Billable Hours

* Demand is down, but fees are up. The good news is that Am Law Second Hundred firms saw gains in billable hours purchased by corporate clients — and that’s about it for the good news. [Am Law Daily]

* OMG, Dewey want to see the unsealed case records against D&L’s ex-leaders. DA Cy Vance wants our prying eyes to see all but one document. Secret seven identities… incoming! [Bloomberg]

* It looks like that time Sheryl Sandberg refused to lean in is really paying off in court. Facebook is a witness, not a defendant, in an antitrust case about non-poaching agreements between tech giants. [Reuters]

* Gaming the rankings for dummies? Law school deans are now pushing the ABA to require that law schools post their transfer students’ LSAT and GPA credentials. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* The easy way to decide whether you should be working in law school is to determine what you like more: money or grades. One will help you get the other later in life. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Growing up in Biglaw, I always thought pricing services for clients was easy. Conversations with clients went as follows: “Our rates range from X to Y, and are very competitive with our peer firms. If you have the audacity to ask for a break on these prices, we can offer you a 10% ‘courtesy discount,’ but will include language in our engagement letter allowing us to recoup that discount and more a few months into the engagement.” Of course, even in the mid-2000s (crazy that those days are nearly a decade ago), X was roughly the monthly lease payment on a well-equipped Honda Accord — for the least “experienced” lawyer in the entire firm — and Y was in the range approaching the monthly mortgage payment for a decent-sized colonial in a “pleasant” suburb. That was how things were priced, and depending on your firm, your rates were either considered cheap or expensive. But that categorization was always relative to other firms in your city, with a usually self-selected “peer group.” So there was always a “premium” (but unnecessary) firm more expensive, and on the other end of the pricing spectrum, a “discount shop” that could be sneered at for trying to undercut the market with low prices aimed at masking subpar legal ability.

When there was a surplus of demand for Biglaw’s services, the above approach was a tenable one. Once that surplus turned into a surfeit, firms needed to get a little more creative. At first, the tendency was to simply offer bigger discounts, with the “courtesy 10% off” turning into 25% off or more. Then clients started informing their firms of new “billing guidelines” where certain types of work would no longer be billable. Or where certain lawyers, such as junior associates whose time would no longer be paid for by clients, were magically transformed from revenue-producers for the firms that hired them to deadweight cost center investments in the “firm’s future.” Add in competition from other firms for a shrinking pie of business, and thinking about pricing became more rigorous. In fact, pricing expertise is one of the only Biglaw job skills with a growing rather than shrinking potential employment base….

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Perhaps a little less ‘undead’ than this.

* The many legal perils of being undead. [The Legal Geeks]

* A rundown of the St. Patrick’s Day crime in Chicago. Bravo. [Crime In Wrigleyville + Boystown]

* Why don’t clients do more to embarrass lawyers for billing to research mundane, obvious legal principles? [Inside Counsel]

* The real-life detective story that solved a 1407 murder. It’s like Murder, She Wrote: The Early Years. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Mmmmmm. Delicious, delicious evidence. [Lowering the Bar]

* It may not seem like it, but the Obama administration has done a pretty good job on antitrust matters. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* Yes. Pay your interns. [Law and More]

* Erie Railroad is 75 and here’s a look back at its illustrious run. Well, it turned 75 last year, but it takes some time to publish a journal about it. Just pretend it’s last year and read the damn articles, all right? [The Journal of Law, Economics & Policy via the American Enterprise Institute]

* Missouri lawyer is hauled into a disciplinary hearing about his practice of showing a picture of a naked woman to a female client. He says it wasn’t about sex and he was just showing her the kinds of pictures that come up in a divorce proceeding. That sounds like a fine explanation. I mean, every divorce involves autographed photos of strippers. He also commingled funds. That’s less easy to explain. [Inside the Ozarks]

* Hey look! They brought back Debtors’ Prison. The prison-industrial complex has gotta get paid somehow. [Bergen Dispatch]

* Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are now looking into David Samson, the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a Christie appointee. If government agencies aren’t for petty revenge and plunder, then what are they for? [Talking Points Memo]

* Insurance company cronies threaten that insurance company may have to get out of the business because of all the lawyers winning cases making the insurance company actually pay their contractual obligations. Don’t they understand the purpose of litigation is just to collect premiums? [Legal Newsline Legal Journal]

* How ACLU attorney Ben Wizner became Snowden’s lawyer. [Forbes]

* “One of the reasons I could never imagine being a lawyer is because you have to account for your time in 15-minute increments.” Thankfully she was corrected and told that lawyers are actually more irritatingly measured in 6-minute increments. [Dear Prudence / Slate]

* With all the talk of patent law reform coming from the President, this is an excellent time to look back at eight dumb patents. [Mashable]

There seems to be lots of good news emanating from Akin Gump these days. Last month, for example, the firm won the Above the Law holiday card contest — a contest it has traditionally dominated, with two wins under its belt.

A cool holiday card is fun, but above-market bonuses are funner. And it seems that Akin Gump can boast about bonuses now too.

This is quite a departure from last year. Why are Akin associates so happy about their bonuses?

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When we recently ranked top law firms based on responses to the ATL Insider Survey, readers raved about Wilson Sonsini, which took the #5 spot on our list of the top 12 firms. According to one respondent, the firm boasts “entrepreneurial meritocracy, the best client base, endless opportunities, and smart helpful people. It is a unique place, perfect for the self-motivated overachiever.”

In terms of the five specific survey metrics, Wilson fared best in the compensation department. On a 10-point scale, WSGR scored an impressive 8.73 (out of 10) in terms of satisfaction with pay. (The firm’s other scores: 8.63 for culture, 8.33 for training, 7.80 for morale, and 7.33 for hours.)

But will Wilson Sonsini be able to maintain its high score on the comp front? Not everyone is happy with the firm’s latest bonuses….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

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Congratulations to the Latham & Watkins lawyers who participated in Movember. In November 2013, Team Latham raised more than $7,000 to fight testicular and prostate cancer. Movember might have hurt Procter & Gamble’s bottom line, but it helped raise awareness of important issues in men’s health.

And congrats to Latham lawyers on their 2013 bonuses. The bonuses were announced last Friday and will be paid this Friday.

(Yes, law firm season rolls on, even though it’s past its peak. We’re working on a few bonus stories but need additional data points on some firms — e.g., WilmerHale. If you can help us out, please email us or text us: 646-820-8477.)

If you want to see a bunch of Latham lawyers sporting facial here, click here. If you want information about Latham bonuses, including but not limited to the firm’s bonus memo, keep reading….

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The law firm of Goodwin Procter is in the news these days. Some of the firm’s top trial lawyers are defending Mathew Martoma — formerly of SAC Capital and Harvard Law School, where he famously falsified a transcript — in one of the biggest and most exciting insider-trading cases in history.

(Fun fact: one of the members of Martoma’s trial team, Roberto Braceras, is the son-in-law of Judge José A. Cabranes. So if the Martoma case ever winds up before the Second Circuit, Judge Cabranes may have to recuse.)

Martoma earned millions while at SAC Capital, and some of that money will be making its way into the coffers of Goodwin Procter. And some of that money will then get paid out as associate bonuses, which the firm recently announced….

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When it comes to law firm bonus news, there’s no such thing as “too late.” Heck, we covered Wachtell Lipton’s bonuses for 2011 and 2012 just last week.

If you have Biglaw bonus news that we have not yet covered, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). We’re always happy to hear from you.

Last month, Dechert announced the price it pays for associate talent. Let’s travel down this bonus road, shall we?

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One of the most noteworthy deals of the new year is Google’s recently announced $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs, a maker of Internet-connected devices like thermostats and smoke alarms that was founded by former Apple engineers. Orrick, a firm known for its strong roster of tech clients, is advising Nest. The Orrick team is led by the firm’s chairman, Mitchell Zuklie.

That’s not the only noteworthy news out of Orrick this week. Yesterday the firm announced its 2013 associate bonuses. How are they looking?

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