Money

'Who needs cash? We have these nifty red hats!'

Over the weekend, I had dinner with a friend of mine who used to work as a paralegal at a small law firm. She told me about how one year, for the holidays, all the lawyers chipped in to get her a gift certificate to a spa, so she could get herself a massage.

I said it sounded like a nice gesture. This was not the reaction my friend was going for in telling the story; she viewed the gift as an insult. Her view: Christmastime is the time to show me the money.

I can understand that perspective for secretaries or administrative assistants. As we’ve discussed before, if you’re an attorney you should give your secretary a holiday gift that’s either cash or a cash equivalent (like an AmEx or Visa gift card). As a legal secretary once told us, “if you decide on giving gift certificates [to specific stores], I sincerely hope your next bonus will be paid in the same currency.”

But paralegals, at least at large firms — my friend who got the massage certificate worked at a small firm — are a trickier proposition. Over the course of a year in Biglaw, a lawyer might work with many different paralegals, on a wide range of matters. Are you expected to give gifts to all of them?

So what should a lawyer do with respect to holiday gifts for paralegals? And, of course, what’s the “going rate” for holiday gifts for secretaries in 2011?

Let’s conduct some reader polls, and open up the comments for discussion….

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* Someone figured out exactly what’s on every nerdy lawyer’s holiday wish list: an iPhone app for PACER. Get it while it’s hot — it’s free! [iTunes App Store]

* The First Amendment will always reign supreme, even if people are harassing religious old ladies on the Twitter. [Underdog]

* Legalizing same-sex marriage is like eating your vegetables. You might not like it, but it’s good for your health. [Jezebel]

* This is quite possibly the worst “bitch owed me money” story ever. What kind of a person sets a grandma on fire? In an elevator? [TIME]

* Thanks to technological innovations, friending people online might soon carry more meaning than friending them in real life. [What About Clients?]

* Go ahead, get up and tweet about the location of DUI checkpoints. Just make sure you take those 12 steps back to your seat when you’re done. [Legal Blog Watch]

* My birthday is on Wednesday. If you want to give me a present, you can vote for Above the Law in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100, under the “News” category. [ABA Journal]

It seems that founding partner John Quinn isn’t the only one at Quinn Emanuel with a surplus of Benjamins right about now. On Friday, the litigation powerhouse announced its 2011 year-end bonus scale — and, for the most part, it’s more generous than the benchmark Cravath bonus scale.

We say “for the most part” because, for associates billing under 2100 hours, the scale is below Cravath — but just slightly. And it’s our understanding that not many QE associates bill less than 2100 hours anyway.

Let’s take a look at the details….

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Full disclosure: I have a disproportionate amount of lawyer friends who work at Sidley Austin. Their bonuses have caused all sorts of fun to happen in my inbox. Without even seeing the actual bonus memo, I could tell what was happening based on Gchats and text messages. Friends said things like:

“Yawn.”

“This joke stopped being funny days ago.”

“Is ATL hiring?”

“Sidley proves you right every single day.”

I like it when friends making three times as much money as I make feel comfortable complaining to me.

And, you know, I am right….

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It appears that the answer to that question is, “You’re welcome.”

If you made a list of people whose opinions matter when it comes to Biglaw bonuses, you couldn’t name ten people more important than Susan Webster. She’s the head of the general corporate practice at Cravath Swaine & Moore. If we knew how much she tipped her doorman, it would be big news.

But we can do better than that.

A tipster let us in on an overheard conversation between Webster and a Biglaw partner at a different firm. When we contacted her, Webster told us that the tipster mischaracterized the nature of her accidentally public conversation.

But why don’t you take a look, and prepare yourself for the possibility of a very sad spring….

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Partners at Gibson Dunn are conducting associate reviews this week. Associates receive news of how they’re doing — and how much they’ll be getting, in terms of bonuses that will be paid out later this month.

As we’ve explained in 2010 and 2009, the GDC bonus system is not transparent and not lockstep. Instead, associates get individualized bonuses, based on such factors as hours and quality of work. The firm tends to use the Cravath scale as the starting point for its bonus scale.

What’s the early word about Gibson bonuses this year?

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(Or: Gibson Dunn Open Thread — 2011)”

Years ago, I handled a pro bono case for a client unable to afford legal services. (I actually handled a fair number of pro bono cases, but I’m choosing to describe just one here.) The client was a very nice guy, and he desperately needed legal services. But he had no idea how to use a lawyer cost-effectively and, because he wasn’t paying for my services, he had no incentive to restrain himself. The guy called incessantly, asked endless questions, and was always trying to schedule meetings with me. I mentioned the situation to one of my senior colleagues, and the colleague’s reaction was immediate: “What that client needs is a bill.”

During the decades when I served as outside counsel representing clients, I noticed that some of my clients permitted me to do their work efficiently and others affirmatively obstructed that effort. Now that I’m an in-house lawyer, I’m thinking about the other side of that coin: What should I, in my role as client, do to permit outside counsel to represent me efficiently?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Inflating Your Own Outside Legal Spend”

* Guys in my high school White House dropped threats to veto defense bills authorizing infinite detention of U.S. citizens all the time, it was no big deal. Nothing like bastardizing the Sixth Amendment. [New York Times]

* So much for occupying the court system, eh? This judge won’t budge on dismissals, and more than half of the OWS protesters who appeared in court yesterday accepted an offer over going to trial. [Bloomberg]

* Gibson Dunn says that it will file a motion to dismiss Paul Ceglia’s Facebook suit in January. Now taking bets on whether Ceglia will have another lawyer by then. [Buffalo News]

* Just like Michael Jackson, Conrad Murray’s money was gone too soon. He’s requesting a public defender to handle the appeal of his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. [CNN]

* Lindsay Lohan was finally able to please Judge Sautner during her probation progress hearing. She was also able to please her adoring fans, because she reportedly flashed her bra. [USA Today]

MOAR BONUS NEWS!

Enough with all this sadness about these pathetically low bonuses that Cravath has engineered for everybody. Let’s try to be positive. People are getting money. Yay money. Who can be sad when they are getting more money?

In fact, I have a great idea: instead of just writing checks that reflect the general New York bonus scale, Clifford Chance and Covington & Burling should pay the bonuses out in single dollar bills. The partners should sneak into each associate’s office at night and just spread the money around. If you share an office, well, the early bird gets the worm.

See, then it’s fun. It’s a like a game. And it distracts the mind from how ridiculous it is to give the same bonus from 2010 in 2011….

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We mentioned this in yesterday’s Morning Docket, but I think it deserves a full post. For a long time, I have been questioning the value proposition of going to law school. Finally, it seems that somebody who can operate a calculator has my back.

The National Law Journal reports that Jim Chen, Dean of the Louisville School of Law, has come up with an easy-to-apply salary figure to determine whether law school was a financially sound decision on a case-by-case basis.

If you want to go to law school and one day be able to own a home, Chen argues you need to have a salary that is three times your law school’s annual tuition. You need to earn six times your annual tuition if you want to be a truly financially sound home owner if you are carrying three years of law school debt with you.

I’d like for people who constantly defend the value of law school to start pointing out the high-salaried jobs that are needed to make law school worth it….

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