Biglaw

The Cornwall: home to a Cravath crib.

The venerable firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore has received a fair amount of criticism for its allegedly subpar bonuses. I’ve previously defended their payouts — in times of economic uncertainty, is paying modest bonuses to avoid later layoffs such a bad idea? — but my view has been poorly received. (For commentary castigating firms for their cheapness, please turn to my colleague, Elie Mystal.)

Partners at Cravath, where profits per partner exceeded $3 million in 2010, are definitely in the top 1 percent. But it seems that even non-partners are doing quite nicely for themselves, despite all the bonus bellyaching.

Check out the million-dollar penthouse — yay real estate porn! — of one of Cravath’s corporate lawyers. And she’s not even a partner….

UPDATE (12/12/11): We’ve gotten our hands on the floorplan, which we’ve added to the slideshow, and we’ve added additional comments about what a “practice area attorney” does at Cravath.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyerly Lairs: Cravath Cribs (Part 1)
(A non-partner’s million-dollar penthouse.)

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Keeping Up With the Cravathians: The Ten Most Generous (or Foolish?) Law Firms”

Just to be clear, the people who think that Cravath is the “compensation leader” in terms of Biglaw firms are incorrect. Wachtell Lipton, for example, regularly pays more than the people at Worldwide Plaza. Cravath does not set the top of the market in terms of associate bonuses.

The first firm to make Cravath associates feel impoverished this season appears to be Boies Schiller. Yep, the house that David Boies built is once again paying money to its people like bonuses are a reward for hard work.

But some say the payouts don’t appear to be quite as generous as last year. Others disagree. But you really don’t have to try that hard to beat Cravath anymore…

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A 'best place to work': outside, when the weather's nice.

Since 2008, Crain’s has been producing a list of the 50 Best Places to Work in New York City. Each year, a few law firms manage to sneak their way onto the list, much like what we’ve seen thus far with Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

This year, seven law firms made Crain’s list, and as we told you back in January, only four made Fortune’s. Three firms are new to Crain’s list, while the other four moved up or down in the rankings. Just two of those firms overlap between Crain’s and Fortune’s lists.

It appears that congratulations and condolences are both in order. So, which law firms are considered the cream of the crop in New York City?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Crain’s 2011 ‘Best Places to Work in NYC’ List Includes Seven Law Firms”

As they say in the Pokémon movie, you gotta catch ‘em all.

That’s how we approach bonus news here at Above the Law. Today is shaping up as a day that will be full of bonus news. We’ve heard some rumblings about some big, Cravath topping bonuses at a well known shop, but for now, we’ve got a standard Cravath match.

Shearman & Sterling, come on down. You’re on “The Price Is Meh”…

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Let’s keep the bonus news rolling. On Friday, our sources reported that Proskauer Rose matched the Cravath 2011 bonus scale. We now have the official firm memo.

Apparently this news is likely to anger many Proskauer associates. Given that fact, I’m not exactly sure why the firm was eager to be one of the early adopters of Cravath’s bonus scale….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Proskauer Matches”

John B. Quinn, founding partner of Quinn Emanuel, is one of our favorites here at Above the Law. We like people who have personality.

We also like people who are so rich they just don’t give a f**k. Quinn seems to have gotten to the point where he can legitimately start a Twitter account called “rich people problems.”

We have evidence of his tribulations from the the San Francisco reception desk of Quinn Emanuel….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Can Somebody Break a Hundred for John Quinn?”

'Til billable hours requirements do we part.

Since getting engaged, I’ve been wondering whether we should even bother trying to get into the New York Times wedding section. I’m sure that almost every newly engaged couple has similar thoughts, especially the blushing bridezillas in training. After all, the NYT wedding section is the place to announce your upcoming nuptials. Being featured in those hallowed pages is viewed as the ultimate sign of marital prestige.

You literally cannot go wrong with a write-up in the NYT wedding section (unless, of course, you end up with a Sex and the City situation and it looks like you’re a woman with a Hitler-esque mustache). So is there an easy way to get into the esteemed wedding section?

As proven by our very own Legal Eagle Wedding Watch, lawyers seem to have been featured in abundance. But that’s just the first part of the equation, according to a new demographics study….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Easiest Way to Get into the NYT Wedding Section? Be an ‘Elite’ Lawyer”

Tom Wallerstein

For years, it has been common knowledge that the vast majority of associates at most Biglaw firms will leave before becoming a partner. At many firms, it is not uncommon for fewer than one in ten entering associates to ultimately become a partner. As partnership tracks lengthen, the attrition rate goes even higher. The decision to leave a firm to form a private practice, for example, is becoming increasingly common.

We assume (hope?) that the high attrition is because Biglaw offers the most exit opportunities; i.e., the prospects of developing a career as in-house counsel, or joining a business unit of a company, or going into government, or joining to a small or midsize or boutique law firm, or maybe even leaving the law altogether to become a consultant, a blogger, a Lego artist, what have you. Just because you start your legal career with a law firm doesn’t mean your goal is to become a partner.

Often, associates who know that they will not become a partner seem content to just put in their time, try to keep their head down, and collect a paycheck while waiting for their firm to announce their intended bonuses. They rationalize that they know they will leave anyway, so why bend over backwards for the firm?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Going Through the Motions”

'She was just asking me for directions, officer.'

* Three days after arguing that an alleged Sandusky victim’s lawsuit lacked any factual basis, Second Mile decided to settle. Better strike while the iron is hot (and the wallet is open), lawyers. [Bloomberg]

* So much for that “real shot,” huh? After a failed bid for bail, Galleon Group’s Raj Rajaratnam will begin serving the longest insider trading sentence ever come Monday. [DealBook / New York Times]

* A memo to all Biglaw bachelors: if your game is anything like that of Kenneth Kratz’s, then it’s not just ethics boards who will think you have an “offensive personality.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

* In Tampa, purchasers of prostitutes’ services will now have their cars impounded. Good thing Miami isn’t adopting this law, eh, Professor Jones? (Allegedly, of course.) [St. Petersburg Times]

* Law school is really tough, so the GMU Law administration has some advice for you: the best way to avoid becoming an alcoholic basket case is to play with cuddly puppies. [Washington Post]

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