We enjoy giving our readers the occasional peek behind the Biglaw curtain. Last month, for example, we shared with you the internal interview manual that Sullivan & Cromwell provides to its attorneys who conduct on-campus interviews at law schools.
Today, in a similar spirit, we take an inside look at the annual review process for attorneys at Skadden Arps. We’re into the fourth quarter of 2011, so these reviews are not far away.
In this special report, we’ll provide general observations on the Skadden review process, highlight noteworthy comments from leaked attorney evaluations, and show you a few reviews in their entirety (redacted to remove lawyer and client names). This information should interest Biglaw associates who want to know what partners look for junior lawyers, and it should also appeal to partners at other firms who want ideas on how to structure annual reviews.
If you’re interested in learning more about performance reviews at one of the world’s biggest and best law firms, please keep reading….
Embarcadero Center (at right): Skadden's soon-to-be-former S.F. home.
Late last week, word started to leak out that Skadden Arps plans to close its San Francisco office, by the end of June 2011. A meeting was held on Friday where the closure was announced to the office. The S.F. office is essentially being folded into the firm’s Silicon Valley outpost.
Some of the initial reactions expressed concern. “Unclear with respect to job security,” said one source. “My cynical side wonders if this isn’t layoffs in disguise,” said another.
But further examination of the situation suggests that this is, as some might say, no big deal….
Bonuses have just been announced at Skadden. The following memo went out earlier today to all Skadden partners, from executive partner Eric Friedman:
To All Partners:
The attached memo announcing a year end discretionary bonus will be sent to associates in North America on a class by class basis today. Bonuses will range from $7,500 to $35,000 and will be issued in mid-December. While the same bonus schedule will be applied in all offices, communication to our international offices is being handled on an office by office basis. Counsel bonuses will be announced next week.
Bonuses are announced by class, but the range of $7,500 to $35,000 strongly suggests that Skadden is simply matching the Cravath bonus scale for 2010.
The form memo to associates that just went out, plus confirmations of bonus amounts for specific class years, after the jump.
We call it Skaddenfreude: taking pleasure in the misfortune of others who work at large law firms. Today’s tale of Skaddenfreude involves a contract attorney working a project in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis.
Nixon Peabody was awinner in Signature Flight Support Corp. v. Landow Aviation, a dispute between two aviation companies at the Washington Dulles airport. Nixon landed a victory for Signature Flight, and filed a motion for Landow to pay attorneys’ fees in the case.
Landow thought Nixon’s fees were sky-high and opposed the motion, resulting in a review of Nixon’s bills by Judge James Cacheris (E.D. Va.). Judge Cacheris buzzed Nixon’s bills. From the National Law Journal:
U.S. District Judge James Cacheris of the Eastern District of Virginia determined that Nixon Peabody’s $1.57 million in fees was too high and slashed about $440,000 off that amount, awarding $1.13 million….
In his July 30 decision, Cacheris found that the number of hours Nixon Peabody expended on the case demonstrated a “lack of billing judgment exercised by plaintiff’s counsel” and “overall excessiveness of plaintiff’s fee request.”
Less than half a million slashed? Pocket change — though that was on top of $205,102.50 that Nixon says it had already excluded from the bill.
Reading the opinion offers lots of fun Skaddenfreude, perhaps particularly for attorneys laid off by Nixon Peabody early last year. Partner Louis Dolan got knocked by the court for spending hundreds of billable hours at the end of 2008 doing work better suited for a junior associate…
We’ve since learned from tipsters that Victoria is a Brooklyn Law School grad. Her results came in on episode 4 of the show. The show’s lead Carrie Bradshaw-inspired character real person is Shallon, who narrates at the beginning of the episode: “Victoria is about to find out the results of her bar exam and that could totally shift the course of her whole life.”
Consider life shifted. The second time was not the charm for Victoria. So what do you do if you find out that you failed the bar exam on national television?
Earlier this week, we published a Lawyerly Lairs post about a graduating 3L named Jimmy. According to the blog Urban Turf, “Jimmy” is a 27-year-old law student with a job in D.C. Biglaw lined up, starting at $160,000. If that’s not enough to make you hate Jimmy, he also has a credit score of 781, $140,000 in the bank for a down payment on his first home, and no student loan debt.
Jimmy triggered envy, player-hating, and other strong reactions in the comments:
“F**k Jimmy. I graduated with 3.3 and couldn’t fund a job with a Biglaw firm in DC. Hence I make $75K, have $90K in student loans, $5K on credit cards and $0 for a down payment. Again, F**k Jimmy.”
“I’m sure there are several women here who are also thinking ‘Fuck Jimmy.’”
Meanwhile, blogger Jane Genova expressed doubt that Jimmy exists. A newly minted law school graduate, with zero debt and (at least) $140K in the bank — is this like believing in Santa Claus?
Jimmy is certainly very fortunate. But is he so fortunate that he’s incredible? No. His financial state could be explained by any number of factors, alone or in combination, such as (1) generous parents or other relatives, (2) a past inheritance, (3) a successful first career before law school (e.g., in finance), or (4) a full-ride scholarship to law school.
In the comments to the Jimmy post, ATL readers started to anonymously share details about their personal finances and net worths. If you found this interesting, be sure to check out this article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, entitled “Net-Worth Obsession.” It’s about people who obsessively track their net worths over time and compare themselves to others on this front, sometimes with the help of websites (such as NetWorthIQ, featured prominently in the article).
Are you a net-worth obsessive? Tell us your net worth (anonymously), learn the net worths of some of your fellow readers, and see how your net worth stacks up against that of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan — after the jump….
If I recall correctly, Sullivan & Cromwell sent out a memo in December or January saying that even though they paid the “special bonuses” in December, they still intended to pay additional profit-sharing bonuses in February. [February is over] and as far as I know, not a word from S&C. Can you guys please make a big deal over this?
The tipster’s memory is slightly off. From chairman H. Rodgin Cohen’s earlier bonus memo:
[T]he Firm will pay senior associates compensation in addition to salary and bonus through our new Senior Associate Supplemental Bonus Plan (“the Plan”). We have decided to accelerate payments under this new Plan to result in the following [market-matching bonuses] being paid on December 14 to our senior associates, with final supplemental payments to be made in the Spring of ’08.
We are now officially into spring 2008. So ATL hereby “make[s] a big deal over this.” Has S&C paid the supplemental bonuses to its senior associates? If so, can someone please give us the skinny?
Second, here’s an interesting rumor of a partner departure from S&C, from a different tipster….
This year’s famous hike to $160,000 in starting pay for first-year associates did not buy hiring firms anything in terms of separating themselves from their competition. The firms that can afford to pay more will pay more; but there is a price point that not all Am Law 200 firms will be willing to match. We’re confident that that number begins with a 2.
[T]he Big Law market is the midst of a “separating equilibrium”. In short, a few dozen elite firms are pulling away from their BigLaw peers in the competition for premium, price-insensitive work….
So what does the future look like? BigLaw will no longer be synonymous with “large full service firms”, which was the mantra throughout the ’90s. Successful financial services and labor & employment lawyers will tend to migrate to different firms [i.e., super-lucrative and less-lucrative firms, respectively].
In terms of leading New York firms — the shops with big-time transactional practices, and profits per partner of $2 million or more — we’d speculate that a move, to a starting salary at or close to $200,000, will happen in the next twelve to eighteen months. If it doesn’t happen in time for this fall recruiting cycle, it will happen in time for the next one.
The foregoing analysis assumes, of course, that U.S. law firms chug along nicely over the next year or two. If we have a general economic meltdown, then all bets are off.
In our recent New York Times op-edpiece praising lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks, we wrote that the bonuses “are expected to reach $250,000 this year — paid on top of starting salaries approaching $200,000.”
Some people have inquired into the factual basis for our statement. As it turns out, we did some actual reporting to support it. The reporting never made it into the final op-ed piece, but we’re happy to provide the details here.
If you’re curious, read the rest of this post, after the jump.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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