The real estate isn’t bad either. Many Biglaw partners own million-dollar homes, which we lovingly cover in Lawyerly Lairs. And law firm offices are paragons of elegance and comfort — which they ought to be, considering how much time the partners spend in them. (In New York, I’m particularly fond of Proskauer’s premises and Davis Polk’s digs.)
Partners with sufficient seniority enjoy coveted corner offices. Right?
Not necessarily. That brings us to our latest Biglaw blind item….
It’s been a while since we did a perk watch that didn’t involve things getting better for gays and lesbians. Ever since the recession, Biglaw has acted like having a job also counts as a fringe benefit.
But benefits haven’t been frozen in time since 2007. We have extensively reported on the “gay gross up” (or “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits”) trend. But there have been some interesting health benefit trends happening at law firms beyond extending basic fairness to same-sex couples.
Adam Okun has done a round-up of Biglaw perks on the blog Frenkely Speaking. It’s not going to come as a galloping shock that Biglaw is punishing to families….
It’s late October, so Biglaw bonus news could drop any day now. In 2010, Cravath didn’t kick off the season until November 22. But back in 2009, Cravath announced bonuses on November 2. And in 2007 — yes, the glory days, before the Great Recession — Cravath announced bonuses, regular and “special,” on October 29.
In light of the economic gloom and doom, including the possibility of a double-dip recession, it wouldn’t be shocking if bonuses are modest this year. Better to conserve the cash and avoid layoffs, right? Or maybe repeat what happened in 2010 and save some money for spring bonuses in a few months, when firms might have a better idea of the direction of the economy?
Regardless of how bonuses turn out, there are other pockets of good news in the world of large law firms — even news requiring law firms to open their wallets. Check out the growing number of firms that offer the perk we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up….
We have been tracking — as have other news outlets, such as the New York Times — which leading law firms offer the perk we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. If you’re inclined towards formality, you can call it the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits.” For an explanation of what this perk is all about, read this prior post.
Since our last round-up, additional prominent law firms have adopted this policy. Let’s check out the latest list….
UPDATE (9/7/11, 12:30 PM): We’ve added to our list since it went up yesterday.
Here in the great state of New York, marriage equality is the order of the day — as it is in five other states, plus D.C.. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal tax code does not recognize same-sex unions. As a result, as explained by the law firm of McCarter & English, “the Internal Revenue Code treats the value of employer-provided healthcare benefits for a civil union or domestic partner as ‘imputed income’ to the employee. This means that employees who elect domestic partner benefits must pay income tax on the value of those benefits, which is in direct contrast to employees with different-sex spouses.”
To address this inequality, a number of law firms — including McCarter & English, as of this June — have adopted what we here at Above the Law have dubbed the “gay gross-up.” This benefit consists of “a bump in income such that, post-tax, the employees are in the same position as similarly situated employees electing healthcare benefits for their opposite-sex spouses.”
In addition to McCarter, a number of prominent law firms have adopted this policy since our last report. Let’s find out which ones….
UPDATE (8/25/11): We’ve added to the list since it was originally published. See the updated list below.
As many of you know, here at Above the Law we have been tracking which major law firms offer a non-salary benefit that we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up. As we’ve previously explained, quoting a memo issued by Simpson Thacher, the gay gross-up is “[a] ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.”
Today we are pleased to report that two top firms have joined the club. Kudos to Debevoise & Plimpton and Shearman & Sterling for standing on the side of equality. You can read their announcement memos, issued earlier this month, after the jump.
We have added these firms to our list. By the way, for those firms that would rather appear on a list maintained by the New York Times than one maintained by Above the Law, you should note that the NYT is also monitoring which workplaces provide this perk. The NYT list includes employers of many different types, not just law firms, and features some of the nation’s most innovative companies, such as Google and Facebook and Apple.
With the addition of Debevoise and Shearman, which leading law firms provide this benefit? Let’s take a look….
Every so often a lawyer with a small firm will ask me what to do about providing employees with paid sick days. The practice is much more common in large firms, but many lawyers have come to expect it as a perk no matter how big their firms are. (To be clear, I’m talking about paid-time-off policies, not legally required unpaid leave like the Family and Medical Leave Act.) Many larger firms allow their employees to accumulate and bank their leave, saving it up for a rainy day, as it were. Some have the days expire after a certain time, while others allow the days to survive until the end of an employee’s tenure.
That’s fine at large, wealthy firms, who can well afford to pay people not to work. But what about small firms, where a person’s absence is more likely to have an impact? How many days of paid sick leave should a small law firm’s policy permit?
My answer might surprise you. Not ten days a year. Not five. Not even three.
Zero. Small law firms shouldn’t have a policy of any days of paid sick leave a year.
But before you set your comment phasers to “kill,” give me a chance to explain.…
The case for same-sex marriage should rest less upon dollars and cents and more upon fundamental principles of fairness (as recently argued by Professor Jaye Cee Whitehead in a New York Times op-ed piece). But it’s certainly the case that money matters should not be overlooked when it comes to marriage equality.
We’ve previously discussed a non-salary benefit that we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. Here’s one concise definition: “A ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.” (Currently gay couples in which partners receive employer-provided health benefits are taxed on the value of those benefits, due to the fact that, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal law — including federal tax law — doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.)
The gross-up is not a perk that affects a huge number of employees, to be sure. But having it sends an important message about a firm’s commitment to equality and inclusion.
Where did we obtain that handy definition of the gross-up? From the benefits page of a top law firm that recently started offering this benefit. It’s one of two elite law firms that recently boarded the gay gross-up bandwagon….
There’s a very interesting debate coming out of Washington State: Should universities do more to provide child care for students with children? On Monday, parents across the University of Washington system brought their kids to class to protest the lack of child care options in the area.
It’s an important question. According to the Seattle Times, child care is the third-greatest barrier to completing a college degree.
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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