Simpson Thacher

There’s no Biglaw intercity rivalry which can match that of London’s venerable Magic Circle and New York’s elite white shoe firms. Both groups of firms are the clear alpha dogs in their markets, attracting the top talent and most lucrative clients. However, there are some significant differences between the two groups in how they operate. For example, U.K. firms tend to follow a lockstep (rather than “eat what you kill”) compensation model. Last month, friend of ATL Bruce MacEwen took a deep dive into the question of the relative performance over the last several years between the Magic Circle and their New York cousins. The piece is highly recommended: it’s chock-full of data and its findings suggest the groups are moving in different directions.

Using publicly reported data for the years 2008—2013, Bruce focused on such metrics as headcount, percentage of equity partners, PPP, RPL, and profit margin. The Magic Circle firms—Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, and Linklaters—are of course a well-defined group (Slaughter and May, the only member firm without a New York office, was excluded). For New York, these firms were selected as the comparison group on the basis of “historical roots, geographic footprints, and business models”:

Cleary Gottlieb
Davis Polk
Paul Weiss
Simpson Thacher
Sullivan & Cromwell, and
Weil Gotshal

One could query the absence of Cravath, Wachtell, Skadden, etc., and we refer you to Bruce’s piece for a fuller articulation of these choices. The U.S. market for the highest end legal services is much more fragmented and diffuse than its U.K. counterpart, and which precise group of firms is the closest equivalent to the Magic Circle is endlessly debatable. But for the purposes of this comparison this group will certainly serve.

So when we look at numbers, what do we find?

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* Jury writes judge a note asking for a “big bottle of wine.” It’s gonna be a long night. [Southern District of Florida Blog]

* As it turns out, some Redditors are morons who don’t understand law. Glad we cleared that up. [The Concourse]

* There’s a Kickstarter for an Ally McBeal podcast. If you love talking about unisex bathrooms, here’s a golden opportunity. [Kickstarter]

* Attention law students: there’s a $500 prize in it if you can craft a winning blog post. [The Expert Institute]

* Terrible, terrible advertising. [Copyranter]

* A Simpson Thacher associate is planning to row across the Atlantic to support cancer research. [Remacae]

* These teacher tenure suits are so stupid and completely miss the real reason public schools have trouble. And the lead plaintiff inadvertently confessed just how off the mark he is. [Washington Post]

* AMC released the teaser for Better Call Saul. After the jump… [via Time Magazine]

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Nigella Lawson

* “Those who support limits see the court right now as the T. rex from ‘Jurassic Park.’” Folks are pretty worried even more campaign finance laws will fall thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCutcheon v. FEC case. [New York Times]

* Skadden Arps and Simpson Thacher are at the top of their game when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Both firms did very well in new deal rankings released by Bloomberg, Mergermarket, and Thomson Reuters. Nice. [Am Law Daily]

* Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown has reportedly ditched Nixon Peabody to try his hand at a U.S. Senate run in New Hampshire. We hope he doesn’t lose his shirt again. Oh wait… [Boston Globe]

* As it turns out, the book in the Harvard Law library once believed to be bound in human skin is actually bound in sheepskin. Congrats, this is slightly less creepy. [Et Seq. / Harvard Law School Library Blog]

* Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was turned away from a flight to the U.S. after her admission to coke usage in a trial. She should probably stop sticking her nose in other people’s business. [The Guardian]

‘We’re not Case Western Law.’

* Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t quite ready to publicly weigh in on whether computer data is considered a protected “effect” under the Fourth Amendment. “[T]hat may well come up [before the Supreme Court],” he says. Thanks NSA. [Business Insider]

* “[I]t doesn’t take many bad apples in a barrel to cause a stink.” No matter how hard Biglaw firms try to keep their confidential information locked down, someone’s going trade on it. It looks like STB is learning that the hard way. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The day after Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Judge Bernard Friedman, couples who rushed to marry were met with some serious Sixth Circuit sadness. Way to stay and spoil all of the celebrations, judges. [New York Times]

* “We’re not the Cleveland Browns,” says one of Case Western Law’s interim co-deans. With that kind of a glowing endorsement, we don’t see how this law school could possibly fail. [Crain's Cleveland Business]

* Rutgers Law-Newark has a new low-bono fellowship program “believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.” Some other law schools might have a bone to pick about that statement. [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

Over the years, we’ve covered many Biglaw employees who have been accused or convicted of insider trading. This should come as no surprise, given the confidential and market-moving information that regularly flows through the hallways and computers of leading law firms.

The latest accusations of insider trading involve a lawyer who worked at a white-shoe law firm. This individual stands accused of taking confidential information he was privy to by virtue of his work and passing it along through a middleman to a broker, who then allegedly traded on it. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the scheme generated over $5.6 million in illegal profits, with over $168,000 going to the Biglaw tipster.

At which elite law firm did this defendant work, and from which school did he receive his law degree?

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Partnership: Biglaw’s ultimate brass ring.

Becoming a Biglaw partner does not necessarily mean you’ll live happily ever after. It doesn’t even guarantee financial security. Indeed, some partners end up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But that’s an anomalous case. Partnership at a major law firm might not guarantee you happiness — sometimes you have to leave the partnership to follow your bliss — but it generally brings with it tremendous pay and prestige.

That’s especially true of partnership at the nation’s 10 most prestigious large law firms. Most of them have only a single partnership tier — equity or bust, baby — and sky-high profits.

Who are the new partners at these 10 firms, and what do their selections reveal about Biglaw today?

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This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes. This infographic is brought to you by our friends at Prestige Legal Search. Earn another $5,000 to $50,000 with their Rewards Program.

For the most part, Biglaw associate bonuses remain stuck at last year’s levels, reflecting expectations that firm profits will be flat at best. This might seem fair, with everyone feeling the pinch of the “New Normal” and so on. But when we take a small step back and see how these bonus numbers compare as a percentage of partner profits to the bonuses of just a few years ago, these bonuses are arguably pretty measly.

The current $10,000 “market” (i.e., Cravath-following) rate for first-years is just 0.29% of Cravath’s profits per partner (according to the American Lawyer). Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equaled 1.36% of PPP. In other words, the Cravath partnership was nearly five times more generous to its associates back then.

Obviously, Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. What are the implications of matching Cravath’s bonus scale for those firms with much lower profit margins? Today’s infographic takes a look at how big a hit to PPP partners willingly take in order to Keep Up With The Cravathians….

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In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.

Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…

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Back in 2007, Simpson Thacher led the charge to $160,000. Not Cravath, not Skadden, not Sullivan & Cromwell — it was STB that was first out of the gate with associate salary raises. Simpson Thacher is one of the most respected law firms in the country, and it used to be a compensation leader.

But those days appear to be long gone. Now, the firm is just a follower. Its theories about associate compensation seem to have nothing to do with the health of the firm, and everything to do with doing whatever Cravath tells it to do.

Associates are the firm seem quite disappointed by that….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: The Sad Tale Of Simpson Thacher”

* Who are the real victims of insider trading? It’s the Duke brothers, duh. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Judge Ellen Huvelle has ordered the government to turn over to her an executive order that the feds claim is subject to executive privilege. Judge Huvelle rejected the administration’s argument that privilege exists because, “we don’t want to give it to you.” [Politico]

* Pepper Hamilton has joined the greener pastures of Silicon Valley, opening an office with three partners poached from Goodwin Procter. [Reuters Legal (sub. req.)]

* Speaking of poaching, Martin Dunn, former deputy director of the SEC and O’Melveny partner is joining Morrison & Foerster. [The Blog of the Legal Times]

* And while we’re at it, M&A partner Sean Rodgers has left Simpson Thacher to merge with Kirkland & Ellis. [The AmLaw Daily]

* Publisher ALM (The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal, The New York Law Journal) has a new technology partner and hopes to boost its readership. If they want to boost their readership, wouldn’t starting a new law school be a better investment? [Talking Biz News]

* Conservative groups are miffed about video of this Democratic party lawyer “attacking” a Republican at the polls and trying to “steal” an election. It seems like he put his hand over the lens of a camera phone, but sure, this is exactly like telling minorities the wrong day to vote. [Bearing Drift]

* The Amanda Knox case has a trade secret component as a battle rages over DNA testing technology. [Trade Secrets Watch / Orrick]

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