A couple of weeks ago, as Obamacare was just stumbling out of the gate, we asked our readers to tell us about the state of their own health insurance plans through their firms. Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We wondered how widespread a phenomenon this practice had become. Well, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. We had a strong feeling that, in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. And our survey results resoundingly confirm those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm.
A relevant tip showed up in the ATL inbox this week. An attorney at a prominent (V25) law firm sent us a memo outlining new changes to the firm’s health plan. Here’s an excerpt: “The deductible for the CIGNA PPO plan will change from $250 single/$750 family to $500 single/$1,000 family. Also, the PPO prescription copays [will all increase]. These changes bring our PPO plan design in line with market
practice for large law firms (emphasis added)”…
With the continuing partial government shutdown and the shaky rollout of Obamacare, the issue of health insurance has never been such a central and divisive topic in the national conversation. Surely there are thousands of unemployed or temping JDs who are entering the brave new world of insurance exchanges and its attendant “hiccups.” In a development that perhaps should alarm the lowest-paid support staffers at law firms, some corporations appear poised to drop “bare bones” health-care benefits altogether for low-wage employees in favor of directing such employees to the new state exchanges.
Of course, for the lawyers at firms, such developments concerning the exchanges are essentially an abstract issue. That is not to say that attorney benefits packages are not subject to “new normal” economic pressures, or that the ultimate effect of the Affordable Care Act on private health insurance packages is unknowable. As noted here way back in 2009, some firms have added health care cost clawbacks to their expense-cutting repertoire of layoffs and pay cuts. Many associates have found themselves, post-Recession, with higher premiums and deductibles and thus, a de facto salary cut. Comparing salaries and bonuses across law firms overlooks the element of health insurance costs, about which there is no equivalent transparency. Undoubtedly there are significant variations across firms in this area, and some firms that appear to pay “market” aren’t quite doing so in light of their requiring a larger fraction of health care premiums. These variations inevitably distort direct comparisons.
We’d like to bring some transparency to this topic — but we need your help….
I nearly did not write this post this week. (I’ll pause while some of you wish that ‘nearly’ weren’t a part of that sentence.) I started the week with a mild toothache. By the time I reached my dentist on Tuesday morning, that niggling pain had bloomed into an infection that spread from my tooth to my jaw bone to the soft tissue of my face. Despite oral penicillin (and Vicodin!), I developed a high fever, the left side of my face swelled to grotesque proportions, and my jaw seized shut. I ended up in an ER on IV antibiotics.
While portions of the federal government ground to a halt due to insufficient funds, I held ice packs to my head and prayed quiet prayers about septicemia and the relative impermeability of the blood-brain barrier. Vaguely, in the background, I knew Congress and the president were arguing about health care. About funding the PPACA. Obamacare.
My heart goes out to folks harmed by the federal government shut-down this week. I also agree with those who are dismayed that Capitol Hill can’t reach a consensus sufficient to end the current crisis. It’s their job to find workable agreements, after all. That much, I hope most of us can agree on. Since we’re not here to agree, let’s talk a bit about Obamacare, the source of this week’s trouble in Washington . . . .
* Since summer’s start, Patton Boggs has been leaking lawyers like a sieve. Thus far, 22 partners and 11 associates have defected from the firm to Holland & Knight, Jackson Lewis, Arent Fox, and WilmerHale. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Considering the deadly force choke American health care reform legislation has supposedly put on employers, perhaps more lawyers ought to consider becoming Jedi masters of the Affordable Care Act. [Daily Business Review]
* The new normal for the ivory tower: Law schools are tackling falling applications by “voluntarily” decreasing their class sizes, or by “voluntarily” offering faculty and staff buyouts. [Wall Street Journal]
* But look on the bright side, professors, the ABA wants to amend its accreditation standards to save your jobs and offer greater protections. Too bad its unwilling to do the same for students. [ABA Journal]
* If you’ve been swindling clients for long enough, the law school you donated money to will try to scrub your name off its walls. That is what’s happening now at IU-McKinney Law. [National Law Journal]
* The role of lawyers in America’s Syrian policy. Everyone always tries to throw the lawyers under the bus. [Lawfare]
* Pippa Middleton has some lawyers trying to crack down on a parody Twitter account. Thankfully, the law exists to protect wealthy socialites from being mocked. [IT-Lex]
* GCs are not happy with the rates charged by outside counsel. I, for one, am shocked that GCs don’t like paying upwards of $1000 an hour for “further work.” [Consero]
* Honestly, we should have seen this coming: a Zimmerman juror is seeking a book deal. This is the juror who assumed black people had rioted over the shooting and called Trayvon a “boy of color,” so you can tell the prosecution was doing a bang-up job with its jury selection procedures. [AlterNet]
* Conservatives rejoice after several unions complain about Obamacare. Oh, the irony! Except the unions’ complaint is not that Obamacare is bad, but that it doesn’t go far enough in providing incentives to non-profit insurance plans and penalizing companies that are cutting back on hours to avoid the law. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* You’ve seen Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg give Justice Antonin Scalia the finger in prose, but now you can hear what it would sound like in operatic form as composed by a recent law school graduate. [NPR]
* The Fourth Circuit upheld Obamacare’s employer mandate against Liberty University, calling it a constitutional tax, just like the individual mandate. Now’s a perfect time for a sip of Campari. [WSJ Law Blog]
* The Fried Frank toner bandit was sent to the slammer, but alas, it’s unlikely that the firm will be able to recover any of its losses. Too bad, it could use the cash after its 2012 performance. [Am Law Daily]
* Crisis? What crisis? The dean of UC Davis Law refuses to trim class size, but that doesn’t really matter — the application cycle is handling the situation quite nicely. [Sacramento Business Journal]
* Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane won’t defend the state against a lawsuit seeking to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage. She’s choosing the people over politics. [New York Times]
* With his trial quickly drawing to a close, George Zimmerman is growing increasingly worried about his future. Let’s face it, even if he’s acquitted, living in hiding isn’t a very good look for him. [ABC News]
* The Obama administration has decided to delay the employer health care mandate until 2015. What does that mean for you? Well, since you’re not a business, you still have to purchase health insurance by 2014. Yay. [Economix / New York Times]
* Untying the knot is harder than it looks: Gay couples stuck in loveless marriages they’ve been unable to dissolve due to changing state residency may be able to find new hope in the Supreme Court’s recent DOMA decision. [New York Times]
* Clinical professors are pushing the ABA to amend its accreditation standards to require practical skills coursework. Amid faculty purges, they’re committed to do whatever it takes for additional job security. [National Law Journal]
* If you’re heading to a law school recruitment forum and want to get ahead in the applications process, make your mark by acting professionally, not by dressing like a d-bag. [U.S. News & World Report]
* “As a parent we’re not always proud of everything they do.” Of course there’s a prosecution inquiry being made into the Don West ice cream cone picture that ended up on Instagram. [Orlando Sentinel]
You’ll be popular. Just not, quite as popular, as, meeeee!
* Now that Republicans have some actual issues to concern themselves with, they’re going to… vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act again? My God, they’re dumb. [New York Times]
* Sonia Sotomayor has the highest name recognition on the Court. Kennedy is the most liked. Clarence Thomas has lower favorability among African-Americans than he does in the population as a whole. [Public Policy Polling]
* Aside from bitching, is the anything the AP can actually do about the DOJ subpoenas? [National Law Journal]
* The Obama administration is running a $51 Billion dollar profit off of student loans. Billion. With a ‘B.” As in “these students are my Bitch.” [Huffington Post]
* Liberals could learn a lot from the Federalist Society. [ABA Journal]
* This is an interesting “equal time” issue. Should a network run a reality series about a prosecutor’s office when that prosecutor is up for reelection? [Daily Business Review]
Above the Law’s 2012 Lawyer of the Year contest is now over. Thanks to everyone who nominated a lawyer; thanks to our finalists, for being such accomplished and interesting individuals; and thanks to all our readers, who picked our victor after two weeks of voting over the holiday season.
If you think most legal technology misses the mark, LexisNexis Firm Manager® wants to change your mind. Read more about it here.
Built with input from hundreds of solo and small-firm attorneys across the country, it’s made for practitioners who’d rather build the firm of their dreams than deal with the hassles of running a business.
· Go Mobile, Stay Connected.
See all your firm’s information, wherever you are, on whatever device you’re using. Access and update client files, enter billing, search & share documents and more. It’s just like you’re in the office, only you’re not.
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
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…
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!