MoFo

Remember when Biglaw associates in New York got paid more than Biglaw associates everywhere else because it costs more money to live in New York than anywhere else? Yeah, those days are long gone. A few months ago, we pointed out that the NALP buying power index ranked the purchasing power of New York associates 42nd nationwide.

Maybe you didn’t believe NALP’s numbers?

Well, today we offer more evidence that if you are an associate working and living in New York, you are a chump. You are paying a higher cost of living than anywhere else in the country, and you’re not getting paid any more for the effort. In fact, if you work at Morrison & Foerster, you might be getting a smaller bonus just because you work in New York….

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This morning’s news that Boies Schiller is making a mockery of the Cravath bonus scale simply reinforces the prevailing view (pace David Lat) around here that the 2011 Cravath bonus scale is fundamentally unfair.

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.

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Do you believe in life after law? More specifically, do you believe in life after Biglaw?

Many former partners at major law firms spend their post-Biglaw years living large — as well they should. After all, they worked very hard, for many years, to amass seven-figure, eight-figure, or even nine-figure fortunes. After leaving behind the life of billing 2000+ hours a year, they finally have time to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

But not all ex-partners find themselves on Easy Street. Take, for example, these two ex-partners in California — one whose civil suit against her former firm isn’t going so well, and one who might be going from Biglaw to the Big House….

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About a year and a half ago, Morrison & Foerster unveiled an insane edgy new website, openly embracing its MoFo moniker and a new “What the MoFo?” theme. At the time, we walked you through the minefield of interactive design elements that the site offered.

Now, after what I can only guess has been a year and a half of head scratching, if not outright mockery, from clients and other lawyers, MoFo has apparently decided to abandon its $1 million design experiment in favor of a more traditional approach to law firm advertising. Gone are the brainteasers and optical illusions. Gone are the indecipherable picture puzzles.

But fear not, there is still plenty of crazy to be had. Find out all about the new “MoFo mojo” after the jump….

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The month of August brought us a slew of disasters, both natural and otherwise. At the end of the month, we faced off against the Great D.C. Earthquake of 2011. Shortly thereafter, we got slammed by Hurricane Irene.

But August wasn’t just about natural disasters — there were plenty of man-made disasters to deal with in the legal world. From the egomaniacs to the technologically-impaired, August was full of candidates for our Lawyer of the Month competition….

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A partner at Morrison & Foerster accidentally “replied all” to an email on which “List/Attorney/All” was cc’d. Emails sent to “List/Attorney/All” go out to all 1,000-plus MoFo lawyers around the world.

What the partner wrote in the email was probably not something that should have been shared with the rest of the firm….

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Wow, it’s like White & Case’s attempt to glom on to the spring bonus trend just ticked off these other firms. First Sidley and now Morrison & Foerster have come out with real spring bonus announcements, detailing the amount of money associates can expect to get paid.

We’re running off to the We Know What You Should Do This Summer filming, so we can’t give you the full MoFo treatment. But it’s not that shocking that since O’Melveny, Latham and Gibson went with spring bonuses, MoFo kind of had to step up.

Congrats, MoFos. As one tipster put it, “Tell those bitches at GDC that Mofo makes it rain in Cali… Twenty grand, man. Plus, they gave Dude a beeper.”

Read the full memo below.

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On Sunday, Morrison & Foerster sent around its associate bonus memo. For non-New York associates, the news is that the numbers are loosely based on the old Cravath scale, with some compression for mid-level associates. The actual bonus amount paid to any particular associate is determined based on performance factors. But in a nice show of transparency, MoFo also reported the bonus range and average bonus payment for each class year.

The numbers don’t look too bad, especially adjusting for the cost of living outside of New York City.

Inside New York City, MoFo is taking a wait-and-see approach. As we mentioned yesterday when talking about Weil, the stand-off between Cravath and Sullivan & Cromwell over spring bonuses has paralyzed the New York bonus market. For all we know, S&C is preparing to top Cravath in old-school “bonus wars” fashion.

Wisely, MoFo has decided not to get caught up in all of that drama; it’s just going to wait until New York sorts itself out. Let’s look at the memo…

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Sorry, we’re still waiting for the Biglaw bonus shoe to drop. While you wait, here’s some good news in the Biglaw benefits area (a la Proskauer’s iPad announcement).

On Wednesday, I asked: “Remember Google’s gay gross-up? Barclays is doing it too. Will law firms follow suit?”

At least one law firm is stepping up to the plate to help domestically-partnered employees with their health-benefit-related tax burdens. The firm of Morrison & Foerster issued the following statement to Above the Law, from firm chair Keith Wetmore: “Starting in 2011, Morrison & Foerster will begin offering an additional benefit payment to assist with the tax obligation that same-sex and opposite sex Staff and Non-Partner Attorneys pay when they elect Domestic Partner health benefits.”

This is excellent news, and we commend MoFo for taking this step. Hopefully it will inspire additional firms to move in this direction. Note also that the policy applies not just to same-sex couples, but also to opposite-sex couples who are similarly situated — which might be a way of addressing the criticisms of some that the gay gross-up is unfair to heterosexual couples.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in “law firms being nice to gay people” news, let’s give some props to Shearman & Sterling….

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You know how violent felons treat pedophiles particularly bad in the prison system? I wonder if fraudsters reserve special scorn for people who use their disabled children as part of the scam? A former partner at Morrison & Foerster may soon find out. He’s been arrested for defrauding the state of California out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by way of scam utilizing his autistic kid. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A former partner at a well-known law firm and his marketing consultant wife were arrested Wednesday on felony charges of bilking the San Francisco school district and private insurers out of about $400,000 via fraudulent bills for treatment of their autistic son, officials say.

The San Francisco couple, Jonathan S. Dickstein and Barclay J. Lynn, both 43, surrendered Wednesday and are expected to appear in court this morning for arraignment on 30 counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy, authorities say.

We can and will blame the alleged perpetrators of this fraud. But where was the government oversight?

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