Arnold & Porter

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Jim Sandman Isn’t as Greedy as You Thought”

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: More Criticism of Associate Pay Raises”

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