced). While associates at Kirkland are definitely well compensated, they work brutal hours for that money, and enacting a salary cut in the guise of bringing partners health care cost “in line” with associates seems greedy and ill-advised.
Full memo, in all of its hyper-technical glory, after the jump.
As many of you know, part of the problem firms are facing during these challenging times is that clients won’t pay their bills. Lawyers can’t get paid unless clients pay.
Whether or not clients are willing or able to pay, it certainly won’t happen unless they are billed. Hence, as most associates already know, the days of delinquent time entry are at an end.
But Fried Frank is taking it to a whole new level. Instead of making sure your time is up to date every month or every couple of weeks, Fried Frank wants attorneys to accurately close out their time every single day. This is from a firm-wide memo that went out last week:
The importance of accurately billing and recording time – both from an economic and an ethical standpoint – cannot be overemphasized. Accuracy is essential both for the Firm and its clients. To ensure accuracy, it is Firm policy that attorney time must be entered and released on a daily basis. This memorandum covers the Firm’s current client billing policies and guidelines.
Most of Fried Frank’s billing policy is pretty standard and common sense stuff (you can download the full policy after the jump). But there are some significant changes.
We’ve been providing extensive coverage of the economic troubles of Biglaw. But what about smaller firms in smaller markets? An ATL reader from a 35-attorney firm in St. Paul, Minnesota wrote to us about perk cuts in SmallLaw:
As of December, my firm no longer provides Kleenex. So now, when I am crying my bitter tears of disappointment about my career path, I am reduced to tearing out pages from various books in my office. I started with the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It seemed somehow appropriate.
Even stranger? They actually raised our technology stipend this year, but cut the Kleenex.
We suspect Weil attorneys would sacrifice their Kleenex to get their tech stipend back.
Impressed by the tipster’s wit, we wrote a note of thanks, including an inquiry as to whether bathroom supplies were still pro bono.
There has been some concern regarding the toilet paper, but I think management is fearful enough of potential poo-flinging incidents that they wouldn’t dare tighten the purse strings that tightly.
For Biglaw technophiles, one of the nicest firm perks is the technology stipend: a couple of thousand dollars to lavish on a new shiny toy. With the BlackBerry Curve 8900 debuting to rave reviews, and rumors in the tech world of a new iPhone on the horizon, there are lots of toys to get worked up about these days.
Alas, associates at Weil, Gotshal & Manges will not be taking part in the tech spending frenzy. One associate reports that their stipend fell victim to economic pressures last week:
They eliminated our $2K tech stipend for first and second years ($4K for the first two years). It was a bit strange, though, because anyone who had used their $2K before today gets reimbursed. So if you bought a laptop yesterday, you get a laptop. Otherwise, no laptop for you!
Congratulations to all Weil associates who placed their laptop orders in the first two weeks of January.
Tech toys are not the only perk being reversed. The associate tells us that the partner mentoring budget was cut as well.
What’s the latest perk erosion at your firm? Feel free to discuss in the comments or to send us a tip.
Last January, we did an ATL / Lateral Link survey on how often you cancelled your social plans because of work.
Notably, we found that “[a]round forty percent of associates missed dates,” usually because a partner asked them to finish something at the last minute.
But now that the economy has collapsed slowed down, some employees are beginning to get their lives back. Yesterday, even as Kash was updating us on an avalanche of salary freezes in Big Law, Gizmodo was praising at least one company that’s trying to heat things up overseas:
This just in: Canon is the world’s greatest camera manufacturer. And it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their actual cameras.
In response to Japan’s aging population and Japanese couples’ propensity to have too few children to maintain the country’s population, Canon called off the traditional 12-hour workday twice a week, encouraging their employees to go home early and make mini Canon employees of their own.
CNN chimed in that, even though this (pro)creative office perk meant missing out on overtime twice a week, employees were psyched:
“It’s great that we can go home early and not feel ashamed,” said employee Miwa Iwasaki.
To my knowledge, Big Law has not yet adopted a go-home-and-make-babies policy (although parentalleave policies have certainly improved). But Lateral Link CEO Michael Allen tells me that “several firms encourage interoffice dating, and wrt marriage actually give a bonus, i.e., like $10,000 if you marry within the firm.”
If that’s true, then it definitely adds a different flavor to some of the questions Marin’s been taking lately on inter-office romance, like this one last fall:
I’ve just been staffed on a relatively long term project with another associate. She and I went on one date a few months ago and hooked up, but that was it because she is batsh*t crazy. Since then she’s sent me a bunch of “let’s get lunch” emails and has “coincidentally” appeared at happy hour drinks when I’m out with people from the firm. I think this person is unstable and I don’t want to put myself in a position to be sabotaged by her. But I don’t want to appear like I’m rejecting work or that I’m not a “team player.” I also don’t want to make it known that I dated a co-worker. Any advice?
So, today let’s update last January’s survey to ask not only whether you were able to be social and be a lawyer at the same time, but also find out whether your firms (or you) support inter-office productivity, as it were.
Yesterday, I mentioned that Fortune released a list of the Top 100 places to work. In that post I failed to note that Perkins Coie was ranked 82nd on that list.
According to Fortune:
A support staffer gave this impressive list of her benefits: $2,000 in technology flex plan allowance, $80 for wellness program participation, $475 for 20th anniversary with firm, $1,500 performance bonus, $50 Nordstrom gift card, $3,500 year-end bonus.
Well, tipsters report that Perkins Coie management is pumped about the news. Check out the firm-wide email and fun tipster responses after the jump.
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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