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….
There was a time in this country where the holiday season was a time to be rewarded for a good year of work. People received bonuses. People received pay raises, so their salaries could keep pace with their growing experience and maturity (or at least keep up with inflation).
The America where that kind of stuff happened now only exists in memory. In post-recession (or mid-double-dip-recession) America, the holidays are a time when the people at the top jealously guard their wealth, while everybody else tries to figure out how to make “sacrifices” for the greater good.
Usually, this type of thing can be seen most clearly in the private sector (click here for Above the Law’s coverage of bonus season). But today the Obama administration is getting into the holiday spirit by freezing salaries on federal employees for two years.
So, if you’re a J.D. holder who joined the Department of Justice or another federal agency to escape the Biglaw recession, the pay cut you thought you were signing up for just got bigger.
And it probably also means that a few federal attorneys will be trying to get back into the private sector — which will be great, because it’s not like the market for attorneys is oversaturated or anything….
The latest firm to announce that it’s matching the market — which, at the current time, is embodied in the Cravath bonus scale — is Weil Gotshal. According to the memo, from executive partner Barry Wolf, Weil associates “will be paid 2010 bonuses that are commensurate with bonuses paid by peer firms.”
We assume this is Weil-speak for Cravath bonuses — or higher, if another “peer firm” decides to best Cravath. The Weil bonuses will be paid on December 23.
The full memo — available after the jump, along with reactions from Weil sources — contains good news, and bad news….
Isn’t it nice when people who do good also do well? David Van Zandt — the outgoing dean of Northwestern Law, and the incoming president of The New School — is a beloved figure, at NU Law and beyond. Professionally, he’s an innovator in legal education; personally, he’s a great guy. We’re big fans of his here at Above the Law, especially since he once wrote a guest commentary for our pages (on law school rankings).
When Dean Van Zandt announced his departure, Northwestern Law students were heartbroken. But don’t shed tears for DVZ: he’s going to a better place. Hello, New York City! [FN1]
And assuming The New School doesn’t provide its new president with housing, Dean Van Zandt should be able to snap up a fabulous pad for himself here in Gotham. He has put his Chicago mansion on the market, for a very pretty penny. If he succeeds in selling it for anywhere near the asking price, he’ll be able to live large in NYC.
Dean Van Zandt bought the home back in 1996, for $922,550. How much is it on the market for today?
Let’s find out — and ogle some pictures of the house, inside and out….
The happiness emanating from the offices of Biglaw partners is palpable. Cravath paid a 2009 bonus despite a stronger 2010, and lowballing associates means more money for partners. Partners are giving anonymous quotes expressing their happiness. Skadden whipped off its Cravath-matching bonus memo so quickly it looked like a damn blog post. And, predictably, consultants are now scrambling to support the low bonus numbers.
It would seem that Biglaw has successfully colluded settled upon this year’s bonus schedule, and it is what it is.
But what if a firm already privately promised its associates a bonus scale that is better than last year? Would such a firm happily break its unwritten word just because Cravath set the bonus bar so low? Looks like we’re going to find out.
If you’ve been reading the comments on our bonus posts, you already know that Kirkland & Ellis associates expect to be paid more than the Cravath scale, because that’s what Kirkland has told them…
Bonuses have just been announced at Skadden. The following memo went out earlier today to all Skadden partners, from executive partner Eric Friedman:
To All Partners:
The attached memo announcing a year end discretionary bonus will be sent to associates in North America on a class by class basis today. Bonuses will range from $7,500 to $35,000 and will be issued in mid-December. While the same bonus schedule will be applied in all offices, communication to our international offices is being handled on an office by office basis. Counsel bonuses will be announced next week.
Bonuses are announced by class, but the range of $7,500 to $35,000 strongly suggests that Skadden is simply matching the Cravath bonus scale for 2010.
The form memo to associates that just went out, plus confirmations of bonus amounts for specific class years, after the jump.
While bonuses are burning up the comments here at Above the Law, there’s another discussion raging over at the ABA’s SoloSez Listserv — where solo and small firm lawyers from around the country share resources, practice tips and the occasional anecdote.
Claiming the debt load for the average ASU grad has increased by $40,000 since she applied, the 3L is “reaching out to the online community to help [her] pay for it.” Good choice, since everyone knows that bloggers are just rolling in cash.
Given its entrepreneurial nature, this seems right up the small firm alley. But the plan has been received quite poorly by a majority of practitioners.
More about the sponsorship, what she’s willing to do for it, and the identity of the student, after the break…
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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