Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.
I am getting tired of hearing about all these large law firms and their unnecessary spring bonuses. This weekend I went on a trip with friends who all work in Biglaw, and the topic came up (and, in turn, everyone shared how he or she was going to spend that extra money).
One of my friends is planning on going on vacation to South America (sometime in 2019, when he has the time). Another told us that she is going to get “the Bentley of couches,” for the guest room in her giant condo. I did not have a similar Biglaw big-money story to share, so I instead shared my ideas for the top ten free activities I had planned for the spring. (In case you’re wondering, they are: 1. Breathe Air. 2. Walk. 3. Eat Free Samples At Whole Foods.)
I had to admit that I was a little jealous of my friends and their surprise bonuses. But then I heard a story that touched me right where it counts — in the wallet. I have learned that some small firms give their employees big perks….
When does the gift of a hot gadget feel like an insult? Apparently when you are an associate at Holland & Knight. This bonus season, the firm gave all of its associates free iPads. And…
Well, associates are still waiting to see if there will be anything other than iPads as a bonus present from the firm.
Can somebody explain to me how the iPad turned into a giant pacifier for white-collar employees? Has any kind of consumer protection agency checked to make sure “placation” is an approved use for the product? I mean, I don’t have an iPad, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. But you can’t have sex with it, right? It doesn’t like cure AIDS or grow into a beanstalk or anything?
Maybe the iPad is the most wonderful gadget since the brassiere (the O.G. of gadgets), but at least some of the associates at Holland & Knight were hoping for something a little bit more. And the staff at Holland & Knight, well, I suppose they’re just happy they could help out with getting the associates the iPads…
Here’s some very belated bonus news. Earlier this month, the New York office of Linklaters announced bonuses that matched the Cravath scale.
As usual at Linklaters, there was no hours requirement. The news was communicated via individual memo.
A Cravath match, especially in a bonus season when some firms are paying significantly more, kinda sucks isn’t that exciting. A Cravath bonus won’t get a Linklaters associate a pad as palatial as that of Linklaters partner Michael Bassett. Heck, $35K — the top of the Cravath scale — probably won’t even cover the cost of Bassett’s wallpaper.
But we’ll point out two nice things about Linklaters, both relating to tax issues….
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 criticismsof 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….
It feels a little bit weird to talk (and bitch) about the high-end lifestyle enjoyed Biglaw associates on Veterans Day. We’re all very thankful for the people who risk their lives to keep us safe, secure, and free.
Okay, random moment of conscience over. Where are the goddamn bonuses?
The first Biglaw bonus memo still hasn’t dropped — when it does, please email us at email@example.com or text us at 646-820-TIPS, ASAP — but we do have associate benefits news. Yesterday, Proskauer Rose told its associates that they would all be getting a free iPad and a desktop PC. Or a free laptop with a docking station. And candy floss. And free Rock Band 3 peripherals.
Okay, I made the last two items up, but you get the point. We don’t know what Proskauer’s cash bonus will be, but we do know that Proskauer associates won’t have to spend it on fancy gadgets…
Like the return of law firm perks. Sources report that Edelson McGuire — a Chicago-based boutique with some high-profile clients, like Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich — is giving away iPads to everyone at the firm. The lucky recipients include attorneys, administrative staff, and even some law students who are working for the firm part-time.
This is not ordinary behavior — the trend among law firms is still to roll back perks, not to expand them — but Edelson McGuire isn’t an ordinary firm. How many firms have conference room tables that convert to ping-pong tables? Or have a neat firm website, where each attorney profile contains such fun facts as daily coffee consumption, favorite time of day to work, and “pre-court ritual”?
Is giving away iPads a new law firm trend? Edelson McGuire isn’t the first firm to do this in 2010….
'And then I told him I'd file a motion to compel his a**....'
It’s important to think about — and not just think about, but save for — your retirement. This is especially true now that Social Security is looking less than alluring. (When I see that money taken out of my paycheck, I just kiss it goodbye, forever.)
When it comes to providing for associates and other employees, most large law firms take a fairly straightforward approach: they offer 401(k) accounts, but no matching employer contributions. One of the few Biglaw firms that provided a match, K&L Gates, stopped that policy back in 2007.
With respect to retirement provisions for partners, there’s more variation from firm to firm. Some shops provide for retired partners in very generous fashion. For example, retired partners at Wachtell Lipton can receive annual seven-figure payouts for many years after leaving the firm (although sources at my former firm tell me some of this money represents a return of capital to the retired partners, and as such will vary from partner to partner).
A million-dollar retirement benefit is no doubt very pleasing. But at other firms, aging partners are less content with their arrangements….
If you’re a gay employee and have a domestic partner who receives health benefits through your employer, you have to pay more in federal income tax — about $1,000 a year, on average. This is because federal law, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, the feds treat employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners as a form of taxable income (if the partner is not considered a dependent).
(Note, however, that this could change. A federal judge in Boston recently struck down part of DOMA. Stay tuned to find out what happens on appeal.)
Earlier this month, we wrote about a perk that Google extends to its gay employees who find themselves in this situation. As reported by the New York Times, Google “essentially [covers] those costs, putting same-sex couples on an even footing with heterosexual employees whose spouses and families receive health benefits.” Google makes an extra payment to gay employees to make up for the increased tax burden — a perk that we dubbed “Google’s gay gross-up.”
We asked you, our readers, if any legal employers also offer this benefit. As it turns out, several do.
Find out which employers provide this perk — and vote in a poll on its fairness, which was hotly debated in the comments to our prior post — after the jump.
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.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!