Schiller & Flexner

People are talking about an interesting Slate article entitled “Leaving Big Law Behind: The many frustrations that cause well-paid lawyers to hang out their own shingles.” It’s currently the most-read piece on the site. But it’s actually quite similar, even down to some of the sources, to an article that appeared a few days earlier in Crain’s New York Business:

A lawyer’s hourly billing rate used to be a badge of pride — the higher the number, the more valuable (and supposedly brilliant) the lawyer. But over the past 18 months, a strange phenomenon has been sweeping the legal arena: Partners at major law firms are quitting because they want to be able to charge less for their services.

This is, of course, not a new development. Kash and I wrote about it in a December 2009 cover story for Washingtonian magazine, in which we interviewed a former member of the $1,000-an-hour club who left a large law firm and started his own shop so he could offer clients better value. But all the recent coverage — in Crain’s, Slate, and elsewhere — suggests that the trend is picking up steam.

Which kinds of lawyers are leaving Biglaw to hang up their own shingles? Why are they doing it? And how’s it going for them?

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We’re rolling through the Vault 2011 list of the “prestigiest” firms in the land, so that you can comment on what it’s like to actually live, work, and breathe those firms (when you’re not choking on all the prestige in the air).

We’ve covered #1-10 and #11-20. Here’s the next round-up. Now it’s time for the London-based Magic Circle firms to join in the elite fun:

21. Arnold & Porter
22. Shearman & Sterling
23. Boies, Schiller & Flexner
24. O’Melveny & Myers
25. Ropes & Gray
26. Morrison & Foerster
27. Munger, Tolles & Olson
28. Hogan Lovells
29. Clifford Chance
30. Linklaters

What do associates have to say about the ups and downs of life at these firms? Here are some excerpts from their Vault listings…

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGYear-end associate bonuses were recently announced by Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the litigation powerhouse founded by the renowned David Boies. And the Boies bonuses were good — very good.

For starters, unlike other top firms, Boies is paying bonuses to first-year associates from the class of 2009. According to Phil Korologos, a partner in the firm’s New York office:

First-year associates who started after September 1, 2009 will receive a $5,000 year-end bonus. First-year associates who started prior to September 1, 2009, will receive the greater of $5,000 or their performance-based bonus.

Performance-based bonuses at the firm can be quite high, depending on how hard you work and the types of cases you work on (contingency or non-contingency). As a result, bonuses at Boies are individualized, not lockstep; there’s no magic number for each class year. The firm provided Above the Law with the high end of its bonus ranges:

For associates after their first year, the amount of their bonus is based on performance. The performance based bonuses for rising second-year associates range as high as $70,000.

The performance based bonuses for associates beyond their second year range as high as $150,000.

Six-figure bonuses? Now we’re getting into Wachtell territory — or beyond (since we suspect Wachtell bonuses will be down quite a bit this year).

In addition, Boies Schiller pays above-market base salaries — just like Wachtell ($165,000) and Williams & Connolly ($180,000). First-year associates at BSF now start at $174,000.

Check out the complete Boies salary scale, plus learn more about how their bonuses are calculated, after the jump.

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Generous bonuses, above-market base salaries.