Personally, I think it’s time for Biglaw associates in the class of 2010 to drink a tall glass of shut the hell up. They got jobs at a time when many of their classmates did not. They received $160K salaries just after there was a significant effort by some firms to push starting salaries down to $145K. Most of them got to start sometime in 2010… in the same year many of the people in the class of 2009 got to start. And, as far as we know, none of them have been Lathamed and had their careers aborted before they even started.
Are things as easy for the class of 2010 as they were for the class of 2006? No. But sometimes I think that the current n00bs forget that they could have been cast back down with the sodomites in the class of 2009.
But, that’s just me. And I’m old and irritable and have lost sight of the youthful exuberance that makes a person sing “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” It turns out that first-year associates don’t want to wait until they mature into a class worthy of a full bonus at the end of 2011. They want whatever bonus money they can get out of 2010, and they are angry at the firms that are not paying up.
The Cravath-level spring bonus for the class of 2010 is only $2,500 at the firms that are paying spring bonuses to first years. And so we have two disgruntled groups: people who work at firms not paying a spring bonus to first years, and people who feel the $2.5K is “illusory” because it’s prorated based on when the associate started at the firm.
I guess in some ways the legal economy across the pond is just as challenging as it is in America. And it seems that some British students are just as averse to personal responsibility as American students. A graduate of Oxford Law the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice is suing the school for £100,000, claiming that the school “ruined” her legal career.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post may have given the erroneous impression that the plaintiff is suing the University of Oxford, the venerable and world-renowned institution that most people are referring to when they refer to “Oxford.” Although the plaintiff attended the University of Oxford as an undergraduate, where she studied law, she is actually suing the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice. According to a tipster who’s a graduate of the University of Oxford, the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice — which happens to be located in Oxford, UK — is not currently affiliated with the University of Oxford.
How did OXILP ruin her career? She claims that they didn’t prepare her to take crucial legal exams. Yeah, let me rephrase: she failed her exams and is now blaming the school.
You know, if Ben Kenobi was still alive, I think he’d scream, “You have done that yourself.” But let’s hear the sad tale of Maria Abramova…
I’m an associate at a mid-sized law firm, and I recently received an offer from a much larger and more prestigious firm. I’ve decided to accept. My question is: should I ask for a signing bonus, and if so, how large? The salary bump from what I’m earning right now is already huge, so I feel greedy asking for more, especially in this economy. But if I can get it, why not, right?
– Money Never Sleeps
Dear Money Never Sleeps,
Here’s a sample of some of the items that landed in my inbox this week: One reader wanted to know whether to ask the firm where she was contracting at to upgrade her to associate. Somebody else requested an opinion on whether law school was still a bad idea given that he currently makes $16,000 a year and manages a coffee shop. And Mint.com, my passive-aggressive personal finance site, emailed me to “let me know” that I was over budget for “Alcohol & Entertainment” expenditures in January. And then I received your question. Yeah….
Earlier this week, Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, poured a big bottle of haterade all over the legal profession. More specifically, he criticized the way “Ivy League” lawyers are recruited, and the “palpable sense of entitlement” they exhibit even when they don’t take Biglaw bucks and instead work for the government. Here’s the set up:
The details of how elite law and business consulting firms recruit astonish me every time I hear them. Even getting an interview often requires attending an Ivy League professional school or a very few top tier equivalents. Folks who succeed in that round are invited to spend a summer working at the firm, the most sane aspect of the process.
But subsequently, they participate in sell events where they’re plied with food and alcohol in the most lavish settings imaginable: five star resort hotels, fine cigar bars, the priciest restaurants.
And here’s the money shot, one that is careening around the legal blogosphere like Billy Joel trying to get back from the Hamptons before the hurricane hits:
Though it isn’t defensible, it is unsurprising that a lot of people who eschew offers to work at these firms, favoring public sector work instead, imagine that they are making an enormous personal sacrifice by taking government work. The palpable sense of entitlement some of these public sector folks exude is owed partly to how few of “our best and brightest” do eschew the big firm route (due partly to increasing debt levels among today’s graduates, no doubt).
Really? You want to do this now? You want to talk smack about the people on the bottom rung of this totem pole, while willfully ignoring the clients, partners, law schools, and state governments that generate huge sums of wealth off the backs of the palpably entitled?
Fine. Let me take off my glasses, and we’ll step outside…
Last Friday, we named Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Ama Dwimoh our Lawyer of the Day. As a prosecutor, Dwimoh goes after child abusers. And yet, according to the New York Daily News — irony alert! — she herself abuses the kiddies, i.e., legal interns in her office.
One reader with firsthand knowledge protested this portrayal of the Brooklyn DA’s office and its treatment of interns:
I’m [a law student] intern at the KCDAO [Kings County District Attorney's Office], and from everything I’ve heard from all of my intern colleagues, the senior ADA’s have been nothing less than amazing — they find us work to do, always treat us with respect, always make us feel appreciated, and the office is gloriously drama-free.
This tipster has a theory about what’s going on here….
Over on Am Law, The Careerist has been doing a series of interviews with hiring partners at Biglaw firms. They are fun reads, at least if you like to see the extreme hubris exhibited by hiring partners during this buyers’ market for fresh associate talent. A month ago, Jones Day’s hiring partner gave a really good interview, one that sounded much more badass before JD popped its layoff cherry.
A year ago, Howrey announced that it was slashing first-year starting salaries and radically changing its first-year program. Drinker Biddle had adopted a similar “apprenticeship” approach a few weeks before Howrey. Aside from Howrey, Drinker Biddle, and some firm in Kentucky, no other law firm has tried to sell below market salaries and intensive “training” to new recruits.
Despite the paucity of firms attempting to remake the first year experience, the press remains fascinated by the experiment. In April, the Washington Post did a feature on Howrey’s first year experiment. Today, the National Law Journal has a full breakdown of the year-old program:
Proponents hail the programs as a positive step away from the sink-or-swim environment many young attorneys encounter when they show up at large firms, and as a practical response to the growing cost-consciousness of clients. The firms bill at much lower rates or not at all for work performed by the apprentices, who earn lower salaries than the industry standard.
The three firms that have gone in this direction claim that the apprenticeships are working. But since nobody is following their lead, it’s evident that the rest of Biglaw is not at all convinced…
On Friday, Jones Day hiring partner Gregory Shumaker sat down with The Careerist (gavel bang: ABA Journal) to give people the 4-1-1 on how to snag a job at one of Biglaw’s most secretive firms. Apparently, the people at Jones Day don’t like new lawyers who think too highly of themselves:
What turns you off about a candidate during an interview?
If I sense entitlement; if they think they’re better than their colleagues or if they are too focused on themselves.
Right, because the last thing you want is self-confident people who think they are better than their classmates and entitled to decent treatment and the prevailing market wage in exchange for their hard work and commitment.
But it’s an employer’s market, and Jones Day can afford to be choosy. Therefore, it’s not just low self-esteem that helps you get a job at Jones Day; you also have to buy into the firm’s culture of secrecy…
There are a lot of media outlets falling over themselves to capture a new angle to the Goldman Sachs lawsuit. But the Washington Post’s Matt Miller (gavel bang: ABA Journal) brilliantly used the Goldman lawsuit to address a potentially much bigger issue. S.E.C. v. Goldman could be the first shot of a new kind of class warfare:
A few years ago, a Goldman Sachs banker, still shy of his 40th birthday and worth, I was reliably told, some $80 million, told me that he wasn’t in his line of work for the money. “If I was doing this for the money,” he said, with no trace of irony, “I’d be at a hedge fund.”
What to say? Though such a statement is perhaps only fathomable on a small plot of real estate in Lower Manhattan at the dawn of the 21st century, it suggests how insular and debauched our ruling class has become.
For several years I’ve predicted that a new wild card in American life — the presence of economic resentment at the bottom of the top 1 percent of our income distribution — would become a powerful force for reform. The SEC’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be the first shot in what I think of as the revolt of the “lower upper class.”
Who belongs to the lower upper class? According to Miller, you do…
Well, it’s about time. On April 13th, a small claims court in Florida will deal with a case where an associate is suing his former law firm over allegedly deferred compensation. Only $2,000 is at issue, but this is a battle of principle. The Daily Business Review (subscription) sets it up:
The salary deferral imposed by [Becker & Poliakoff] in May 2008 was temporary and necessary in order to avoid layoffs during the economic downturn, managing partner Alan Becker said….
Former Becker associate Richard Valuntas sued the firm last August, alleging Becker committed breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation by refusing to repay him the 12 percent deducted from his paycheck for several months. He also alleges Becker’s deferrals violated its own employment contract and policy manual.
You see, the firm promised restitution of the salary cut, and they did eliminate the cut in August of 2008 and gave associates make-whole payments. But only associates still at the firm received full restitution. Valuntas left Becker that August and apparently missed out on one of these restitution paychecks.
Despite the small amount of money involved, both litigants are going to the mattresses…
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