Public Interest

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGHere’s a bit of surprising good news, from a source at Simpson Thacher:

Thought that STB should get its props for the (completely unexpected) notice that those on the public service fellowships will receive a pro-rated portion of the bonus that their individual class years received. Not bad, considering that normally not being employed at the firm by bonus day means no bonus.

This does seem like a pleasant surprise — especially since we now know that Simpson initially didn’t budget for bonuses for younger classes. We looked back at the terms of the public interest fellowship program at Simpson for mention of prorated bonuses for participating associates, and we found none.

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law firm swag treasure chest.jpgOur inaugural Law Firm Swag Contest was about quality rather than quantity. We had just four entries, but they were goodies.
Eschewing trinkets and baubles, K&L Gates took the high road, urging recruits to change their world through an innovative website. Perkins Coie went green, arranging for trees to be planted in honor of interviewees. And who doesn’t like a customized iPod, the swag doled out by Dobrowski LLP, the Texas litigation boutique?
But in the end, dear readers, you voted with your feet. Following in the footsteps of the “Sex and the City” gals, or maybe Imelda Marcos, you made it all about the shoes. The customized Nike footwear doled out by Mayer Brown scored a runaway victory, with over 55 percent of the 2,100 votes.
Props to the person in the Mayer recruiting office who came up with the brilliant idea for this Niketown summer associate event. If you’re looking for new running shoes — or, for that matter, the opportunity to do appellate litigation in New York — then sprint in the direction of Mayer Brown!
Earlier: Law Firm Swag Contest: The Finalists
ATL Contest: Best Law Firm Swag of 2009

law firm swag treasure chest.jpgPerhaps it’s a sign of the times. We received a whopping four (4) entries in our inaugural law firm swag contest. Is law firm swag, like subsidized soda or staff attorney programs, another casualty of the recession?
But if we cancel the contest, then the terrorists win. So, onward!
We realize, of course, that not everyone approves of swag. See, e.g., this comment:

This is fairly disgusting…. I find this article particularly untimely, given that most law students are struggling to find good jobs, and many practicing attorneys are struggling just to keep the jobs they have.

Jeez, commenter 58 — lighten up! Considering that we cover law firm layoffs in excruciating detail, to the point where many accuse us of doomsaying and fearmongering, we are aware of the tough job market. But, even in the Great Recession, some people are still getting offers — along with a little swag to sweeten the pot. So what’s wrong with some fun to balance out the gloom?
In defense of law firm schwag, here’s a trend worth noting: “going green.” Firms are trying to be environmentally conscious in their swag selections, as well as more socially responsible in general. This may make schwag less “disgusting” to its critics.
A second theme of swag this year: customization. In this age of individualism and/or narcissism, firms are letting swag recipients have a say in what gets given away. Just as firms are moving away from lockstep in terms of pay and promotion, so too are they allowing for greater tailoring in terms of swag.
Check out the finalists, and vote for the best law firm swag, after the jump.

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world college rankings.JPGDoes your alma mater contribute to the social good? Or is it just another soul-sucking institution, hell-bent on training young people to do evil things like “make money” or become lawyers?
Well, Washington Monthly has released its annual rankings of colleges and universities. But the magazine ranks the schools by their “contributions to society.” Here is the magazine’s methodology, from Tax Prof Blog:

Community Service (33.3%)
* % of Alumni in Peace Corps
* % of Students in Army/Navy ROTC
* % of Work-Study Grants Spent on Community Service Projects
Research (33.3%)
* Research Expenditures
* % of Students Earning Ph.Ds
* Number of Science & Engineering Ph.Ds Awarded
* % of Faculty Receiving Prestigious Awards
* % of Faculty in National Academies
Social Mobility (33.3%)
* % of Students Receiving Pell Grants
* Actual Graduation Rate v. Predicted Graduation Rate

Oh dear. Where to begin? First off, the community service metric is FUBAR. The army counts; but students who become, say, firefighters, are left out? Meanwhile, surely not all research expenditures contribute to society. And if all research does, then schools should get credit for graduates who go on to work for Merck.
It would physically hurt my brain to break down the myriad problems with their “social mobility” metric.
But … whatever, their bleeding hearts are in the right place. Check out the top ten and the bottom ten universities, after the jump.

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Ted Frank.jpgSome class action settlements are highly questionable. Think of a case where, say, the victimized consumers get a stupid coupon, so they can purchase even more goods or services from the company that victimized them — while the lawyers representing the plaintiffs walk away with a big payday.
One man is out to change all that. Ted Frank — lawyer and blogger extraordinaire, from Overlawyered and Point of Law (and also Above the Law) — has left his perch as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He’s starting a new public interest law firm that specializes in pro bono representation of consumers unhappy with class action settlements. Ted is already handling two class actions in California.
We caught up with Ted to discuss his new gig. Read more, after the jump.

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Jason Pinney Jason S Pinney Bingham McCutchen.jpgWe like to highlight examples of Biglaw associates who get to do especially interesting or high-profile work. E.g., Lindsay Harrison, the Jenner & Block associate who argued a case — and won — before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Most lawyers tuned in to Congress yesterday were listening to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings (even if day 4 was less than thrilling). But over on the House side, one young lawyer was talking rather than listening. Jason Pinney (pictured), a (rather handsome) sixth-year associate at Bingham McCutchen, got to testify before lawmakers.
Pinney addressed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, specifically, the Subcommittee on International Organization, Human Rights and Oversight. He spoke about his work as part of a Bingham legal team representing a group of Uighurs detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Bingham lawyers obtained the release of two Uighurs in 2006 and four more Uighurs last month.
(As explained by the AP, “[t]he Uighurs, a Turkic minority from China’s far west, were sent to the U.S. facility in Cuba after their capture in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. The Pentagon determined last year that they were not enemy combatants.” Oops!)
Congrats to the Bingham lawyers on their successful representation of their clients — and to Pinney on his congressional testimony. To download a copy of the testimony, click here.
Today in Congress: July 16, 2009 [Washington Post]
Lawmakers want investigation into Uighurs at Gitmo [AP]
Jason S. Pinney [Bingham McCutchen]
Pinney Testimony [PDF]

above the law logo.JPGWe’ve received countless requests for shout-outs from worthy non-profit organizations that are seeking deferred associates and/or associates on leave from their law firms (pursuant to such programs as Skadden’s Sidebar program, Dewey’s DL Pursuits, etc.). Alas, due to the sheer number of these requests, we can’t mention them all on the main ATL homepage (which would be transformed from a blog into a bulletin board if we were to do so).
To treat these requests in a fair and consistent manner, we direct every public interest organization with a need for such help to post in our Community section, where readers can create posts on topics of their choosing (subject to moderation). The Community section is also where you can post information about charitable benefits and other events.
Update / Note: At the current time, only registered users can create Community posts — mere “guests” do not have this capability. So if you’d like to start a Community thread, please register as a site user.
Check out the Community section for yourself, and peruse the non-profit opportunities posted here, by clicking here. Additional opportunities also appear in the Resources section of the Career Center.
If you’d like the greater visibility of appearing on the ATL homepage, please consider advertising. In addition to full-scale banner campaigns and Sponsored Content, we now offer Quicklistings — an eminently affordable option, at $250 each. Thanks!
P.S. If you are a for-profit organization or have commercial goods or services to offer, please do not post in the Community section. Instead, please contact us about advertising on Above the Law. Postings of a commercial nature in the Community section will be removed. Thanks again.

Will Work for Food 3 Above the Law blog.JPGOn Monday, we mentioned some of the difficulties deferred associates face when looking for the right public interest job. Today, AmLaw has an interesting piece on just how difficult it is for firms and law schools to find appropriate placements for 3Ls who will not be able to start with their firms in the fall:

Law firm are structuring their programs with differing requirements, covered costs, and degrees of involvement in the nonprofit job search. The deferrals themselves are required at some firms, including Morgan, Lewis & Bockius–the firm will bring its 2009 first years onboard in October, 2010. White & Case has announced delayed start dates into 2010 for 60 percent of its 2009 hires. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Latham & Watkins have announced an optional fall 2010 start date.

One of the most interesting aspects to this story is that we are seeing that “Biglaw” is not a monolithic collection of law firms. Each firm is different in ways that go far beyond normal law student concerns like “prestige” and “firm culture.”

Health insurance costs are a big concern, as Delany points out. The matter isn’t so simple, given that deferred lawyers technically are not yet employees of the firm, so coverage cannot be extended to these individuals. (Sidley Austin, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlet have existing nonprofit and fellowship programs that cover health insurance or COBRA benefits payments for the lawyers in these programs–the firms recently have announced that they will open up these fellowships to incoming first-year associates).

After the jump, it’s time for law school career services to earn their paychecks.

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Skadden logo.JPGIs there not enough to go around, even at Skadden? Maybe so. The firm just sent around an internal email announcing the expansion of the firm’s “Sidebar” program. For the uninitiated, a tipster describes the Sidebar program:

Sidebar allows attorneys to take extended time from the Firm to pursue personal interests while maintaining a connection to the Firm.

Spending an extended period of time away from the firm? That sounds about right in today’s market. The firm-wide memo explains the reasoning behind expanding Sidebar:

In response to the current economic climate and the decreased demand for legal services, we are offering a supplement to our existing Sidebar program. During this period of diminished development opportunities, the program affords associates and counsel in US offices in good-standing the ability to pursue personal or professional interests for a one-year period with the option to return to the Firm at the end of that period. We are also offering a similar program to our class of 2009 incoming associates who may wish to defer their arrival until the fall of 2010.

After the jump, we look at what Skadden is offering to entice associates to take themselves out of the game for a year:

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SimpsonThacher.gifHow should law firms respond to the recession? As reflected in the dramatic events of yesterday, which will go down in Biglaw history as the Valentine’s Day Massacre of 2009, lawyer layoffs are a common route.

But there are other options. We recently wrote about how unemployed (or underemployed) lawyers can do pro bono work — a way of enhancing their skills, while serving the public. Now one leading law firm is taking this idea and running with it.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett recently announced a new program of public interest fellowships for their associates. From the memo:

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is pleased to announce a Public Service Fellowship Program which offers associates the opportunity to spend one year working on a public service project of their choosing, supported by a stipend from the Firm, with the option to return to the firm at the Fellowship’s conclusion. The Fellowship Program is designed to enable associates to provide greatly needed assistance, on a full-time basis, to organizations, communities, or individuals in the United States or abroad; encourage associates’ commitment to public service; and advance associates’ own vision of social justice.

One associate is pleased and proud:

I think it’s a creative, win-win solution for the firm, as well as for those of us — meaning, anyone with a paycheck and a pulse — who live in dread of layoffs. The firm saves $100k+ a year and doesn’t have either the spectre of layoffs or gaps in its associate classes when business turns around. It also sends a strong, morale-boosting signal to the associates that the firm is looking to do all it can to avoid laying off attorneys — and is actually willing to spend money to that effect (while, of course, also saving a good deal of money).

The reference to saving money while spending money refers to the stipend. Fellowship recipients receive a lump-sum stipend of $60,000, paid in advance. Yes, this is an upfront expenditure for the firm; but it’s less than the going rate for a first-, second-, or third-year associate.

More details, plus the full memo, after the jump.

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