Davis Polk & Wardwell

Congratulations! You made it!

Few people are happier about the world’s surviving the Mayan Apocalypse than new partners at top law firms. Can you imagine slaving away in Biglaw for almost (or even over) a decade, finally winning election to the partnership in late 2012, and then having the world end before your hard-won partner status took effect?

Fortunately that didn’t happen. Heck, we didn’t even go over the fiscal cliff. But some people will have to pay higher taxes this year (and for many years to come).

Like these people: the talented and hardworking lawyers who, as of January 1, 2013, became partners of their respective law firms. Let’s find out who they are, so we can congratulate them….

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Marathons and triathlons are so passé. They’re just not thrilling enough; you need an endurance event that’s going to make you feel truly alive. Enter Tough Mudder, a 10 to 12 mile obstacle course designed to test participants’ all-around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. This isn’t a race, it’s a challenge, and participants are greeted upon entry with an ominous sign that reads, “Remember You Signed a Death Waiver.”

If you choose to sign up for one of these events, some of the extreme challenges you’ll experience include trudging through a mile of waist-deep mud, sprinting through blazing fire, being submerged in ice water so cold that hypothermia is a real possibility, and running through 10,000 volts of electricity. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is.

This is the kind of torture that could only have been dreamed up by a former Biglaw tax attorney….

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Where’s the coke?

* NALP is becoming the harbinger of doom for law practice. Here’s some cheerful news: the percentage of female associates in Biglaw dropped for the third year in a row. Perhaps they’re going the way of the Clifford Chance mommy. [National Law Journal]

* Biglaw hotties are coming to a continent near you! Davis Polk & Wardell will be adding a litigation practice to its existing shop in Hong Kong, and they managed to poach two big name Clifford Chance litigators in the process. [DealBook / New York Times]

* According to the ACC, in 2012, base salaries for general counsel rose 1.9 percent, while cash bonuses dropped 7.9 percent. But really, who’s going to complain about a six-figure bonus? [Corporate Counsel]

* A Delaware jury ruled that Apple infringed on several patents in a mobile-device technologies case filed by MobileMedia Ideas. Somewhere, Samsung’s bigwigs are laughing their asses off. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* A woman was arrested in Spain for trying to smuggle in cocaine from Colombia. Seems pretty standard, except for the fact that she was hiding the coke in brand new breast implants — three pounds of it! [CNN]

Perhaps they were just waiting around for Sullivan & Cromwell. Not long after S&C announced bonuses, on Thursday afternoon of last week, Davis Polk announced bonuses, on Friday.

They matched the Cravath scale. Shocking, we know.

What about Morrison & Foerster? They just announced bonuses too, for associates in their New York office….

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Around here, one can’t mention the concept of something being “overrated” without reference to one of the weirdest and most enduring ATL comment memes, a play on the late, great Hitch’s assertion that the four most overrated things in life are “champagne, lobster, anal sex, and picnics.” So who are the, um, lobsters of Biglaw?

Last week, we had a look at what our audience considered to be the most underrated Biglaw firms, by practice area. Today, inevitably, we turn it around and have a look at what you’re telling us are the most overrated firms.

Among other things, our ATL Insider Survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with overrated practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, etc.

To be sure, these survey results need to be taken with some buckets of salt — we realize that, for some, answering this question might be a chance to take an easy shot at a more successful rival or competitor. Of course, there are crazy people who will tell you that such paragons as Benjamin Franklin or Tom Brady are “overrated,” but that probably says more about the person making that statement than anything else. But that said, these survey responses are a fun glimpse at which firms Biglaw attorneys think are more sizzle than steak….

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Maybe they’re on to something….

Here’s an interesting irony: some of the Biglaw firms that spend the least amount of time thinking about money are the ones that enjoy the most of it. A number of super-elite New York law firms have lockstep compensation systems, in which partners are paid purely based on seniority, and these firms are among the most profitable in the country. These firms focus on doing great work for their clients, not on divvying up the spoils from such work — and, in the end, there’s more than enough filthy lucre to keep everyone smelling like money.

On an individual level, some of the wealthiest lawyers in Biglaw — the ones who make partner, and remain partner, for years and years — don’t fixate much on money either. They focus instead on their work, which they seem to just love (often more than any hobbies, and sometimes more than their families). As for the money, well, it just comes — in copious quantities.

Let’s take a closer look at these phenomena….

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The law firm cafeteria is something of an anachronism. Having a large company mess hall where associates can grab a bite to eat without taking too much time to get lunch isn’t really necessary anymore. Nobody takes a “lunch hour” anymore. Associates can use Seamless and eat at their desks.

And we know partners aren’t eating in the firm cafeteria unless they are 80 years old and too busy to head to Peter Luger’s. No law firm cafeteria is nice enough to bring a client to; that’s why God created expense accounts.

But the cafeteria is still useful for secretaries and paralegals. At my old firm, the cafeteria was a great place to grab breakfast. At Debevoise, the cafeteria enjoys the best views of the block. We used to bring lawyers from Schulte Roth, which is housed on the lower floors at 919 Third Avenue, to show them our view (and to console them while they cried).

The point is, even as the Biglaw cafeteria has diminished relevance given our modern conveniences, you don’t want your firm perk to be disgusting. Last March, we learned that a number of Biglaw firms had received poor grades from the New York City Department of Health about the quality of their in-house cafeterias.

But it appears that Cravath’s food fortunes have significantly improved…

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Who had a ball this summer?

It’s August. The dog days. The beginning of the end of the summer. Summer associate programs at Biglaw firms are starting to wrap up. So it’s time for us to seek submissions for the best summer associate event of the season.

Biglaw summer programs are smaller and less opulent than they used to be. But they’re not as bad as they were during the darkest days of the recession. Summer associates are getting offers. And having lesbian sex. It’s not all bad.

There have to be some summer events worth nominating this year. Hell, at this point we’d settle for a summer event that didn’t require medical attention after it finished….

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Equity partner! Yay!

Major law firms like to tout their dedication to furthering women’s success in the law, but if you look more closely, you’ll find that many Biglaw firm talk a big game, but have little proof back up their words. Take, for example, the fact that according to a recent survey conducted by the National Law Journal, the percentage of women lawyers in partnership positions has increased only 2.8 percent since 2003. In the meantime, the National Association of Women Lawyers says that the percentage of women in equity partnership positions has been “fixed” at just 15 percent for the past 20 years.

Well, whoop-dee-doo at all of these wonderful statistics that we’ve been choking down for the past decade. Women are apparently supposed to be happy about this kind of painfully slow progress. But what about the firms that have actually honored their commitments to women lawyers?

Let’s take a look at the numbers….

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President Barack Obama now supports marriage equality. And so do many major law firms, it seems. More than 30 top firms provide the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)

Since our last discussion of which Biglaw firms offer the tax offset, a few more names have jumped on the bandwagon. Let’s find out which ones, shall we?

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