Arnold & Porter

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…

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(But Do Law Firms Still Discriminate When It Comes to Pay?)”

He bakes the most wonderful pies I have ever tasted in my life.

– McLean resident Joan Bretz, discussing her neighbor Joshua Gessler, the Arnold & Porter associate and George Mason adjunct law professor accused of producing child pornography.

Joshua Gessler

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….

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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:

21. Arnold & Porter
22. Shearman & Sterling
23. Boies, Schiller & Flexner
24. O’Melveny & Myers
25. Ropes & Gray
26. Morrison & Foerster
27. Munger, Tolles & Olson
28. Hogan Lovells
29. Clifford Chance
30. Linklaters

What do associates have to say about the ups and downs of life at these firms? Here are some excerpts from their Vault listings…

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGTime for a belated bonus announcement. A few weeks ago, associate bonuses were announced at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

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.”

The CWT bonus memo, after the jump.

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(Plus news of some partner moves.)

James Sandman James J Sandman Jim Sandman Above the Law Blog.jpgRemember James Sandman? Oh no, you don’t? Well, surely you remember the Arnold & Porter partner’s infamous essay, The High Price of Escalating Associate Salaries, which he wrote while president of the D.C. bar.

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.

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100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWow. 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.

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