It’s April 29. Monarchists have long circled this day as an opportunity to praise the vestigial structures of imperial domination. But this day means a lot to people who earn their fortune through work instead of birth. Today is a huge day for Biglaw associates. For many, today is the day spring bonus payments hit their bank accounts.
Don’t spend it all in one place.
But as we all know, not every Biglaw associate will be enjoying a spring bonus this year. With the payments out, we’re no longer looking at which firms are “lagging” behind in their spring bonus announcements. Now we’re looking at firms that have simply decided they are not paying spring bonuses, regardless of what the market says. Apparently, keeping up with Cravath really will be ruinous to some firms.
So who has officially announced they will not be paying spring bonuses this year? We’ll tell you what we know about three Biglaw firms, and hopefully you can fill in any gaps…
Every year, Fortune produces a list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and every year a handful of law firms make the list. And every year I wonder why some law firms made the list, while others did not, and whether Fortune actually has any idea about what they’re talking about.
We cover this list every year (click here for our posts in 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007). Last year, six firms made the list. But this year only four law firms are among the top 100 companies.
Again, I can’t figure out what the two firms that dropped did wrong. But let’s congratulate the four firms that did stay on the list.
It’s hard to understand why some firms choose secrecy over transparency when it comes to associate bonuses. I understand not wanting to tell Above the Law about them. We often find out eventually, but if you want to make us jump through a couple of extra hoops, that’s fine. (To help us jump through the hoops, please email us about your firm’s news.)
But even if you don’t want ATL to know about your firm’s bonuses, I don’t see how fear of a blog is justification for keeping information from your own people about how they are compensated. If you are transparent about how bonuses are calculated and awarded, most of the people will accept that they knew what was expected of them and either met those expectations or fell short. Sure, there will be some disgruntled people, but at least everybody gets to know why they are being paid what they are being paid.
But if you roll out there with secret formulas and unspecified hours requirements, nearly everybody feels disgruntled because they have no idea why they received (or didn’t receive) whatever they got. It’s like, if a girl tells you she won’t put out until after at least four dates, you know what you’re up against. But if she says nothing and you find yourself standing outside her apartment after a successful third date and she’s not inviting you up for “coffee,” you’re super-pissed (and hoping that the slutty chick who was checking you out earlier is still at the bar and relatively disease-free).
And that’s where Arnold & Porter associates find themselves when it comes to their bonuses. Standing outside of some chick’s apartment, wondering what the hell just happened.
Oh A&P announced its bonuses. But the eligibility for these bonuses is really anyone’s guess…
Working Mother just released its annual list of the top 100 companies to work for. As we are (hopefully) coming out of the recession, it is possible that people might actually start caring again about family issues and work/life balance issues.
This year, four law firms made the list. Before we get to the “winners,” let’s take a look at the process required to be up for consideration. To be on the list, first you have to fill out an application with 600 questions.
What is the magazine looking for? Here’s the explanation from their methodology section:
Eight areas are scored: workforce profile; benefits; women’s issues and advancement; child care; flexible work; paid time off and leaves; company culture; and work-life programs. An essay regarding best practices to support working mothers is also evaluated…
Working Mother considers not only the programs, benefits and opportunities offered by companies but also recently settled, decided or still-pending gender discrimination lawsuits.
An essay, do you say? Well, so much for rigid objectivity in list making.
Still, the four law firm winners should be proud. Let’s highlight them from out of the other top 100 companies…
Today brings bad news for Arnold & Porter — or maybe make that Arnold & Porno. If the allegations are true, the venerable Washington-based law firm has been employing a lawyer who made child pornography, starring a 15-year-old girl.
A 41-year-old associate in the Tysons Corner office of A&P, Joshua Gessler, has been charged with one count of producing child pornography and five counts of possession. The accusations, reported last night by NBC Washington, are on the lurid side.
Gessler connected online with a 15-year-old prostitute back in April, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant, and offered her $200 to meet up — with the condition that she not be “camera shy” (i.e., that she be willing to be photographed).
Josh Gessler allegedly brought some equipment to their get-together. And we’re not talking about a camera and a tripod….
We’re rolling through the Vault 2011 list of the “prestigiest” firms in the land, so that you can comment on what it’s like to actually live, work, and breathe those firms (when you’re not choking on all the prestige in the air).
We’ve covered #1-10 and #11-20. Here’s the next round-up. Now it’s time for the London-based Magic Circle firms to join in the elite fun:
The bonuses were basically on the Cravath scale, provided you meet “the bonus criteria set forth in the bonus policy.” We’re advised that the bonus criteria focus for the most part on hours, with bonuses triggered at around 2000 hours (1900 billable).
In other CWT news, we hear that two real estate partners — Alan Lawrence and John Busillo — are leaving the firm for Arnold & Porter. Sources describe them as “heavy hitters” who “still have some business.”
Jim Sandman’s article, dishing out harsh criticism of law firm associate pay raises, did not endear him to ATL readers. In a near comments clusterf**k, he was condemned as the greediest of greedy Biglaw partners (along with other epithets not fit for printing here).
Well, maybe Sandman has gotten a bad rap. After all, he was public-spirited enough to serve as president of the D.C. bar. When we met him at this party, one of many charitable functions he attends, he didn’t have horns growing out of his head.
And now we hear that he’s leaving his lucrative partnership, to toil in the considerably less profitable precincts of the D.C. public school system. He’s accepted a position as General Counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and he’ll also be a member of Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s senior leadership team to the DC School Board.
Read the A&P memo announcing Sandman’s departure, from firm chairman Thomas Milch, after the jump.
Wow. Late Friday afternoon, we briefly discussed an article by D.C. bar president James J. Sandman, a partner at Arnold & Porter in Washington, bemoaning the recent associate pay raises. The article generated a strong reaction, judging from the avalanche of reader comments (75 and counting; mostly insightful, and mostly disagreeing with Sandman).
We emailed James Sandman, offering him space in ATL to offer a further defense of his article. We haven’t heard back from him yet; but if we do, we’ll let you know.
In the meantime, here’s an American Lawyer article that raises similar concerns. It’s a news rather than opinion piece, but the partners quoted in it voice sentiments similar to Sandman’s. Some excerpts:
A partner at Greenberg Traurig was meeting with attorneys from five law firms when he learned that Simpson Thacher & Bartlett had raised associate salaries across the board.
“Every BlackBerry in the room started flashing,” he recalls.
It was 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22. At least five firms matched the next day, and by the end of the week, the sticker price for a new associate in the New York market was up for the second time in a little more than a year — to $160,000.
The raise surprised competitors and legal consultants alike and caused many to question whether another pay increase makes sense. They point out that pay isn’t associates’ main gripe (uncertain partnership prospects and grueling hours top this list). Robert Link Jr., managing partner of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, goes even further. If improving associate morale was Simpson’s goal, says Link, the raise may do more harm than good.
A higher salary “puts more pressure on productivity and hours,” says Link, exacerbating precisely the quality-of-life issues that make junior lawyers unhappy.
“I don’t know what Simpson was thinking,” he adds.
It’s similar to Sandman’s comment:
“I don’t understand what causes a firm be the first to increase the salary of a brand-new lawyer from an already eye-popping $145,000 to $160,000. There is no competitive advantage in doing so. Other firms will surely follow suit, and the firm that led the market will quickly be indistinguishable from the rest of the pack.”
So, what WAS Simpson thinking? Discussion continues after the jump.
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: email@example.com.
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If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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