A small law-firm bonus, or a small-law-firm bonus?
It was almost two weeks ago that I, still fat from Thanksgiving turkey, wondered publicly about the status of bonuses at small law firms. Well, it’s time to get the results of that status check.
I recall Elie using the term “anemic” to describe Cravath’s bonus numbers (which were looking like the standard for Biglaw bonuses this year — at least until Cahill came along). Given that, I can only think the term “uber-anemic” is in order here.
A small law-firm bonus, or a small-law-firm bonus?
While Biglaw types may or may not have had something to be thankful for over the holiday weekend, many small firm lawyers were feeling the Thanksgiving love via the SoloSez list serve.
There were numerous magnanimous emails coming through about what small firm lawyers are thankful for. I found myself wondering whether these warm-and-fuzzy feelings resulted from pure happiness — or whether they might reflect cold hard cash, in the form of small-firm bonuses.
So let’s gather some data about bonuses at small law firms….
In addition to talk of bonuses and layoffs, another topic that instills fear in associates is partnership prospects. A couple of weeks ago, we asked you how current partnership prospects at your firm compared to last year, and how your firm treats associates who are passed over for partnership.
Forty-seven percent of respondents report that the chances of making partner are worse than last year, 42% say they are about the same, and 11% indicate that prospects are better.
First, the bad news: the percentage of respondents who say that prospects are worse is significantly larger among the senior associates who are either up for partner or nearing partnership consideration. For example, 66% of the Class of 2002 report that making partner is less likely than last year, as do 58% of the Class of 2003, and 55% of respondents who graduated before 2002 (which may include some current partners). Maybe it’s just the nerves talking, but it could also be that eighth year associates and beyond have a better grasp of reality than, say, Class of 2010 associates.
Members of the “lost generation” who managed to snag those elusive Biglaw offers are generally being viewed as welcome additions to their firms. According to our survey results, the majority of respondents report that Class of 2009 and 2010 associates started on time, and have enough billable work.
Although most of the more senior associates think the first-year associates will be cut first if the economy heads south again, a number of newbies are actually very confident about their job security. (That’s especially true of first-years at this New York firm.)
If you’re in Biglaw, chances are that not all of the first-year associates currently working at your firm are of the fresh-out-of-law-school-and-still-tan-from-post-bar-trip variety. With many firms just now welcoming back some Class of 2009 associates after a yearlong deferral, Class of 2010 associates have to wait their turn to start work in 2011 or 2012. But now that the great recession is over, surely business has picked up enough so that there is plenty of doc review and due diligence to go around for first-year associates, right? Or is work still so slow that the more senior associates have to hoard all the grunt work?
In this week’s survey, we want to know whether the first-year associates at your firm are being welcomed with open arms, or viewed as the competition…
We hear lots of stories about screamers — the abusive partners that all associates dread getting assignments from. But what about those partners that associates seek out — the ones who are good mentors, who give younger lawyers pointers about how to become better lawyers?
This week our ATL / Lateral Link survey asks you to take a minute to nominate the partner you most like to work for — and tell us why. Don’t worry, you won’t be asked for your name, so give your honest feedback. We’ll tally the data and in the coming weeks, we will present the top partners to work for throughout the country…
A recent study by economists at UC Berkeley gives employers a nice argument for keeping salaries a secret. Well, luckily for you, I’m not your employer. Therefore I have no qualms about sharing with you Part 2 of the results from our small-firm salary survey.
In your emails following Part 1, many of you asked that I take the practice experience element of the survey and show how it correlates to salary. Good point. I actually had that in mind from the start, but ended up pushing it into my Part 2 draft when I decided to split up the post.
But you don’t care; you just want the numbers. So, with the final caveat that I’m sure I’ll never be able to fully satiate your salary hunger, here’s the latest snack…
In part 1 of the results of the Associate Morale Survey, brought to you by Lateral Link, we revealed that 74% of respondents felt that associate morale was either the same or worse than last year. Though not entirely surprising, this result is troubling, given that low employee morale is not helpful to the economic recovery.
What, then, can firms do to boost struggling associate morale? The top solution, according to 67% of survey respondents, is for firms to be more open and transparent about decisions that affect associates. The next most popular option is for firms to unfreeze salaries and/or reverse pay cuts, cited by 44% of respondents. So to our Biglaw partner readers, remember that a little candor can go a long way with associates, and salary cuts and freezes are so 2008.
Biglaw salaries are no secret. You can find numbers all over the internet, including places like oh, I don’t know, Above the Law (not just the home page, but also the Career Center).
But what about information for everyone else? You already know what I made during my time at a small firm, but that doesn’t really help unless you’re looking for a job at my old firm (surprise, they’re not hiring).
Those looking to smaller firm options need information — law students especially. The OCI music has stopped, and there are plenty of people left standing. The good news is that there are other places to sit down. The bad news is that nobody can tell whether sitting in those seats will earn them enough to keep their creditors at bay.
With that and a general interest in the dissemination of information in mind, please take this short survey, so I can begin compiling some hard numbers on small firm salaries. As always, survey responses are kept completely confidential. I’ll sort, analyze and package the results in some kind of eye-pleasing manner.
Please click HERE to take the SURVEY. And please pass the survey along to any of your friends at small firms; the more responses I get, the more accurate and reliable the findings will be.
If you’d like to offer any other salary-related information or clever commentary, or have tips or story suggestions, please email me at Little Richard at gmail dot com. Thanks!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
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For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
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Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!