Cravath Swaine & Moore

1185 Park Avenue

We recently took a peek at a $1.7 million apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, in a story entitled Lawyerly Lairs: Cravath Cribs (Part 1). (By the way, we’ve updated that post with the condo’s floor plan, as well as information about what it means to be a practice area attorney at Cravath.)

We called the story “Part 1″ because we knew, at the time, that we’d be bringing you a “Part 2.” Think of Christine Raglan’s UWS penthouse as the appetizer — or maybe even just the amuse-bouche. Now it’s time for the entrée, something far more substantial.

Let’s fly across Central Park and alight in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood of the Upper East Side, where a Cravath partner recently sold his ultra-luxurious residence — for a whopping $4.6 million. Interestingly enough, the buyer is a lawyer as well, in-house counsel at a major media company.

Who are the parties to this transaction? And what does a $4.6 million apartment look like?

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(Partner parts with Park Avenue property.)

* DLA Piper is blaming the Occupy Wall Street movement for Biglaw’s sad, 2011 bonus season. It looks like we can expect a Cravath match from that firm. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* We could really use some more law schools — fourth tier law schools, in particular. Say hello to the Savannah Law School, a John Marshall Law School Atlanta production. [National Law Journal]

* University of Texas School of Law Dean Larry Sager has been ousted from his position. Readers have flooded our inbox with the news, so we’ll have more on this later. [Texas Tribune]

* This Senate victory for gay servicemembers came with unintended consequences. It’s now kosher to have sex with men, women, and everything else under military law. [Washington Post]

* Prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty against Stephen McDaniel. If being drawn and quartered were an option, maybe this medieval scholar wouldn’t mind so much. [Macon Telegraph]

* Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Although Ben Stein is the keynote speaker at this year’s ABA Techshow, legal tech nerds will likely be unable to win his money. [ABA Journal]

Lat here. As Elie just predicted, Sullivan & Cromwell has shown up to Bigfoot the partnership of Cravath — sort of. It has announced a year-end bonus scale that is very similar to, but slightly better than, the Cravath bonus scale.

And, more importantly, it has promised spring bonuses. The ATL headquarters is around Soho, but we could hear the gnashing of partners’ teeth in both midtown and downtown Manhattan.

Let’s get into the specifics….

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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.

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(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.

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'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….

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Perhaps you’ve already heard that Cravath announced its 2011 bonus scale on Monday (swiftly followed by Skadden and Milbank) and apparently it’s 2009 all over again. Around here, while Lat shrugged and Elie heaped scorn (“dick move”), the ATL commentariat … well, they were cut to the heart and gnashed their teeth (“ALLCAPS OUTRAGE MEME”).

We can’t help but wonder if this bonus season’s dyspepsia is typical of lawyers and law students generally. What with the growing ranks of JDs who are despairing of ever paying off their debt, shouldn’t there be some significant cohort thinking, “phew…not only do I have a job, but now my firm will be forced to match”?

Well it turns out that’s certainly not the case…

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Last night, Milbank Tweed matched the Cravath bonus scale for 2011. The news, first reported by Am Law Daily, came on the heels of yesterday’s Skadden match.

But wait — did Milbank perhaps beat the Cravath and Skadden bonus scales? Let’s look at the details of the Milbank bonus announcement….

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It took a little longer than most of you expected, but Cravath, Swaine & Moore just announced its 2011 associate bonuses (not long after announcing its new partners). Barring something very unforeseen, these bonuses are what many Biglaw firms, in New York and across the land, will pay out this year to their people. Historically Cravath has set the market with respect to year-end associate bonuses at major law firms.

The Cravath bonuses are what you might expect. They are in line with recent years, nothing crazy high or ridiculously low. Both Occupy Wall Street types and law firm associates can put away the pitchforks.

Let’s take a look at the official memorandum, and engage in some analysis….

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New partners, jumping for joy.

Is making partner at a major law firm as desirable as it used to be? In an interesting article in the New York Times about the growing trend of lawyers leaving large firms to start their own boutiques, Margie Grossberg, a partner at the legal recruiting firm of Major, Lindsey & Africa, offered these observations: “In the past, associates found if they worked really hard and did the right things, they made partner. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. The odds are a lot slimmer, and it’s also not as coveted as it once was.”

These are all fair comments. Note also the number of partners who leave Biglaw behind for other opportunities, such as in-house posts, or government or judicial service.

At the same time, however, let’s face it: being a partner at a top law firm is still highly desirable. The pay, prestige, and perks are tremendous. In a recent survey of new partners by the American Lawyer, over 80 percent of respondents said their new jobs were either what they expected or better than they expected. As Aric Press of Am Law noted, “new partners are basking in the land of more: more money, more responsibility, and more information about their firms.”

This is especially true of partners at firms near the top of the Biglaw hierarchy — places like Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, with profits per partner in 2010 of $3.17 million and $2.64 million, respectively. They both announced new partnership classes this month.

Let’s learn about the new partners at CSM and STB. Maybe you know some of them — from college, or law school, or a case or matter you’ve worked on….

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