Skaddenfreude

When plotting the escape from Biglaw, many associates set their sights on entertainment law. In their Hollywood dreaming, they imagine mingling with the hottest actors, actresses and producers as they write up contracts and negotiate movie and music deals.

We know that many a recruiter is dangling this prospect in front of desperate young lawyers looking for jobs. But the actual entry into entertainment law is not terribly easy, and once you get there, it’s not always so sexy as you might imagine.

One lawyer in Atlanta lived the show biz law dream, though. Cliff Lovette worked in-house for a record company, and then founded his own entertainment law firm. He used to represent some of music’s hottest acts, with Usher and Lisa “LeftEye” Lopes among his clients. He was a regular at the Grammys. He was the subject of magazine feature stories. His law group even had its own MySpace page.

But Lovette is not lovin’ it anymore. Now, the Emory Law grad is on food stamps…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “(Down and Out) Lawyer of the Day: Cliff Lovette”

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAt the beginning of 2009, we were tracking salary freezes as law firms across the country froze their salaries at 2008 levels, rather than instituting lockstep raises based on seniority. Our most recent salary freeze round-up was in February. (We also acknowledged those that had raises as normal.)
Since then though, the salary freeze watch has been replaced by the salary cut watch. Rather than keeping salaries at 2008 levels, some firms are cutting back to 1998 levels.
Okay, not really. Salaries aren’t quite in line with the days of Ally McBeal, but some pay stubs are starting to resemble those of 2005.
So what about those firms that instituted “slurpee freezes” back in January? These firms said they were keeping salaries at 2008 levels, but that they planned to revisit the decision later in the year. It was assumed at the time that they would be revisiting in order to raise salaries, but that has not been the case.
If your firm hasn’t “revisited” the decision, that might be a good thing. None of those with slurpee freezes decided to raise salaries, though quite a few cut them. Specifics after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Update: Slurpees Still on Ice (or Poured Out)”

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom new.jpgThe dreaded swine flu, aka the H1N1 virus, made it to Mayer Brown last week. Will it now work its way up the Am Law 100?
This afternoon, via Fashionista (last paragraph), we learned that swine flu has hit the hallowed halls of Vogue. And we all know who shares a fancy building with Vogue and Conde Nast: Skadden Arps.
In the past, Skadden employees have expressed disappointment over not sharing elevators with Vogue’s glamorous hotties. Perhaps now the Skaddenites are thanking their lucky stars — or wishing they had taken Sidebar.

Nixon Peabody logo.JPGWhen we reported on the salary cuts at Nixon Peabody, we mentioned that the firm would allow associates to make up some of the money come bonus time. Here’s how the firm explained the opportunity:

With our new levels of base pay in place, we will be introducing a bonus program that offers the potential of up to 30% of base pay based on firm and individual performance. We believe this innovative pay structure will reward our highest performing associates while lowering total compensation for those who perform at lower levels.

We’ve gotten a look at Nixon’s proposed “up to 30%” bonus structure. This hasn’t been finalized, but here is what is going around the office:
Nixon Peabody proposed bonus structure.jpg
Let’s break this down, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nixon Peabody’s Proposed Bonus Structure”

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAnother month, another round of freeze announcements. Here are the latest firms to announce the withholding of class year raises in 2009:

  • Baker & McKenzie (“Slurpee” freeze– will be revisited on June 30)
  • Cooley Godward
  • Patton Boggs
  • Seyfarth Shaw

    Jenner & Block is not freezing salaries, but it is giving smaller raises to New York associates. The salary scale will no longer match the market in New York, reports one ATL reader:

    Jenner & Block just announced that they are not matching NY market for salaries. Instead, they are going to pay equal salaries across their offices, meaning their NY office associates will make at least $10k less than other associates at tier one firms in NY. From what I hear, people are pretty angry, particularly because a) Jenner also does not cover bar fees or court admission fees (as nearly all other firms do, particularly in NY); b) Jenner does not count all pro bono hours one-for-one with billable hours towards their 2000 hour requirement (unlike many firms); and c) Jenner’s profits went up last year.

    Since Jenner is essentially doing a salary raise cut (rather than a freeze), it has avoided being added to our list of firms that have frozen. To see Cooley’s 2009 salary levels, Seyfarth’s freeze memo, and the growing list of firms that are keeping 2009 salaries at 2008 levels, you have to jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The February Freeze Round-up: New Firms on Ice (and smaller raises at Jenner & Block NYC)”

  • law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgIndividualized memos have been issued to Skadden Arps associates to inform them of their 2008 bonuses and 2009 base salaries. The Skadden base salaries reflect the customary annual pay raises — sorry, Lathamites.

    Because Skadden’s announced bonuses this year are so much higher than the Cravath-established market level, folks at other firms have wondered: Are the Skadden bonuses for real?

    The short answer: yes. To quote the famous Seinfeld episode, “they’re real — and they’re spectacular.”

    We’ve surveyed Skadden associates from a variety of class years, from 2008 through 2001. The scale we’ve pieced together looks like this (i.e., like last year’s year-end or regular bonus schedule, but without the “special” bonus amounts):

    Class of 2008 — $35,000 (prorated)
    Class of 2007 — $35,000
    Class of 2006 — $40,000
    Class of 2005 — $45,000
    Class of 2004 — $50,000
    Class of 2003 — $55,000
    Class of 2002 — $60,000
    Class of 2001 — $65,000

    The bonus schedule is, of course, subject to the 1600-hour minimum. That’s not an onerous burden, and pro bono hours count towards the minimum, in unlimited amounts. If you fall short of the 1600-hour minimum, you may still be eligible for a 50 percent bonus — aka a “half-Skadden” bonus.

    After the rest of the New York market settled around the Cravath bonus levels, some wondered: Do the Skadden partners feel like chumps?

    Find out, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Skadden Memos Are Out”

    Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgMaybe Latham & Watkins was never into this whole “____ to $160K” thing to begin with. When Latham finally raised salaries across the board back in May 2007, we reported:

    Well, it appears that Latham has been shamed into giving into the “hysteria” surrounding associate comp.

    As we’ve discussed, Latham’s associate salary freeze essentially cancels out the pay raise from 2007. Whether you call it a salary freeze or a pay cut, Latham chairman Robert Dell is calling it sound business. The Blog of the Legal Times reported this quote from the chairman earlier today:

    We are modifying associate compensation as part of a prudent business strategy in the face of challenging economic times. All associates moving to the next class year on January 1, 2009 will continue to receive the same base compensation as they received in 2008. We are confident that our business strategy, our diverse practices and our strong global platform will serve our clients and our firm well as we all face the challenges of a difficult business environment in 2009.

    More discussion, including a salary chart that Lat prepared to show just how bad L&W associates must be feeling today, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Latham & Watkins Salary Shenanigans Follow-Up”

    economy freezes over.JPGIf you liked your 2008 salary, you’re going to love your 2009 salary. Latham & Watkins just sent around this email about 2009 associate compensation:

    The world economy is experiencing unforeseen and unprecedented dislocations. Our clients are feeling those impacts and the legal community is not immune. The Executive Committee has spent the last few weeks discussing these critical issues in the context of planning for 2009. While we anticipate that the diversity of our practices and global reach will serve us well in the year to come, it seems clear that the global economy will continue to be challenged at least through 2009. As a result, we are modifying associate compensation as part of a prudent business strategy.

    Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgEffective January 1, 2009, associates moving to the next class year will continue to receive the same base compensation as they received in 2008. Please do not hesitate to contact your local Associates Committee members if you have any questions about the resulting salary scales.

    We expect as a general matter to continue to reward outstanding performances through our merit-based bonus pool. As in previous years, we will announce bonuses in late January.

    We are confident that by continuing to work together we will be well positioned to succeed in the face of the economic challenges that lie ahead. We thank each of you for your many contributions to the firm.

    Freezing salaries is now part of the “market.” The latest associate pay raise is effectively being undone.

    After the jump, what was that about bonuses?

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Freeze Watch: Latham & Watkins”

    S&C logo.jpgI think I speak for many ATL readers and Biglaw followers when I ask: when the heck is S&C going to announce its 2008 associate bonuses?

    Because the delay is getting ridiculous. It’s December 15th. All of S&C’s peer New York firms have announced already, except for Weil — and historically speaking we can’t expect Weil to move before S&C. S&C has always been a market leader on this matter. What gives?

    One tipster puts the extent of S&C’s delay in stark relief:

    S&C normally pays our bonus along with our December paycheck. Today, however, my December paycheck posted to my account, but no bonus along with it. Still no announcement from them regarding the change, so this is rather surprising.

    It now seems likely that S&C won’t pay a dime of the 2008 associate bonus in 2008. That’s annoying. Essentially, the conversation over at S&C seems to be going like this:

    S&C: I got a threshold. I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a f**** race car, right, and you got me the red. I’m just saying that it’s f*#^@! dangerous to have a race car in the red. That’s all. I could blow.

    ATL COMMUNITY: Oh! You ready to blow?

    S&C: Yeah, I’m ready to blow.

    ATL COMMUNITY: Well, I’m a mushroom cloud laying mother$^&er, mother@%^&er. Every time [I open my inbox and don't see a fair compensation message], I’m Superfly T.N.T., I’m the Guns of the Navarone!

    Get with the program S&C.

    Happy Monday.

    Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of associate bonuses.

    law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgDebevoise & Plimpton has been very busy and very profitable. They recently sent around a positive internal email about the firm’s business during the downturn. And we know that the Siemens case has treated them well.

    But in 2008, public protestations of solid business mean nothing when it comes to associate compensation. Debevoise announced that they were paying half of what Skadden is offering:

    2008: $17,500 (pro-rated)

    2007: $17,500
    2006: $20,000
    2005: $22,500
    2004: $25,000
    2003: $27,500
    2002: $30,000
    2001 (and senior): $32,500

    The numbers — while annoying — are not really that surprising. Schulte Roth, housed in the same building, earlier today announced the same scale (although subject to an hours requirement). Even our Debevoise sources anticipated that, with Siemens winding down, the firm would be more forward-looking with this round of bonuses.

    What is surprising is the timing of this bonus announcement. The email went out from managing partner Rick Evans at 6:54 p.m. WTF (“Sacré bleu” in Debevoise-speak)? Was management hoping to dodge the news cycle with an after-hours announcement? Somebody should let them know that the internets are on 24/7.

    Our hearts go out to the Debevoise associates that were still working when this announcement crashed into their inboxes. Professionalism is its own reward. All Skadden associates are getting this Christmas is twice the money.

    Read the full memo after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Debevoise Announces Bonuses at 6:54 p.m. (Did they think nobody would notice?)”

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