Skaddenfreude

Here’s an open thread request we’ve received from multiple sources. A representative message:

I’m trying to gather more info about firms / offices that pay NYC salary + NYC bonus in secondary markets. For example, I believe that Weil and Skadden both do in Dallas and Houston, but none of the other firms in Texas do. I don’t know if you’ve done a post about this before, but I think it might be interesting, because $205K goes really far in TX.

Skadden Wilmington is another possible example.

That’s correct about Skadden in Wilmington. Another well-paying secondary market: Charlotte. A CLT tipster tells us: “Mayer Brown, Dechert, Dewey, and Cadwalader have all increased salaries to $160K here in Charlotte.”
Hold on a sec — Cadwalader? Didn’t they just lay off 35 lawyers, including some in Charlotte?
Yes, they did — but they also raised salaries for the survivors. More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Diamonds in the Rough: Open Thread on Offices in Secondary Markets That Pay the Full $160K Scale
(And a digression on Cadwalader in Charlotte)”

Martin Luther King Jr Day MLK Day On Day Off Above the Law blog.jpgIn last month’s ATL / Lateral Link survey we asked you which holidays you worked on, or expected to work on, during 2007. About half of you reported that you had worked on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Last week, we asked you how you fared this year. Did you take the day off to honor a champion of civil rights, or did you make it a “day on”?
We received just under 1,300 responses, and 44% of you reported that you took the day off. Associates in New York, Los Angeles and Boston were most likely to celebrate the holiday, while associates in Chicago, Atlanta, the Bay Area, and Texas were most likely to be working. (Respondents in the Bay Area were also most likely to work over Christmas and New Year’s. Is it time for them to get New York bonuses?)
How did it break down on a firm by firm basis? DLA Piper, Milbank, Sidley & Austin, Dechert, Hunton & Williams, Jones Day, Latham, Mayer Brown, McDermott, Hughes Hubbard, McGuire Woods, Morgan Lewis, Nixon Peabody, Paul Hastings, and Sullivan & Cromwell each had multiple happy associates who reported that they had taken the day off. Kirkland & Ellis, Baker Botts, Dewey & LeBoeuf, O’Melveny & Myers, Weil, and Winston & Strawn each had mixed responses. Associates at Skadden, however, uniformly reported that they had worked the holiday, as Martin Luther King Jr. day is a “floating” holiday for the firm.
Of those who spent the day at the office, about 54% reported that they weren’t actually asked to work the holiday, but had things they needed to get done. About a quarter reported that their offices were open. Another quarter said that partners told them to work on the holiday. About 8% were asked to work by clients. A surprising number of respondents wrote in that other associates had told them to work on the holiday.
A little over a third of respondents who worked on the holiday thought that the work did not justify the sacrifice.

Hillary Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton banner Above the Law blog.jpgAn article for the McClatchy newspapers, evaluating the truth of Senator Hillary Clinton’s claim of “35 years of change,” has some interesting background about her legal career at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas.
It does suggest, for those of you interested in political careers, that you might not want to cool your heels too long in Biglaw. It just doesn’t lend itself well to rosy campaign-trail bios. If you do spend a lot of time at a firm, be sure to engage in lots of pro bono work. From the article:

Clinton spent the bulk of her career — 15 of those 35 years — at one of Arkansas’ most prestigious corporate law firms, where she represented big companies and served on corporate boards.

Neither she nor her surrogates, however, ever mention that on the campaign trail. Her campaign Web site biography devotes six paragraphs to her pro bono legal work for the poor but sums up the bulk of her experience in one sentence: “She also continued her legal career as a partner in a law firm.”

Here’s what we found most interesting:

Clinton did receive a smaller salary than most other Rose partners, topping out at about $200,000, in part because of her outside activities, according to several biographies.

So don’t count Hillary Clinton among the ranks of seven-figure law firm partners. She’s closer to an underpaid junior partner than a partner at Wachtell or Cravath.
But don’t shed tears for HRC either. If you look at her partner pay in the context of Arkansas’s legal market and low cost of living, and if you adjust it for the passage of time (Sen. Clinton practiced law many years ago), $200K looks better and better.
Clinton’s ’35 years of change’ omits most of her career [McClatchy]

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to get to the bottom of the bonus situation at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. We’ve heard all sorts of conflicting rumors, but we think we’ve finally figured things out — to the extent that they can be figured out. This post supersedes all prior coverage of CWT bonuses.
In Litigation, we think that bonuses were fairly straightforward. This is our understanding, on very good authority:

1. 1900 hours and above = full, market-level, year-end and special bonus.

2. Between 1850 and 1900 = 75 percent of the regular year-end bonus, but NO special bonus.

3. Below 1850 = nothing, nada, zilch. Unless you were a first-year from the class of 2006 (first full year at CWT), in which case you got 50 percent of a year-end bonus.

4. For purposes of calculating hours, only client billable, pro bono, and “pre-approved” marketing hours counted. Other marketing hours, and recruiting hours, were NOT counted.

Read more — including a dramatic epic narrative from a CWT associate, describing how the firm epically mishandled the bonus situation — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Getting to the Bottom of the Cadwalader Mystery”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgToday brings us bonus and salary news from DLA Piper, the biggest of all Biglaws. Back in November, the firm was crowned by the National Law Journal as the nation’s largest law firm (with a whopping 3,623 attorneys).
DLA Piper may be the biggest — but not when it comes to bonuses. From a disgruntled tipster:

It’s official: no special bonuses for DLA Piper’s New York office. But first year associates in our secondary offices got raise to a $160,000 start. I attach the chart. [Ed. note: It's after the jump.]

The firm did it in a very slimy way with no official announcement, just individual notices of bonuses. Pretty funny after last year’s heralded promises to stay with the New York market… I guess Frank and Lee thought: “never mind.”

So was DLA Piper managing expectations when it issued a somewhat gloomy email earlier in the month? From a few weeks ago (around January 8):

I’m an associate at DLA Piper and we got a firmwide email discussing the firm’s 2007 finances and applauding us all on a job well done. They exceeded expectations and last year’s totals. However, the email closes with this paragraph:

“While we are pleased with the results for 2007, we approach 2008 with caution, given the uncertain economic outlook. We intend to be conservative in both our budgeting for 2008 and in our financial management.”

It may be nothing… but I feel like they are bracing us for something, whether it’s crappy bonuses or no pay increase. Good times!

Today’s bonus and salary memo, plus the firm-wide salary chart, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: DLA Piper”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgA little follow-up on Kaye Scholer, whose bonus memo we posted back in November. From a source at the firm:

Just found out that despite the memo sent to associates last year, Kaye Scholer has decided to tie the special bonus to hours. Requiring 2200 hours to receive the special bonus.

There was no mention of this hours requirement in the original memo. Of course, it was designed to appear that Kaye Scholer was paying market when they had no intention of doing so.

But in fairness to the firm, they did leave themselves with some wiggle room, stating that special bonuses would be paid on a “discretionary” basis. It just seems that 2200 was the magic number required to trigger the exercise of said discretion.
Some associates aren’t happy about how that requirement was communicated (or not communicated, as the case may be). One associate claims that managing partner Barry Wilner, at a meeting held last year to discuss the bonus situation, did not disclose that 2200 hours would be the cutoff. As a result, “[a]ll the associates had to go on were rumors, which caused many associates to scramble at the last minute to achieve what they thought would be a sufficient amount of hours…. I’m not so much concerned about the amounts involved as much as I am concerned about the lack of information that floats through this firm.”
Two other bizarre bits of news about Kaye Scholer — involving “a giant Care Bear” and a roller derby queen named “She Raw,” which would seem to take the firm to Venable-level heights of weirdness — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Kaye Scholer Bonus Follow-Up
(And Other Random Tidbits About the Firm)”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgHere are a few quick updates on the associate bonus front:
1. Wilson Sonsini: On Monday night, the firm issued a long and complicated memo, which we’ve posted in all its glory after the jump. Since we haven’t taken math since high school calculus, it went a bit over our head.
General reaction to the WSGR bonus news was less than positive. From one tipster: “My friends there are pretty pissed in light of Latham’s bonuses.” From another:

“Some constituent groups (those with low hours) are happy. Other groups (people who work for a living) are less happy. All associates outside of New York are upset that New York special bonuses were paid without a minimum hours requirement.”

Under the WSGR bonus system, in certain class years, a lawyer in New York who billed 500 hours less than her counterpart outside New York could wind up with a bigger bonus.
2. Akin Gump (Washington, DC): On rather short notice — the email went out at around 1 p.m., announcing a meeting at 5 p.m. — a meeting to talk about bonuses was held on Monday in the D.C. office of Akin Gump. Here’s the bottom line:

[T]he gist was that bonuses “ranged from $1,000 to 75,000,” which basically means that if you are a first year (or any associate who started in the fall) you got $1,000, and the most senior associates who are most valued got $75,000. Associates were also told that the average was $25,000. This was not broken down by class year, hours, or any other details that may tell you whether you’ll be compensated well or terribly.

Lovely. Guess they think transparency is overrated
3. Quinn Emanuel: At Quinn Emanuel, in contrast, management is fairly transparent, and communication is relatively open (at least by Biglaw standards). How many senior partners of major law firms write open letters to ATL, as John Quinn did recently?
Anyway, two pieces of news. First, yesterday QE gave supplemental bonuses today to laterals, recalculating how they pro-rated (a subject of prior controversy). Second, they provided some information — albeit not terribly specific information — about billable hours and 2008 bonuses. Memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Wilson Sonsini, Akin Gump (DC), Quinn Emanuel”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGNo, seriously. Despite the perception of Biglaw partners as fat cats, some of them, at least in their early years, take home less than the senior associates who toil under them. From an article in the Legal Times by Nathan Carlile (whose work we’ve always admired, even before he wrote this nice profile of us):

[T]he most recent round of associate pay hikes has edged senior associates ever closer to junior partner pay rates. In fact, in some cases, senior associates can come out ahead of partners — particularly if the firm has a nonequity tier.

Here’s just one example: At Arent Fox, Chairman Marc Fleischaker says senior associates can earn as much as $280,000 in base salary and — if they meet targets for generating business — an additional $100,000 in bonuses. Total: $380,000. First-year nonequity partners start off with a pay rate of $310,000. But they subtract $20,000 to cover their own benefits. Their total: $290,000.

Additional excerpts and discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stop Yer Whining, Senior Associates. You Could Be Making More Than the Partners!”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgBefore the New Year, associates in the New York office of Morrison & Foerster received their bonus news. Now it’s time for their colleagues outside of NYC to collect their cash.
In addition to the firm’s “standard productivity bonuses under the published 2007 compensation program,” MoFo is paying out (1) “a one-time bonus” (it sounds “special” to us), ranging from $10,000 – $20,000, to associates and certain of counsel who met or exceeded their hours requirements, and (2) merit bonuses, for “exemplary lawyering and exceptional teamwork,” ranging from $15,000 – $30,000.
Full memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Morrison & Foerster (non-New York)”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe don’t really have any major bonus news to pass along. Here are a few items following up on previously reported developments:
1. Latham & Watkins: On Friday we reported on the LW bonuses, which were well-received by associates. We now have more detailed information, which appears after the jump.
2. McDermott Will & Emery: We wrote here about their decision to issue supplemental bonuses. Those bonuses have now been paid, and people are happy. More details after the jump.
3. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft: As previously reported, the bonus situation over there is rather vague. An addendum, also after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Some Updates”

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