Akin Gump

Many law firms send out rather lame holiday cards, cards that marketing guru Ross Fishman would describe as “boring pieces of crap.” Thankfully that wasn’t the case for the eleven finalists in our third annual law firm holiday card contest.

Some of these cards were clever, some were beautiful, and some were funny. All of them were excellent, deserving of recognition and praise for the thoughtfulness and creativity that went into them.

Okay, enough with the sentimental and sappy stuff — you’re lawyers, and you’re competitive. You want to know who won….

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The field of contenders for our third annual law firm holiday card contest was more impressive than ever. We received numerous nominations, and we thank everyone who participated. It took many hours to review the plethora of submissions.

We could complain about how some of you failed to follow contest rule #3, limiting the contest to “cards that are unusually clever, funny, or cool…. cards with some attitude, with that extra je ne sais quoi.” But we won’t; the holiday spirit has us in a good mood. You are all wonderful!

But some of you are more wonderful than others. Let’s look at this year’s finalists….

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We are pleased and proud to announce Above the Law’s third annual law firm holiday card contest. This happy, heartwarming feature is a Christmastime favorite, as beloved as figgy pudding. It’s the perfect cure for the bonus season blues.

For the past two years, Biglaw and small firms have duked it out for the distinction of having the best Christmas card. Last year’s honors went to a small firm: Proctor Heyman, the Delaware corporate litigation and counseling boutique. In the inaugural holiday card contest, a large firm prevailed: Akin Gump (which recently announced its bonuses, at least in New York).

We’ve already received several emails asking about when this year’s contest would start. The answer is: it starts today!

Read on — and read carefully — for the official contest rules….

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Akin Gump, it seems to me, has taken the reasonable approach for any firm that does not want to be a market leader in terms of compensation: it’s going to wait. Of course the firm is going to match. Most of the firms will end up matching the prevailing market for associate bonuses.

But as far as how much money that’ll be, we just don’t know yet. Instead of making a regular bonus announcement with a flashy bonus scale and the fiction that the numbers bear any kind of relation to the actual profitability of the firm, Akin Gump is just going to wait and see what happens, and then match the market.

It’s a prudent approach to a crazy bonus season….

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This morning’s news that Boies Schiller is making a mockery of the Cravath bonus scale simply reinforces the prevailing view (pace David Lat) around here that the 2011 Cravath bonus scale is fundamentally unfair.

Agreeing on this point is former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper (whose apparent pro-associate stance may make him a sort of Biglaw apostate). As Harper points out, “equity partner profit trees have resumed their growth to the sky. As the economy struggled, Cravath’s average partner profits increased to $2.7 million in 2009 and to $3.17 million in 2010 … That’s not ‘treading water.’ It’s returning to 2007 profit levels — the height of ‘amazing’ boom years that most observers had declared gone forever. Watch for 2011 profits to be even higher.”

And yet associate bonuses remain stagnant at 2009 levels. Furthermore, as ATL commenter “The Cravath Cut” is so fond of noting, when viewed as a percentage of profits, bonuses appear especially measly, at least from the associate p.o.v. (The current $7,500 market rate for first-years is just 0.23% of Cravath’s profits per partner. Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equalled 1.36%.) Despite these numbers, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone Biglaw’s rank and file will follow Cravath’s lead.

Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. We thought it would be interesting to see what the implications of matching Cravath are for those firms with much lower profit margins. Which firms’ partners willingly take the biggest hit by keeping up? Are these firms arguably more “generous”? After the jump, check out those firms that pay the largest percentage of PPP in bonuses.

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Today we head into the nation’s capital to bring you six of the best partners to work for as chosen by our readers.

These partners go above and beyond the call of duty, and do so while working at some of the finest law firms: Akin Gump, SNR Denton, Hogan Lovells, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, Fried Frank, and Chadbourne & Parke.

Who are these phenomenal partners?

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Last week, the American Lawyer shined a spotlight on extensive partner departures from McDermott Will & Emery. According to Brian Baxter of Am Law Daily, a whopping 38 partners have left MWE in 2011 so far.

Some of these defections have come in clumps. Most notably, as we mentioned back in January, nine partners left McDermott for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, as part of CWT’s raid on MWE’s energy law practice.

But that explains just a quarter of the year-to-date partner departures from McDermott. Let’s look at some of the others, explore possible implications for the firm, and discuss what might be motivating the movement toward the exits….

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Earlier this week, we introduced the first group of top New York partners whom our readers nominated as being great to work for. Today we present you with another eight partners from the Big Apple.

They hail from some of the heaviest hitters among Biglaw firms: Paul Weiss; Simpson Thacher; Kasowitz Benson; Cleary Gottlieb; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cravath; and Akin Gump.

Let’s learn who they are….

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It’s hard to say which of these (non-lawyer) wedding write-ups is more cliché-ridden: the one about the two lesbian PE teachers, or the one about the peace activists who keep their income below a taxable level so they don’t give money to the Pentagon. The latter pair are way too busy rummaging through dumpsters to read the Internet, so we feel zero guilt about exposing them to ridicule in the comments. There’s certainly a lot of ridiculous material there.

But on to the lawyer weddings: still ridiculous, but in a different way. Your finalist couples:

Kathleen Cassidy and Ian Shapiro

Nina Yadava and Travis Davis

Emily Feinstein and Eric Olney

Aliya McLendon and Aaron Horne Jr.

Rebecca Krauss and Benjamin Taibleson

This is a summer mega-LEWW, with five finalists and a loooooong list of also-rans at the end. Read on for a virtual nuptial feast….

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This is the worst piece of whoring journalism I have read in a long time. How long are you going to suck [U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara]’s teat? All to hurt a decent, honest witness, [whom assistant U.S. attorney Reed] Brodsky could not lay a glove on. It did not work. The jury was not impressed by the worst cross examination ever delivered. So in the style of Preet, try to smear him by working the sycophants in the back of the Courtroom. He learned from Schumer in the Senate… Preet is scared sh[**]less he is going to lose this case so he feeds his whores at the WSJ. What a disgrace for an otherwise great paper.

John Dowd, partner at Akin Gump and defense lawyer to Raj Rajaratnam, in an irate email to Wall Street Journal reporter Chad Bray.

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