Davis Polk

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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Conservatives, just shut up about this guy. You'll all love him again when he strikes down Affirmative-Action this fall.

* I think there is an interesting question on why Republican Presidents seem to have difficulty getting their Supreme Court justices to vote the party line, but this opinion writer handles the discussion in a stupid, butthurt way. [Washington Post]

* Your Tweets can be subpoenaed. #Biglawdiscoverytactics. [Atlantic Wire]

* Rutgers-Camden Law seems to be having trouble filling its seats. Maybe that’s why they’ve started admitting people who didn’t even apply. [Tax Prof Blog]

* If you spend over $100K for a J.D. and then end up working at Axiom, you’ve probably lost. [Law Technology News]

* Here’s a nice little chart made with Chambers numbers to tell us which firms seem to be staffing up. The takeaway is that in addition to your studies, you should be spending enough time in the gym so you look pretty enough to work at Davis Polk. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A Blawg Review that pays homage to Lyndon Baines Johnson. I read that LBJ used to take meetings while he was on the crapper. You probably couldn’t do that today without somebody suing you. [The Defense Rests via Blawg Review]

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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In the nascent spirit of positivity around here, let’s take a look at where, according to our research, Biglaw’s happiest troopers can be found.

To be sure, lawyers are a notoriously depressive lot. Various studies — and presumably Will Meyerhofer — suggest that the characteristics that make a good lawyer actually correlate with clinical depression. Combine these alleged traits with crushing debt, an oversaturated job market, and an uncertain future, and the industry seems mired in malaise.

But what about those fortunate ones who’ve managed to snag a coveted Biglaw gig? Why, not only are they employed, but they have a realistic chance to pay off their loans. Are they any more upbeat than the industry’s rank-and-file? Our own survey data strongly suggests the answer is definitely maybe.

Respondents to our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey give their “firm morale” a mean rating of 6.81 out of 10. (By the way, if you haven’t yet, please take the survey here.) For context, lawyers rate morale a bit higher than “hours” (6.55) and bit lower than “training” (6.88). So, generally speaking, firm morale is not conspicuously singled out by lawyers as a negative.

But which are the happiest firms? And the unhappiest? Let’s have a look at the Biglaw shops getting top marks for esprit de corps….

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'So then I said to them, 'We have, like, a staggered board AND a poison pill. So suck on that!''

The halls are alive with… the sound of vermin? As we’ve mentioned earlier today, some top law firms (and even one top law school) are experiencing problems with rodents, insects, and other pests.

And, unfortunately, some of these critters have crept into company canteens. Thanks to New York City’s controversial system of rating restaurants, in which establishments receive letter grades based on their health and sanitation violations (or lack thereof), we know which law firm cafeterias are worth patronizing (and which ones are best avoided).

Let’s take a look at which Biglaw behemoths have the best — and the buggiest — dining rooms….

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... to take a survey.

The ATL School and Firm Insiders Survey continues to roll along at a nice clip: we expect our 3,000th respondent any minute now. While we’re pleased with this response, of course we encourage all of you who haven’t yet to take 3-5 minutes and head over here to take our absolutely confidential survey. Thanks in advance.

Last week, we shared a few broad trends we’re seeing, and today, we’ll get a little more specific and name some names.

Among other things, the survey asks law students for their perceptions of a select group of firms as potential employers. In our analysis, we’ll look at which firms are considered the most (and least) attractive by law students. We’ll also consider how these perceptions jibe with what lawyers at these firms are telling us….

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She definitely loves wieners.

* Vedel Browne has been charged in the machete robbery of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He faces up to 20 years if convicted, and with that sentence, we’re betting he wishes he got away with more than $1,000. [CNN]

* ¡Viva México! These days, Mexico’s got more than just drug cartels, violence, and prison riots. More and more U.S. and international law firms (like DLA Piper) are crossing the border to set up shop. [Wall Street Journal]

* Which Biglaw firms own New York’s congressional delegation in terms of donations? The same Biglaw firms that have handed out bigger bonus dollars: Boies Schiller, Davis Polk, and Paul Weiss. [Politicker]

* Jury selection in the Tyler Clementi case is under way. Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student who allegedly spied on his roommate, faces up to ten years in prison. Should’ve taken the plea bargain, bro. [New York Post]

* Some women like their wieners with a side of abuse, but that doesn’t mean they want the encounter memorialized on film. A federal judge says that’s too bad, so let the cameras roll. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Katherine Darmer, a Chapman University law professor, passed away after falling from a building last week. Her death is now being probed as a possible suicide. Rest in peace, professor. [Los Angeles Times]

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