In law, if you’re making big money, you’re working for the bad guys. That’s the sad truth.
I’m not talking about defending vicious criminals. I mean tougher cases — like representing the 1% of the world who own everything.
Deep in the recesses of Biglaw, you might not realize who you’re working for. From where you’re standing, your boss is the firm. Juniors report to seniors. Seniors report to partners. Partners report to God.
In reality, up, over the partner’s head, there’s someone called “the client” — a possessor of vast wealth. Normal people don’t hire Biglaw — the owners-of-everything do, and they don’t get uber-rich being nice. Things only get worse when they’re dealing with lawyers.
If and when you actually meet “the client,” you might feel like an Imperial Stormtrooper aboard the Death Star:
Lord Vader? Great to meet you, sir. Yes, absolutely, the torture chamber is totally under control. Yes sir, we just checked the planetary death ray this morning. One hundred percent ready to go. My pleasure, sir….
In a postcript to our detailed post speculating about the future direction of the spring bonus phenomenon, we noted “an isolated report of one firm on the S&C spring bonus scale going back and raising to the Cravath scale,” but said we required additional corroboration.
I’ve always been awestruck by tax lawyers. They are the dudes.
As a transactional attorney, you can’t make a move without a tax guy. M&A is based on IRS consequences. It’s the tax guy who hands you a chart with boxes and arrows, holding companies and off-shore limited partnerships buying and selling and re-selling and issuing and repurchasing and spinning off. Everything starts there.
Tax lawyers do stuff no one else would attempt. They swagger out the door at 5 pm.
“Don’t start with me. I’m in tax.”
Way back when, I took an advanced tax course in law school – to see if I could roll with the gangstas. I even took it the wrong semester, so instead of JD students, it was tax LLMs snickering at my desperation. I received my lowest grade ever. I also discovered tax law is like higher mathematics: there is no big picture. Tax is not intuitive or guided by overarching principle; it’s a mess of staggering, intimidating complication.
What I’ve come to realize lately, as a therapist working with tax lawyers, is that these seemingly unapproachable superstars are human. And being “the expert” can exact a toll….
Wow, it’s starting to feel like 2008 (pre-Lehman) up in here! Earlier today, the Dow Jones broke the 12,000 mark. And now law firms — law firms that could treat their associates like dirt and still have have no problems with retention, according to some people — are once again competing with each other in terms of associate bonuses.
This evening, many of us — and six Supreme Court justices, according to an announcement this morning from the Court — will listen to the State of the Union address. Don’t be shocked if President Obama tells us that the state of the union is “strong.” When was the last time a president appeared before us to announce that the union is in shambles? (Even Jimmy Carter never did that.)
The truth lies somewhere in between strength and shambles. And that’s true not just of the United States, but of the world of large law firms.
Let’s talk about two indicators: layoffs, and bonuses — including a reader poll, on whether firms will match Sullivan & Cromwell’s yummy spring bonuses….
Friday afternoons are for bad news. When you have some news that you want to disappear into the ether, you announce it on Friday afternoon. It’s a favorite time for disgraced D.C. figures to resign from office in order to “spend more time with their families.”
So why did Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the world’s most prestigious and profitable law firms, decide to announce good news — namely, generous spring bonuses for its associates — late on a Friday afternoon? (Was it perhaps in response to the Latham bonus news from earlier today?)
Yes, Cravath and Skadden and Davis Polk associates, you read that right. S&C is paying out healthy springtime bonuses. They’re supplemental to the 2010 year-end bonuses that S&C announced back in December.
So how much are we talking about? And when will these amounts hit associate bank accounts?
There comes a time in every big law firm lawyer’s career when things take a turn for the deeply serious. After two or three years, someone turns to you and says, “Okay – you own this” — and suddenly you’re no longer a glorified secretary or paralegal or guy/gal Friday, you’re an actual lawyer.
That’s when most Biglaw attorneys think seriously about fleeing for their lives.
For me, the moment of truth arrived after a meeting near the top floor of the skyscraper at 70 Pine Street in Lower Manhattan, one of New York City’s iconic spires…
“Essentially,” because there are a few interesting caveats: people in the class of 2003 will get $37,500 — i.e., $2,500 more than the Cravath class of 2003 — and our tipsters say there is language in the memo suggesting that S&C might pay a spring bonus next year. (You’ll remember that S&C did not pay out spring bonuses this year.)
UPDATE (1:07 PM): In addition, people in the class of 2002 will get $42,500. The spring bonuses will depend on the firm’s performance.
UPDATE (1/21/11): Read about the S&C spring 2011 bonuses over here.
If you have more information (or the memo), please send us an email at email@example.com, or a text message at 646-820-TIPS.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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