Compensation

One firm just started pocketing 20 percent of partner pay.

Many lessons can be drawn from the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf. We’ve learned, for example, that it’s dangerous to have a law firm name that’s highly susceptible to puns. (Dewey know why that is? Howrey going to find out? Heller if I know.)

Another lesson: avoid excessive dependence upon bank financing. When a firm starts to spiral downwards, that spiraling can be accelerated by a bank calling a loan, not renewing a credit facility, or otherwise taking steps to protect itself that, while reasonable for the bank, can be damaging to the firm.

Firms have responded by turning to their partners for more financing. An increasing number of firms are issuing capital calls to partners or requiring high capital contributions.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that one law firm has instituted a new policy of withholding 20 percent of partner pay….

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Yesterday, some summer associates watched kitten videos on YouTube.

It’s the middle of June, the sun is shining, and Biglaw summer associate programs are in full swing. An old joke: Satan offers incredible wealth to a man in exchange for his soul. The man replies, “B-b-b-but, won’t I have to go to Hell?” Satan says, “Oh, don’t believe what you’ve heard, Hell isn’t that bad. Here, take a look.” And it’s all cocktail receptions and long lazy lunches at fancy restaurants. So he sells his soul. Later, when he dies, he goes to Hell, and sure enough, it’s all flames, pitchforks and eternal agony. The man protests to Satan, who replies – “Oh, that was our summer program.”

The joke smells a bit like 2006 or so, when Biglaw summer programs were at their largest and most extravagant, and most firms barely pretended any substantive work was part of the equation. Yet even though summer associate classes have been significantly downsized post-recession and the perks aren’t as lavish, the summer associate experience certainly retains much of that Bizarro world detachment from the actual realities of practice.

Summer programs have traditionally served as bait-and-switch recruitment tools used to woo rising 3Ls with wine tastings, sporting events, theater outings and boat rides. Since the recession, many firms have begun to emphasize “real work” as central to their summer associate programs (e.g., here and here). But these claims need to be taken with an ocean of salt. As the Dothraki say, “it is known” that newbie lawyers just aren’t ready to do any real work.

In any event, let’s take a look at the top-rated Biglaw summer associate programs, according to the ATL Insider Survey.

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It’s been a while since we last spoke of firms that are best suited for female lawyers, and it seems like every few months, a new “best of” list pops up to remind us that women usually get the short end of the stick if they’ve chosen a Biglaw career. You see, little lists like this don’t exist for men, because they don’t need to. No one is curious about which firms have the most men in leadership roles. No one is wondering about which firms have the greatest number of male equity partners. Biglaw lives to serve men, and in most cases, they are the ones claiming all of the power, the prestige, and most importantly, the money, while in most cases, women are left in the dust.

Sure, we love finding out which firms have been ranked as the most family friendly, and at which firms a woman might be able to land a top management role, but what we really want to know is which firms are capable of offering perks like these along with booming compensation.

Luckily, thanks to the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), now we’ll be able to find out. Want to see which Biglaw firms are offering female attorneys the chance to perform on par with their male colleagues in terms of both power and pay? Let’s check out the list…

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Minnesota, or Vaes Dothrak?

When I think of Minnesota, I think of Lake Wobegon — “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Michele Bachmann is strong. Jesse Ventura is good-looking (if you’re into that whole “manly” thing). And the law students at the University of Minnesota Law School are above average. Their academic qualifications help Minnesota Law claim the #19 spot in the U.S. News law school rankings. (In the Above the Law law school rankings — which focus on outputs, like job placement, rather than inputs — Minnesota also fares well, ranking #25.)

The professors at Minnesota Law are above average too. The Minnesota faculty ranks #19 in terms of scholarly impact.

How do they fare in the professorial pay sweepstakes? Let’s look at the data….

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Biglaw partners may not be having coke-fueled orgies on piles of cash any more, but partners are still doing well compared to mere mortals.

In fact, the biggest rainmakers are doing really really well compared to many of their colleagues. According to Steven Harper, the Northwestern professor and author of The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link), the highest-paid Biglaw partners used to make three times more than their run-of-the-mill colleagues. Today, rainmakers can pull down ten times more.

And this is not good for the legal industry…

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its Am Law 200 law firm rankings — a list that’s still closely watched, but not quite as prestigious as being a ranked member of the influential Am Law 100. Sorry, but being a part of the “Second Hundred” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

While the Am Law 100 celebrated a year of “slow growth” in 2012, it looks like the Am Law 200 will be known for its “bets on bulk.” When all of the big boys were busy playing it safe, perhaps out of fear of becoming the next Dewey, firms in the Second Hundred were gobbling up talent like there was no tomorrow.

Of course, as could’ve been expected, this kind of aggressive hiring had some pretty major effects on firms’ financial performance. So how did the Am Law 200 stack up? Let’s find out…

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UCLA School of Law

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Professor Pay Watch. After visiting Texas and Michigan, we’re back on the coasts, this time in sunny southern California.

Los Angeles is home to many celebrities — and we’re not just talking about Hollywood stars. The superb faculty of UCLA School of Law boasts several prominent pundits and public intellectuals.

How much do star bloggers like Eugene Volokh and Stephen Bainbridge earn from their day jobs? What about such academic adversaries as Kimberlé Crenshaw, the critical-race queen, and Richard Sander, a leading opponent of affirmative action?

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A commenter on our story from last month about salaries for Boalt Hall law professors requested data about faculty compensation at UC Hastings. Ask and you shall receive. As noted over at TaxProf Blog (via the ABA Journal), the median salary for an assistant professor at Hastings is $112,942 and the median salary for a tenured professor at Hastings is $187,221 (not counting summer stipends).

Let’s continue our law professor salary survey. Last week, we looked at the University of Michigan (#9 in the latest U.S. News rankings, and #12 in the inaugural Above the Law rankings). Now we turn to the University of Texas (#15 in U.S. News, and T14 to ATL).

They say that everything is bigger in Texas. Is that true of law school faculty salaries?

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If you have a friend who might be interested in serving as the general counsel to a leading technology company, you might want to give that person a poke. As we mentioned earlier today, a top job is about to open up: Ted Ullyot plans to step down as GC of Facebook in the not-too-distant future.

What types of issues has Ullyot tackled in his time at Facebook? How well has he been compensated in his role? Where might he be headed next?

Let’s look at some SEC filings, as well as his departure memo….

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and with regard to economic recovery, Biglaw firms seem to have taken that up as their new motto.

Yes, partners are still living as large as they ever were, but their success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics. The divide between the “haves and the have-nots” in the world of major law firms has grown to epic proportions, and some Am Law 100 staples have fallen out of the top hundred firms altogether. Welcome to the new normal.

Are you ready to get excited about “modest” and “spotty” gains across the board? Let’s dig in….

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