Earlier this year, partner bonuses at Hogan Lovells generated some controversy across the pond. Certain partners in London questioned the process by which payments were determined and wondered whether partners in management received too much relative to rank-and-file partners. Squabbles over partner pay are something the firm’s incoming CEO, D.C.-based Stephen Immelt, can look forward to addressing when he takes over next summer.
Let’s now turn from partner pay in London to associate pay in New York. The NYC office of Ho-Love recently showed its associates some love, in the form of year-end bonuses. Were they as controversial as the London partner payouts?
MoFo’s new German team is known for its expertise in Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) transactional work. The Berlin office in the firm’s third outpost in Europe and its 17th office worldwide.
How is Hogan Lovells taking news of the departures? As the ABA Journal wondered in a headline, “Morrison & Foerster opens Berlin office; is Hogan Lovells miffed?”
In fairness to DLA Piper, the craziness might not be that high on a per capita basis. DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the world. In the most recent Global 100 rankings, DLA took second place in both total revenue and attorney headcount.
Many of the DLA Piper stories are on the lighter side. But this latest one — involving serious allegations of overbilling, apparently supported by internal DLA emails saying things like “churn that bill, baby!” — is no laughing matter….
One of the nice things about being a Biglaw lawyer is that you’ve got some autonomy over your schedule. You know how much work you have to do, and you know when it’s due, and within those borders you can manage your own time. If you want to come in a little bit later and stay a little it later, so be it. If you want to come in super early… well, you’re probably still going to end up staying late because of some BS that happens at 4:30 p.m., but after you bill 100 hours in a week, you can probably take it really easy once your matter closes.
The point is, Biglaw lawyers have the expectation of being treated like adults when it comes to their own time management.
So it’s a little bit surprising that a Biglaw firm is treating associates in one office like little children who need to be present when attendance is taken….
In our recent post on the top 10 most generous large law firms — based on analysis by ATL’s new director of research, Brian Dalton — the firm of Hogan Lovells placed second. Under the rankings, this meant that Hogan partners are taking the second-biggest hit to their own bottom lines in order to keep their associates happy and well-compensated.
But is this still the case today? Based on what we’re hearing about the most recent Hogan bonuses, announced shortly before Christmas, one wonders whether the Ho-Love partners have turned from Santas into Scrooges….
He was clearly the salesman-in-chief, and he did a darn good job at it. I remember being told that despite the fact that the economy was essentially collapsing around everyone’s heads, 2008 was going to come in well over budget with record revenues and profits.
Agreeing on this point is former Kirkland & Ellis partner Steven Harper (whose apparent pro-associate stance may make him a sort of Biglaw apostate). As Harper points out, “equity partner profit trees have resumed their growth to the sky. As the economy struggled, Cravath’s average partner profits increased to $2.7 million in 2009 and to $3.17 million in 2010 … That’s not ‘treading water.’ It’s returning to 2007 profit levels — the height of ‘amazing’ boom years that most observers had declared gone forever. Watch for 2011 profits to be even higher.”
And yet associate bonuses remain stagnant at 2009 levels. Furthermore, as ATL commenter “The Cravath Cut” is so fond of noting, when viewed as a percentage of profits, bonuses appear especially measly, at least from the associate p.o.v. (The current $7,500 market rate for first-years is just 0.23% of Cravath’s profits per partner. Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equalled 1.36%.) Despite these numbers, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone Biglaw’s rank and file will follow Cravath’s lead.
Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. We thought it would be interesting to see what the implications of matching Cravath are for those firms with much lower profit margins. Which firms’ partners willingly take the biggest hit by keeping up? Are these firms arguably more “generous”? After the jump, check out those firms that pay the largest percentage of PPP in bonuses.
It’s late October, so Biglaw bonus news could drop any day now. In 2010, Cravath didn’t kick off the season until November 22. But back in 2009, Cravath announced bonuses on November 2. And in 2007 — yes, the glory days, before the Great Recession — Cravath announced bonuses, regular and “special,” on October 29.
In light of the economic gloom and doom, including the possibility of a double-dip recession, it wouldn’t be shocking if bonuses are modest this year. Better to conserve the cash and avoid layoffs, right? Or maybe repeat what happened in 2010 and save some money for spring bonuses in a few months, when firms might have a better idea of the direction of the economy?
Regardless of how bonuses turn out, there are other pockets of good news in the world of large law firms — even news requiring law firms to open their wallets. Check out the growing number of firms that offer the perk we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up….
* “Dominique Strauss-Kahn Gets Off, As Did Everyone Else Who Stayed In His Room At The Sofitel.” Or: what you don’t want to know about your high-end hotel room. [Dealbreaker]
* F**k yeah — trademark law! Or: some reflections on the “immoral or scandalous” bar to trademark registration, by fashion lawyer Chuck Colman. [Law of Fashion]
* The New Jersey Supreme Court just issued a major new decision calling for changes in the way that courts handle eyewitness identifications — an issue that will also be going before SCOTUS in the coming Term. [The Innocence Project]
* Congratulations to Professor Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, who’s apparently headed to Hogan Lovells. [Am Law Daily]
I feel like I’ve stepped into a time machine that has taken me all the way back to 2009.
According to an internal memo obtained by Above the Law, the international law firm of Hogan Lovells is offering a voluntary separation program to U.S. staff. The memo, posted in full below, talks about needing to bring the firm’s support staff into alignment with overall firm needs.
The program is voluntary, but as we learned during the height of the recession, “voluntary” programs don’t always stay optional….
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