Debevoise & Plimpton

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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This is my least favorite post to write every year. The Debevoise & Plimpton bonuses were just announced. So now it’s time for me to sit back and marvel at how much money I personally left on the table when I decided to quit Debevoise what feels like a lifetime ago.

In fact, the very first time I can remember hearing about the website “Above the Law” was when a person sitting next to me in a cubicle at the New York Press said: “Jesus Elie, your old firm just paid twice as much in bonus than we’ll make this year. It’s all over this Above the Law site.”

Ah, but it’s not like that this year. This year, Debevoise is just matching the S&C bonuses that aren’t overly impressive. Bottom rail on top now, mister….

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Not surprisingly, we’ve noticed a sharp uptick in same-sex weddings in the NYT since New York legalized gay marriage this summer. If you’re planning your own same-sex celebration, don’t miss this article on “Dressing Two Grooms.” Apparently lesbians are on their own.

Although we don’t have any gay finalists this week, we’ve unintentionally chosen a slate of opposite-sex finalists that looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad campaign. Here are our fabulously diverse contestants:

Mayumi Kawashima and Darius Kharabi
Adiya Dixon and Erin Wiggins
Darpana Sheth and Gregg Nunziata

You can find the juicy details on these couples, plus pictures, after the jump….

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Earlier this week, we introduced the first group of top New York partners whom our readers nominated as being great to work for. Today we present you with another eight partners from the Big Apple.

They hail from some of the heaviest hitters among Biglaw firms: Paul Weiss; Simpson Thacher; Kasowitz Benson; Cleary Gottlieb; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cravath; and Akin Gump.

Let’s learn who they are….

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* Nikki Finke, the Deadline.com diva, disses Debevoise. [Am Law Daily]

* This kind of friendly fun between opposing counsel would surely warm Jay Shepherd’s heart. [The Namby Pamby]

* This opinion describes a murder gory enough to turn the stomach of Bruce Reilly (aka the Tulane 1L Murderer). [You Shall Never Know Security]

* A new national poll on same-sex marriage shows that… Americans aren’t very good at answering poll questions. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* I definitely live it up when in Las Vegas, but even I have a hard time fathoming a $20,000 hotel bill. [Deadspin]

* Law Firm Merger Mania: Fulbright & Jaworski + Norton Rose? [Legal Week via ABA Journal]

* Good luck to S.D.N.Y. nominee Jesse Furman (who’s a talented attorney and a great guy, and who edited my case note once upon a time). [National Law Journal]

* An interesting issue: “In free speech vs. privilege battle, who wins?” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* If we didn’t waste spend this much money on litigation, wouldn’t there be even more unemployed lawyers? [eLocalLawyers]

Following a freak earthquake earlier in the week, the East Coast is now bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irene. From the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the boroughs of New York City, people are getting ready for another natural disaster that could prove to be devastating.

And speaking of natural disasters, we hear that some folks in North Carolina received their bar exam results today. Congratulations — you’re first to get your bar exam results this year, and you’re first to get ravaged by Irene.

Hopefully this will all blow over. But in case it doesn’t, it’s important to be prepared.

Let’s see how law firms and law schools are getting ready for Hurricane Irene….

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One of the lasting effects of the recession has been clients wising up on the value of first-year associates (or the lack thereof). Many at large law firms knew that junior associates contributed little more than manpower during their first couple of years at a firm. But only in the crucible of the recession did clients start asking why they were paying money to finish the training of junior Biglaw associates.

Of course, being able to bill out your new labor at high billing rates is a key part of the law firm business model. Firms are already in a bind: since American law schools insist on graduating students with little to no practical skills, the kids must be trained. Training them on the client’s dime (while the law firm partners pocket a profit) is just one of the ways it has always been done.

But those who do not innovate die. Today brings news that two major law firms are going to try something different with their first-years.

The first-years will get paid their usual $160K salary. But at least at the start, they’ll have to go through more training…

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Ebony and ivory, billing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve talked a lot in these pages about the value of diversity. It’s important to clients, it’s important to law firms, and it’s important to the legal profession as a whole.

Given the significance of diversity, it’s not surprising that several organizations and news outlets focus on it, especially with respect to large law firms. In the past few weeks, we’ve discussed diversity data from Building A Better Legal Profession and from the American Lawyer, for example.

Today brings news of more diversity rankings, this time from the ranking gurus over at Vault. They’ve compiled a list of 25 best law firms for diversity.

Which firms made the cut? Is your firm on the list?

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* You’d think the following would go without saying, but the kids these days need it spelled out, so here goes: If you are Facebook friends with a hostage taker, DO NOT send him status updates alerting him to SWAT team movements during a standoff. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Excellent interview with Mark Cuban’s lawyer, Thomas Melsheimer of Fish & Richardson. [Deadspin]

* Illegal immigrants are everywhere. And… and… it’s no BFD! It hasn’t ruined the country. In fact, Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer-winning journalist. [New York Times Magazine]

* How lawyers want you to handle it when they send you letters. [Popehat]

* My father used to say: If old white ladies are yelling at you, you must be doing something right. Or something like that. [Althouse]

* I only skimmed through Kash’s thoughts on Anthony Weiner, but I think she just said that if you are not tweeting your boner at people, you are leading a repressed and boring life. Unfortunately, Kash was never molested. [Room for Debate / New York Times]

* Maurizio Levi-Minzi, hiring partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, says that the firm is looking for people who are passionate about something, not necessarily the law. I can, like, vouch for that and stuff. [The Careerist]

* Unlike that Stanford guy, Walter Olson eschews sensational headlines, even though editors can sometimes overrule him. Oh, but as a blogger, I’m required to write this blurb this way: Walter Olson, establishment lapdog, defends the evil Wal-Mart and other enemies of galactic peace. [Overlawyered]

As many of you know, here at Above the Law we have been tracking which major law firms offer a non-salary benefit that we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up. As we’ve previously explained, quoting a memo issued by Simpson Thacher, the gay gross-up is “[a] ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.”

Today we are pleased to report that two top firms have joined the club. Kudos to Debevoise & Plimpton and Shearman & Sterling for standing on the side of equality. You can read their announcement memos, issued earlier this month, after the jump.

We have added these firms to our list. By the way, for those firms that would rather appear on a list maintained by the New York Times than one maintained by Above the Law, you should note that the NYT is also monitoring which workplaces provide this perk. The NYT list includes employers of many different types, not just law firms, and features some of the nation’s most innovative companies, such as Google and Facebook and Apple.

With the addition of Debevoise and Shearman, which leading law firms provide this benefit? Let’s take a look….

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