In the world of Biglaw, the subject of bonuses is a hot-button issue. People will disagree, often vehemently, on whether the bonuses paid by a particular firm are generous or cheap. To paraphrase an old joke, if you ask two people about bonuses, you’ll get three opinions.
Given these frequent differences of opinion, whenever we publish an Associate Bonus Watch post, we’re eager to get opinions and additional information from you, our readers. As you can see from looking back at our prior bonus coverage, we often update our bonus posts to add new information or another point of view. You can send us reactions to your firm’s bonuses — or news of bonuses we have not yet covered — by email or by text message (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).
Last night, Kaye Scholer announced a match of the Cravath bonus scale from this season. And a match of the Cravath spring bonus from last season. But that has nothing to do with 2012 spring bonuses, which Sullivan & Cromwell alluded to last night. So even as Kaye Scholer associates are being “made whole” from the firm’s cheap stance on the last bonus season, it looks like they’re already starting this bonus season in the hole.
Keeping you updated about the latest bonus shenanigans is what Above the Law is here for….
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.
Partners are usually best remembered for behaving badly, or worse, treating associates badly. But not the partners who made our “Top Partners to Work For” list.
Last week, we asked you to nominate the best Biglaw partners you work for, tell us why they are the best, and rate them in six categories: expertise within the practice area, quality of work given to associates, hands-on training given to associates, provision of feedback on associate work, respect for associates’ schedules, and professionalism with associates.
Over the next several weeks, we will reveal who these exceptional partners are in a multi-part Career Center survey results series, sponsored by Lateral Link. We kick off the series this week with the New York partners, and then we’ll make our way around the country.
Let’s get to know the first eight partners and find out why associates say they are the best to work for….
While performing here at the ATL Cabaret on Wednesday night, the celebrated drag queen of Biglaw, Kaye Scholer, was pelted with rotten fruit — by her own associates. If you haven’t done so already, do check out their rage-filled rants. (If nothing else, they’ll make you feel better about your own firm.)
As we’ve stated before, we’re committed to presenting both sides of a given story here at Above the Law. Sometimes we don’t hear the other side of a story because the sources on that side don’t care to contact us. But when we do have both sides available to us, we present them.
In the case of the People v. Kaye Scholer, we did hear from a character witness on behalf of the defendant. What did this individual have to say?
Well, some associates at Kaye Scholer claim they’ve seen underneath all the make-up — and it’s not pretty. This contestant would not go far in RuPaul’s Drag Race.
In terms of responses to our recent discussion of which firms aren’t paying spring bonuses, however, Kaye Scholer emerges a winner. We’ve heard from KS associates in droves over the past day or two — and the depth of their fury is impressive.
What are they so upset about? It’s not just the lack of spring bonuses. Let’s find out….
If we were to hold a contest for “Law Firm Whose Name Sounds Most Like That of a Drag Queen,” the clear winner would be Kaye Scholer. Just drop that first “e” to form “Kay Scholer” — doesn’t she sound fierce? Scroll through this list of drag queen names. Wouldn’t Kay Scholer fit right in?
(Hey — this sounds like a fun idea for a post. If you have an idea for a law firm whose name could inspire a drag name — e.g., Morgan Lewis, Proskauer Rose (“Rose Proskauer”), Saxena White — please put in the comments or email us, subject line “Drag Name.” If we get enough submissions, we’ll hold a contest.)
Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, Kaye Scholer. Earlier this week, the firm announced its 2010 bonus schedule.
For the most part, it’s the Cravath scale, with an hours requirement (1950 hours, 1800 billable). But associates who go over 2400 hours (2250 billable) will find something extra in their stockings this year….
With fall recruiting gearing up, and the lateral market warming up, we continue our annual series of open threads about the law firms featured in the Vault prestige rankings. These threads provide ATL readers with a forum to discuss the different firms and their various strengths and weaknesses.
The end of the Vault 100 is in sight. We’re covering the firms in batches of 20 now. Here are the firms ranked #61 to #80, which will provide today’s discussion fodder:
This was a year of small summer classes. Fewer summer associates mean a greater likelihood that all will get offers… unless a law student does something egregious. (Good news for rising 2Ls: There are signs that next year’s classes will be larger.)
An article in today’s New York Times, by former WSJ Law Blog writer Dan Slater, discusses changing law firm business models. Much of the piece covers ground that will be familiar to ATL readers. But the article contains some interesting new information about Kaye Scholer (where Slater once worked).
According to the Times article, it appears that the firm essentially lied to some of its new associates:
In the summer of 2008, Kaye Scholer’s New York office extended offers of full-time employment to 31 students, many from top schools. They would return to law school for their third years, they thought, then graduate, take the bar exam and begin at the firm in January 2010, at a base salary approximating the current level of $160,000.
About two months before the start date, however, the firm notified 18 of the 31, a group including law graduates from Columbia, New York and Northwestern Universities, that they would be relegated, upon arrival, to the firm’s public interest group. There, they would work on pro bono matters and make $60,000 a year.
All 18 accepted the revised offer.
In March, about two months after starting, 17 of the 18 were assigned to a document review project, for a paying client, and told to bill 40 hours a week. For this, these associates will make an extra $30 an hour, approximately the hourly rate of their base salary.
We reported on Kaye Scholer’s $60,000 a year, pro bono associate plan back in October. How did the firm characterize it to us at the time?
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.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.