Salaries

I worked for twenty years at the darkest of the black-box compensation law firms: No one knew what anyone else was being paid, and the firm forbade talking about compensation. Here’s the curious part: We obeyed.

I saw the raised eyebrows of partners considering moving laterally to my firm: “Right — no one talks about compensation. You guys must talk about it all the time, just like we do at my firm. It can’t be a secret.”

Wrong. We really, honest-to-God did not talk about compensation. The subject just didn’t come up.

I’ve heard second-hand that this is true for other black-box firms, too. The managing partner of a different large, black-box comp firm recently told one of my colleagues: “Once you take compensation out of the limelight and forbid people from talking about it, then people stop talking about it. The subject drops off the table.”

That sets the stage: At firms where lawyers are permitted to talk about each other’s compensation, they do. And at firms where lawyers are prohibited from talking about compensation, they don’t.

Riddle me this: In corporate law departments, we are not prohibited from discussing each other’s compensation, but we don’t do it anyway. Why is that?

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Earlier this week, we brought you some news about an “excellent position” that a tipster found on Boston College Law School’s Symplicity site. As a quick refresher, BC Law touts a median starting salary of $160,000 for graduates in the class of 2010 who entered into private practice. This job… doesn’t come anywhere close to that number.

The position in question promised benefits such as malpractice insurance, health insurance, a clothing allowance, and an MBTA pass, but the starting salary was only $10,000. The MBTA pass must’ve been thrown in as a housing benefit, because the firm had to have known that on a salary that’s below minimum wage, their new associate would be forced to live in the Boston subway system.

As we noted in Morning Docket, one of the firm’s hiring partners has now spoken out about the job, and a spokesman from Boston College Law has come to the school’s defense, too. Let’s take a look at some of their bullsh*t explanations rationales for posting this “excellent position”….

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So, we often bring you stories about terrible job offers for recent law school graduates. And we often bring you stories about how law school statistics about the success of their graduates can sometimes be misleading.

Today, let’s put those stories together. Let’s take a look at a job that will pay you way below minimum wage that’s being offered to law grads from the same school that proudly boasts a “median” private practice salary of $160,000 within nine months of graduation.

Juxtaposition for the win….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Somebody Forgot To Tell Boston College Career Services Officers That BC Law Grads Enjoy A ‘Median’ Starting Salary of $160,000 In Private Practice”

Last week there appeared a column on this site that denigrated clerkships in the middle of the country. I could not decide if the author was attempting satire, but it seemed to be a straight piece. I would like to offer a counterpoint.

I began my career at Biglaw in New York City. The firm began to have troubles, and I saw the writing on the wall as my class dwindled from 40 to 30 to 20. I then heard from a family friend that a federal judge in Oklahoma City was looking for a clerk to assist with some topics with which I was familiar. I scored an interview, we hit it off, and I moved my wife and new baby to OKC for a year.

Full disclosure: I went to 15 schools before graduating high school, and OKC was the place I called “home.” Many decisions about this move were simple: it allowed us to live near family for a year, which was great support for the baby; my wife was working on her dissertation, so she had time to write; and I had a circle of friends from high school with whom I could reconnect.

Further simplifying the issue was that the government payscale is based solely on experience. How much did I earn, as a law firm associate turned law clerk?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: In Defense of Clerkships in Flyover Land”

Tomorrow, associates at Goodwin Procter will receive individualized news of their bonuses. You may recall that last month, when ATL’s new director of research, Brian Dalton, compiled a list of Biglaw’s ten most generous firms — i.e., the ten firms that pay the best bonuses, when measured against their profits per partner — Goodwin did good, winning fourth place. (The firm fares well in rankings; last month, it made Crain’s list of best places to work in New York.)

Will this year’s bonuses preserve Goodwin’s good standing? Let’s find out. Although the individual amounts are being communicated tomorrow, the firm has outlined its overall approach in a memo….

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Oh, you’re all running here now. You saw the title. Here you come. Click click click. It’s all you want to know. And by you, I mean those who claim to love Biglaw, but would jump to your own place or a smaller firm in a second if you “could make the same money.”

I know.

I know when you call me, when you come to my office to discuss the “possibility of leaving,” that it’s the only thing on your mind. Sure, you want your name on the door, more freedom, more client contact. But you just have one real question. One real fear. One real concern. One thing you need to convince your better half of before you make “the jump.”

Can I make the same money?

Here’s the answer….

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Scrooge McDuck: he is the 1 percent (but not a lawyer).

Lawyers are the fourth most well-represented occupational group among the nation’s top 1 percent (which, for purposes of the study, consists of households with a pretax income of $380,000, excluding capital gains).

– a New York Times analysis of data collected by the University of Minnesota Population Center.

Additional interesting facts and links — including which occupations ranked ahead of lawyers, and what percentage of lawyers belong to the 1 percent — appear after the jump.

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Michigan Law School, a state school, charges $46,586 per year in tuition. It then conservatively expects students to incur another $18K-plus in living expenses to bring the price tag for one year’s worth of a Michigan legal education to $64,716 for in-state residents. That prices out to $194,148 for the full three years, and that’s assuming that Michigan doesn’t raise tuition while you are there.

And Michigan is one of the few places that can, more or less, claim that it’s worth it. To be sure, it’s not worth it for all the students. Remember, Louisville Law Dean Jim Chen just told us that people need to make three to six times their law school’s yearly tuition in annual salary if they go to school on loans and want to one day be financially sound homeowners. Some Michigan grads are banking upwards of $279,516, but certainly not all.

Still, one would expect a significant amount of that high tuition goes toward making Michigan Law what it is, and keeping the professional opportunities rolling for Michigan graduates.

Apparently, keeping Michigan Law what it is involves paying Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker quite a tidy sum….

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While practically every attorney is familiar with the market rate for Biglaw salaries, not as much is known about salaries for in-house lawyers. Unlike Biglaw’s lockstep salaries, in-house salaries vary widely depending on a broad range of factors such as industry, size of legal department, years of experience, etc. Additionally, since in-house salaries are often negotiable, in-house attorneys tend to avoid discussing their individualized pay with one another.

ALM Legal Intelligence has helped to demystify in-house salaries through its 2011 Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey. This comprehensive survey analyzed compensation data from 4,951 lawyers employed at 225 corporate law departments. The 2011 median salaries for various management and non-management law department positions are reported in the tables after the jump, along with their changes from 2010….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center: 2011 In-House Salaries Are On The Upswing”

With Thanksgiving just a week away, turkey may already be on your mind. But hopefully so are family, friends, and a time to reflect on what you are thankful for this year. If you’re having trouble with that last part, the Career Center has put together a list of the top 4 reasons Biglaw associates can be thankful for their jobs this holiday season.

1. Next up, bonus season. Most of you have actually been feeling quite optimistic that bonuses will be bigger than last year’s combined year-end bonus plus spring bonus. Of course, we’ll have to wait until Cravath makes the first move to see whether there’s any truth to those predictions, but at least you know there will be bonuses to be had.

So what else made the list?

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