When I started my firm, several mentors gave me the same advice: Don’t work for free. It’s easy to see the problem with working for free. Giving away what you’re trying to sell isn’t exactly in the business plan. Unfortunately, this sage advice can only really be learned the hard way, through experience.
Working for free can arise in many different ways. The most obvious example is a client who wants you to represent him but can only promise to pay you later.
Even if your gut tells you that taking on that client is a bad idea, this can be surprisingly tempting to a new firm or solo practice. For starters, there is such a thrill with getting your first client, or your first “real” client, or your first big client, or your first whatever client, that the excitement can cloud your better judgment. You will be tempted to overlook the red flags that you will not be paid for your work….
It’s one of the biggest cons going around. I cringe whenever I hear it. A lawyer laughs and says, “I’m not good with numbers — that’s why I became a lawyer.”
On the surface, it seems to make sense; it sounds like it should be true. For some, it might even be true. After all, the last time we used quadratic equations was back when loafers on bare feet were considered desirable footwear (thanks Don Johnson).
In-house lawyers should never, ever say they’re bad at math — even those who really are. After all, business people are preoccupied with numbers. As an in-house lawyer, telling a business person that you’re bad at math is like telling them you don’t care about the most important thing that everyone else in your company cares about, and if your company is publicly listed, what every investor in your company cares about — the company’s numbers….
As we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, it’s pretty obvious that bonus season has gotten a little bit ragged. This is what happens when the overdog, Cravath, fails to set bonuses at reasonable levels: firms get confused and try to do things to make it look like they’re clearing the ridiculously low bar Cravath has set. There are so many firms now with some kind of performance or hours mark that will allow at least one of their associates to say, “I made more this year than if I was working at Cravath.”
And that’s just the firms that have announced already. Other firms seem to be waiting to make their “year-end” bonus announcement because they don’t want to have to go back and dole out more money once somebody gets around to announcing spring bonuses. While it might be fun for Cravath and Sullivan & Cromwell to play chicken over who will announce spring bonuses first, there are a whole bunch of firms that are just sitting around waiting to find out how much they are going to have to pay.
And there are a bunch of associates who are starting to wonder if they’ll be getting any kind of bonus at all.
So who did we miss? Who still owes you a bonus announcement?
Christmas 2011 turned out to be a banner year for retailers, and most consumers felt pretty confident about the economy — but don’t tell that to the lawyers. The results are in and the vast majority of survey respondents aren’t purchasing anything fun with their bonuses.
Unlike Elie, 52% of Above the Law readers are using their year-end bonuses to pay their loan-shark student loan provider. 21% of survey respondents plan on using their “generous” bonuses to purchase something to help advance their career (lips are especially chapped in the winter months). The third largest group, at 9%, feels a little better about the housing market, and is planning on purchasing their little piece of heaven (or if they are in NYC, their very, very, very, very, very little piece heaven).
Close behind, 8% of folks who responded to our survey are calling it quits, and plan on using their bonus checks to buy a nice pair of dancing shoes and leave the practice altogether. Survey respondents were not as excited about the new Apple iPhone 4, as only 5% of people were going to use their bonuses to go wait in line at the Apple store or pepper spray their way into the neighborhood Walmart.
The three ghosts of Christmas only stopped by the homes of a small number of associates this year, as only 4% of responders to our survey planned on donating their bonuses to charity. Finally, less than 2% of survey respondents felt the need to play the lottery by investing in the stock market.
* Obama took a break from his vacation to sign the NDAA. But don’t worry, as long as he’s president, he’ll never indefinitely detain American citizens. Oh boy, we get a one-year guarantee. [New York Times]
* “By your powers combined, I am Captain Primary!” Four Republican presidential candidates are joining forces to assist Rick Perry in his quest to conquer Virginia’s evil election laws. [Bloomberg]
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….
This is the time of year when everyone pulls out a Top Ten list of one thing or another. I don’t mind; a Top Ten list is a convenient format for reflection and New Year’s Eve has always been a time of reflection for me, whether that involves setting goals or just thinking about the ups and downs of the past year. So I thought I would use the opportunity to offer my perspective of the Top Ten Differences Between Biglaw and Boutique. So without further ado, let’s push in the button and let the top ten play:
10. Money, Money
When you work at a firm, you get paid either a salary or an hourly rate. You get employer-paid benefits and you might even get a bonus. But you know the firm is billing you out at hundreds of dollars an hour, and your hourly wage comes nowhere near that. When you run your own shop, you don’t get a salary but you keep all the money paid by your clients, or recovered in a contingent fee agreement. Of course, you’re also responsible for all the expenses.
Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on a lot of factors and varies by individual, but no one can deny that the economics between working in Biglaw and working for yourself are very different.
Read on after the jump for the rest of the Top Ten Differences Between Biglaw and Boutique….
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