The heady days of the “mutual assured destruction” approach to associate compensation by Biglaw firms are behind us. But some associates would still like to see how they are doing in comparison to their colleagues at other firms. A tipster recently wrote us:
Can you do a post requesting commenters to post grade schedules a la greedyassociates back in the day showing salary per year. This would make comparisons easier. I’ll start:
1st year 145K
then it gets vague with a range from 240-265K.
Some of this information is available in the firm profiles on the Above the Law Career Center. But as good greedy Sheppard-ite must know, comparing salaries is much more complicated these days due to some firms instituting merit-based compensation models.
WilmerHale is one of those firms. Yesterday, Wilmer released its projected salary structure for 2011. We’ll see if it’s a merit-based market leader…
It’s pretty tough being a first-year associate these days. You’re working hard, you’re terrified of getting Lathamed, and you can’t even complain, because everybody thinks you should be grateful to have a job.
But at least you don’t have to deal with bright and unbroken summer associates, rolling through your office with smoke billowing up their asses at every point. The recession has taken its toll on summer associate programs too.
At Sheppard Mullin, however, summer associates are actually making more money (per paycheck) than first-year associates. In fact, the summers are even making more than some second-year associates.
Here we are. The end of the Vault 100.
To be on the Vault 100 is to be a well-known firm. Sure, maybe not well-known to law students or junior associates who can’t see past the mountain of doc review boxes in their windowless conference rooms. But known to partners … and clients. Look down your nose at these firms if you wish, but remember the old African proverb: “The smallest elephant can still crush your Lexus.”
Here is the final batch of top law firms for discussion:
The executive director of Sheppard Mullin sent out an email to the Los Angeles office yesterday with the following subject: “Copycat Urinater.” Here’s an excerpt:
A few weeks ago, someone urinated on the floor and two of the toilet seats in women’s room on the 43rd Floor. I reviewed the security tapes and interviewed those entering the restroom over the two hour stretch preceding the first report of the incident. Unfortunately, each person interviewed recalled seeing the mess but simply elected to use a clean toilet and did not report what they had seen. This is not the first time something like this has happened in a Sheppard Mullin women’s room. We had similar problem on the 41st Floor some time ago. Due to the vigilance of the ladies on 41, the perpetrator was identified and corrective active taken. That person is no longer with the Firm.
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Toilet seat sprayers at Sheppard Mullin.
Sheppard executive director Robert Zuber is third in command, according to this firm facts page. Apparently, potty puddle investigations fall within an ED’s job responsibilities.
More discussion, plus the full email from Zuber, after the jump.
* Marc Dreier will plead guilty on May 11. Defense attorney Gerald Shargel said he “wants to enter the plea to demonstrate his acceptance of responsibility and his profound remorse.” Or maybe it’s just because he ran out of money to pay Shargel. [Forbes]
* Forget the office attire debate over suit vs. blazer and skirt suit vs. pant suit. Mexico City attorneys are sporting surgical masks. (And midtown Manhattan firms, watch out. There’s been an outbreak at Ernst & Young’s Times Square office. Okay, not an outbreak. One case. But we feel a strange journalistic urge to fan the flames of panic.) [National Law Journal]
* Is it just us or do the media seem gleeful about the fact that summer associates will actually have to work hard this summer? [Forbes]
* Alleged Craigslist killer and BU med student Philip Markoff could afford a $1,400 luxury one-bedroom in Quincy, but can’t afford an attorney. [Boston Globe]
* Maybe Markoff should burglarize some cars in order to fence stolen property to pay his lawyer. That’s what this Wisconsin teen tried to do. [United Press International]
* No more getting freaky in Chicago. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan demands that Craigslist take down its erotic services section. Like other state AGs, she is doing it in response to the Craigslist killings, but the legal issue is that people are getting freaky for money, and that Craigslist is not donating the profits to charity. [Los Angeles Times]
Sheppard Mullin could have gone the full “stealth” layoff route. The firm has been laying off people incrementally over the past couple of months for a variety of reasons: some performance based, others because of the economy. The firm could have left former employees confused and current employees frightened about what is going on at the firm.
But this evening the firm decided to come clean and present the information in a reasonable and straight forward manner. In response to an inquiry from Above the Law, the firm released this statement:
At yesterday’s meeting of the Sheppard Mullin Associates’ Forum, firm management announced that by the end of this week about 25 attorneys firmwide will have been let go since the beginning of the year. Some of these terminations were performance-related; others were true “lay-offs,” done in order to adjust professional staff levels in practice groups whose level of business has been adversely affected by the economic downturn.
The terminations have been carried out incrementally over the last two months, because firm management has very carefully assessed each associate’s performance in the context of the level of work projected for the associate’s practice group.
As we said a long time ago, there are attorneys out there who would have been fired during any economy. But given the current economic climate, there are a lot of people being let go that would have been able to hang on if times were better.
With this statement, Sheppard Mullin is at least replacing a lot of speculation with solid facts.
Good luck to the 25 people let go — regardless of the reason. The economy can’t stay this terrible forever.
As we noted in yesterday’s Morning Docket, even the New York Times has taken note of the salary freeze trend at law firms. The Times reached out to Above The Law’s own David Lat for the story:
Although many associates are angry about the freezes, others are relieved, said David Lat, founding editor of AboveTheLaw.com, a blog about law firms and the profession.
“There is this sense that firms didn’t act prudently during the boom and now they are getting religion, and that it’s better late than never,” Mr. Lat said. “Many associates we have spoken to think the freeze probably saved jobs.”
At the beginning of the month, we did a round-up of firms that have frozen 2009 salary rates at 2008 levels. That list was 16 firms long. Since then, quite a few other firms have announced freezes. Due to frequent requests, we’re updating the round-up list since the number of firms with freezes (that we know of) has more than doubled, to 33 32. Check out the as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it list, after the jump.
The new year is shaping up to be a cold one. As we noted in our 2008 Year in Review series, one of the biggest stories heading into 2009 has been that of the salary freeze. Rather than instituting lock-step raises for associates entering a new class year, a number of firms have informed associates that their salaries will remain at 2008 levels.
There have been two types of freezes: the “Solid Ice freeze”–with salaries frozen through all of 2009–and the “Slurpee freeze”–where firms are sticking with 2008 levels for now, but promise to revisit the decision later in the year.
Many an ATL reader has requested a round-up, and we aim to please. So find your pleasure, after the jump. Some of the firms have been reported on before, and some are new.
If you know of other frozen firms, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, “Salary Freeze: FIRM NAME.” Also, if your firm has raised salaries as expected, feel free to send us the news, with the subject “Salary Raise: FIRM NAME.” While freezes are news, raises as expected aren’t, so we will not be covering firm by firm, but we may do a round-up.
Find the list of the sixteen firms that have frozen, after the jump.
A few bonus announcements trickled in over the holidays. Here’s a round-up of recent bonus announcements that have not yet been covered in these pages. If you have new news, e-mail us at email@example.com.
1. Sheppard Mullin (New York): Sheppard Mullin is paying above market rate for attorneys who racked up the hours this year. Baseline hours are 2000 in New York (and 2100 outside of New York, see below). Bonuses range from $20,000 to $70,000, plus discretionary bonuses of $20,000 to $50,000. Reaction at the firm, after the jump.
2. Sheppard Mullin (outside New York): Associates in California and D.C. had to rack up a few more hours than their NY brethren to qualify for bonuses, with 2,100 as their baseline. And their lockstep bonuses for additional hours are not as generous. Details after the jump.
3. Akin Gump (outside New York): We posted on the New York market/ half-Skadden bonuses for Akin New York associates, announced on New Year’s Eve. Associates outside of New York received an e-mail saying that “merit bonuses” will be given based on “productivity, quality of work and Firm citizenship.” Check out the e-mail, and news of a freeze watch there, after the jump.
4. Linklaters (all U.S. offices): This Magic Circle firm announced bonuses and salary increases for U.S. associates right before Christmas. The London-based firm is following Cravath’s lead, paying half-Skadden bonuses to all U.S. associates, with no hours requirement. The firm will have normal class-year raises. Per our tipster, “the firm had a good first half, including in NY, so a Latham-style salary freeze would have been pretty shocking.”
5. Arnold & Porter (New York): Associates outside of New York got individualized bonus memos last week. New Yorkers got their bonus announcement on Jan. 2. Per our tipster, “the scale was as expected, the half-Skadden, which is significantly less than the bonus in non-NY offices, but at least is “market,” unlike our salaries.” Our tipster says the first A&P paycheck of the year remains at 2008 levels.
Another day, another firm, another salary freeze. The latest is from Sheppard Mullin:
We feel it is critical to rigorously control expenses during these times. As part of our management of expenses, we have decided to “freeze” Associate compensation for 2009. This means your base compensation will be the same as in 2008. Special Counsel and Senior Attorney compensation will also be frozen, with minor exceptions.
A tipster reports a calm over at Sheppard that is very Zen:
Yes. Sheppard is freezing salaries. I’m not thrilled about it, but it is consistent with Sheppard’s conservative style. We had an hour and a half Associate Issues conference call to discuss it … Sheppard will re-evaluate the policy every quarter and Management suggested that Associates who make their hours (1950 or so) will probably also get an end of the year bonus to make up for any lost salary.
I’m sure associates would prefer to get that “suggestion” in writing, but so long as all remains quiet on the layoff front nobody is complaining.
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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