There haven’t been any VCU-style upsets in our Coolest Law Firm Bracket. That’s probably because lawyers don’t like upsets. Lawyers get paid to make sure no “surprises” happen; lawyers like things to proceed in a predictable and organized fashion. Sure, Davis Polk (ranked #5 by Vault) topped Skadden (ranked #4) in the Elite Eight. But the real surprise there is that the gargantuan-sized Skadden couldn’t whip up enough of its own people to vote it through to the next round.

As we move into the Final Four, we’ve got some intriguing match-ups. On one side of the bracket, people will have to choose whether or not making money is cooler than being attractive. On the other side of the bracket, we’ll answer the question: Is being “first” more important than being “best”?

Let’s get to it…

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We will have a new winner in this year’s Coolest Law Firm contest. When Above the Law first ran this bracket back in 2008, you picked Latham & Watkins as the victor. This time around, they got… Lathamed, in the first round. Cravath crushed Latham by a 60% – 40% margin. That was the second-highest margin of victory among all of the first-round match-ups.

So, for those playing along at home, paying a spring bonus is “more cool” than not paying a spring bonus.

As we move into the Elite Eight, some of our readers are asking us to give a more clear definition of what is “cool.” We respectfully decline to do so. It’s up to you to tell us what makes a top law firm cool. Is it job security, making maximum bank, prestige points? It’s really up to you. Personally I think the coolest law firm would be the one most likely to represent bad-ass clients on the correct side of moral issues, but… eeek, that’s not really what Biglaw is all about.

So bring your own prejudices to the table when you vote in the next round of the Coolest Law Firm Tournament. Use whatever reasoning makes sense to you. Just don’t go with chalk because you can’t be bothered to actually form an opinion — don’t be boring, son….

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In a postcript to our detailed post speculating about the future direction of the spring bonus phenomenon, we noted “an isolated report of one firm on the S&C spring bonus scale going back and raising to the Cravath scale,” but said we required additional corroboration.

We now have the requisite confirmation. On Tuesday, Simpson Thacher — which was the first firm to match the Sullivan & Cromwell spring bonuses, and therefore crucial in helping the S&C bonuses spread to other firms — announced that it would adopt the Cravath spring bonus scale (which is even higher than S&C’s).

Let’s go back to our listing of which firms have announced spring bonuses at which levels. Now that STB has raised to Cravath levels, only Sullivan & Cromwell and Cleary Gottlieb remain on the lower scale.

What will happen next?

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Thank you, Above the Law readers. The results are in for January’s Lawyer of the Month, and I can happily report that I do not write for an audience comprised solely of heartless, cynical d-bags.

Seriously, I’m going to be able to talk to my mother about what I do for a living for a whole week.

In a month that had some worthwhile competitors, one lawyer stood out above the rest…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “January Lawyer of the Month Restores Faith in Humanity”

As many of you know, one of our running features here at Above the Law is Lawyer of the Day. We don’t literally name one every day, but we like to keep you informed of the famous and infamous lawyers of the world. At the end of the year, we give you guys an opportunity to vote for a Lawyer of the Year.

Apparently you guys like to vote on lawyers, so why limit the experience to once a year? Above the Law has decided to let you crown a lawyer every month. We’ll pick the nominees (going forward, feel free to submit nominees to us at, and you’ll vote for the most deserving. There are no specific criteria — just vote for the lawyer or lawyers you think most deserve the title.

Let’s get to this month’s nominees…

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The venerable firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore — still widely regarded as setting the market for associate compensation at large law firms, even if other places pay more — has announced springtime bonuses. These bonuses are on top of the recent year-end bonuses that Cravath paid in December 2010.

And get this: the CSM bonuses are higher than the spring bonuses previously announced by Sullivan & Cromwell. Wow!!!

For the classes of 2010 though 2008, the bonuses are on the S&C scale. But for the class of 2007 on up (more senior), the Cravath bonuses are more generous than SullCrom’s.

It seems that Cravath has gotten the memo: Cachet is nice, but cash is nicer.

So how generous are the Cravath bonuses for the more senior classes?

UPDATE (8:45 PM): After the jump, we have added a table comparing the Cravath total bonus to the Sullivan & Cromwell / Simpson Thacher / Cleary Gottlieb total bonus.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Cravath Enters the Bonus Wars — and Beats S&C!”

Ted Cruz

A new year, a new job. That seems to be the thinking of many within the legal profession, based on the proliferation of professional moves we have to report (and not just out of Howrey).

We’ll start with one move that’s aspirational rather than actual. Legal and political superstar Ted Cruz — the Morgan Lewis partner who heads the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, and who was recently named one of the 25 greatest Texas lawyers of the past 25 years — will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the good senatrix Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Check out the announcement on his website, or read this BLT post.

Like many lawyers turned politicians, including our current president, the 40-year-old Cruz is a Harvard Law grad (and one of The Elect — Rehnquist / OT 1996). Graduates of HLS’s rival to the south, Yale Law School, tend to take more quirky paths.

Yul Kwon

That brings us to the second move of the day. YLS grad Yul Kwon — a former Second Circuit clerk and McKinsey consultant, the first Asian-American winner of Survivor, and one of People’s “sexiest men alive” (in 2006) — has left the Federal Communications Commission. Kwon served as deputy chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau at the Commission.

Instead of working at the FCC, Kwon, 35, will be regulated by it: he’s going to be the host of a new television series on PBS, America Revealed (which sounds pretty cool). Read more from the FCC (press release), Bloomberg, and the Washington Post.

More moves — a Cravath partner’s jump over to Wall Street, and the defection of many McDermott energy lawyers to Cadwalader — after the jump.

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(Including the energy lawyers going from MWE to CWT.)

As of this writing — Thursday, December 16, at 10:30 AM — Sullivan & Cromwell has not yet announced its bonus scheme. We suspect that several other top firms that have yet to announce bonuses, like Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, and Debevoise, are simply waiting for the white smoke to emerge from 125 Broad Street. [FN1]

So… what’s going on at S&C?

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Partnership: the proverbial brass ring.

‘Tis the season — for new partner elections at large law firms. Although there are some exceptions, most firms pick and announce their new partner classes around November and December, with partnership effective on January 1 of the following year.

These partnership announcements sometimes contain interesting information, if you read between the lines. As we’ve previously observed, “Partnership decisions often shed light on the current state of a firm, its prospects for the future, and its priorities. How many new partners did a firm make? How does the number of new partners this year compare to past years? In which practice areas did it make new partners? How many of the new partners are women or minorities?”

After the jump, we look at new partner news from ten top firms — perhaps you know some of these law firm superstars (and soon-to-be millionaires)? — and we invite you to discuss the new partners at your firm….

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The happiness emanating from the offices of Biglaw partners is palpable. Cravath paid a 2009 bonus despite a stronger 2010, and lowballing associates means more money for partners. Partners are giving anonymous quotes expressing their happiness. Skadden whipped off its Cravath-matching bonus memo so quickly it looked like a damn blog post. And, predictably, consultants are now scrambling to support the low bonus numbers.

It would seem that Biglaw has successfully colluded settled upon this year’s bonus schedule, and it is what it is.

But what if a firm already privately promised its associates a bonus scale that is better than last year? Would such a firm happily break its unwritten word just because Cravath set the bonus bar so low? Looks like we’re going to find out.

If you’ve been reading the comments on our bonus posts, you already know that Kirkland & Ellis associates expect to be paid more than the Cravath scale, because that’s what Kirkland has told them…

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