The economy must be heating up, because lawyers are leaving their jobs to do all kinds of crazy things. I mean, maybe the legal economy is still crappy, since these people aren’t leaving for other legal jobs. But there must be a general sense of optimism if all of these people have decided to just “walk the Earth,” as it were.
The spinning of the revolving door at the beleaguered Howrey law firm is making our heads spin here at Above the Law. Keeping track of all the partner departures is becoming quite the challenge. We’ve collected some links about the latest partner defections, after the jump.
At this rate, it’s not clear how many lawyers will be left for “rescue” by white knight Winston & Strawn. (Protip: check the armor for bedbugs.)
Here’s some new (but hardly surprising) information: Howrey has canceled its summer program. Yes, the famous Howrey Bootcamp, touted by the firm as “[f]ar more intense and rewarding than traditional summer associate programs,” and offering “an entirely unique approach to associate recruitment and training.”
Bootcamp participants received intensive litigation training — and inspirational poetry from firm CEO Robert Ruyak, which we share with you below….
As we’ve been trying to tell people, paying associates less than a $160K starting salary is just not something that Biglaw firms should be doing. Everybody got very excited in 2009 when they thought that there was an opportunity to keep profits high by squeezing entry level associates, but it turns out that pay cuts were a short-sighted move. The vast majority of the Am Law 100 firms never left the $160K scale. The few who did are slowly coming back to the light.
Such is the case with Sheppard Mullin. A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Sheppard was still mucking around in the non-competitive $145K range. Today we’ve received word that Sheppard is doing the right thing by its junior associates and restoring the $160,000 starting salary…
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.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!