If you ask me, I think that the insights offered in this column are all that you need to succeed as a small-firm attorney. I have received many emails, however, suggesting that facts might be as valuable as my opinions. Of course, that’s crazy.
Recently I received an email from a young small-firm associate who wrote that he was going to ask his boss for a raise but, unlike Biglaw, he had no idea what other associates at comparable firms were making. He appreciated the survey results given by my predecessor, Josh Dickinson (available here and here), but he wanted more specificity. And only 650 people responded to the previous survey, the majority of them junior associates who were relatively new to small-firm practice. Let’s see if we can do better than that.
If we get enough responses, I will attempt to compile results that offer the information available to Biglaw associates (i.e., average salary per class year for __ hours billed in ___ city).
Knowledge is power, my friends. Maybe we can all ask for a raise (except for the lucky few who make the amounts we will ask for). Or, if we all make too little, maybe we can arrange a little gathering, a la Madison, Wisconsin.
Back in 2009, when killing lockstep was all the rage, a number of large law firms announced that they would be moving to some form of a merit-based compensation system. Now that we’re a few years into those systems, how many firms have stuck with the plan? And which systems do associates prefer?
Of the 86 distinct Biglaw firms at which survey respondents work, 63% of the firms pay base salaries on a lockstep system, and the remaining 37% of firms use a merit-based system or hybrid-lockstep system for paying base salaries. The vast majority of respondents, 70%, say they prefer the lockstep model for base salaries because of its transparency and predictability.
For year-end bonuses, 70% of the firms utilize a merit-based or hybrid-lockstep system, while 30% have a lockstep system based either on class year or billable hours. According to 62% of respondents, the most preferred type of year-end bonus allocation system is a merit-based or hybrid-lockstep system.
After the jump, find out how various combinations of compensation systems measure up against market.
In the throes of the recession, many Biglaw firms jumped on the bandwagon to kill lockstep compensation in favor of a more merit-based system (though some have already fallen off the bandwagon). With a variety of compensation models currently in use among firms today, we want to hear from you about how you get compensated at your firm — and how you prefer to get compensated.
Please take our short survey, brought to you by Lateral Link, and tell us how you are compensated at your firm. Then check back later for the survey results. As always, your survey responses will be kept completely confidential.
If work is slow and you need a good chunk of hours to meet your billable target or to be eligible for a bonus, what’s your best bet for boosting your billables?
According to the 884 respondents to Tuesday’s survey, pro bono work. About 68% of respondents say their firms give billable credit for at least some pro bono hours. On the other hand, only 12% of respondents say that their firms count client/business development activities as billable time, although another 15% report that these hours may affect bonus decisions.
What are some of the other popular billable activities?
Lately, many of you have been quite the busy billers, even working on MLK Day and Presidents Day. What undoubtedly keeps most associates on the clock on holidays (and pretty much every day of the year) is client billable work.
But are there other kinds of activities for which your firm will give you billable hour credit? Take our short survey, brought to you by Lateral Link, and tell us what counts as billable time at your firm. Then check back later this week for the survey results.
Thank you for all your responses (or attempted responses) to this week’s Career Centersurvey on whether or not you worked on Presidents Day. We received 715 responses before the flood of respondents managed to take the survey offline.
Based on the responses we did receive, the majority of respondents – 73% – reported working on Presidents Day, up from 66% who reported working on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Almost half of these respondents indicated that their firm does not recognize Presidents Day as an official firm holiday, and 38% said that although no one asked them to do work, they had stuff that needed to get done.
What were some of the other reasons given for working on Presidents Day?
In Part 1 of the Career Center survey results on debt, we reported that 85% of the 3,700 survey respondents have outstanding student loan debt, with more than half of them owing $100,000 or more. We also found that 75% of respondents considered their debt at least as much as other factors when deciding on where to work. Today, we’ll take a look at a further breakdown of these numbers by job sector and amount of debt.
But first, let’s examine the extremes: respondents with the most debt, and respondents with no debt….
We received an overwhelming number of responses – 3,700 – to last week’s Career Center survey on debt and how it contributes to your decision on where to work. We will introduce an overview of the results today, and present a more detailed analysis later in the week.
Overall, 93% of respondents report being in some kind of debt. And for the vast majority of them, that debt plays a role in their decision on where to work:
38% of respondents said they considered debt about as much as other factors.
37% said they considered debt more than any other factor.
24% said debt contributed very little or did not contribute at all.
Not too long ago – you know, when Biglaw firms were begging law students to work for them, no one cared about law school transparency, and having a J.D. guaranteed you a long and prosperous career – signing yourself up for six figures of crushing law school debt didn’t seem like such a big deal. Nor was it unheard of back then for first-year associates to buy nice big houses. But in the aftermath of the recession, many attorneys have to face the now onerous consequences of decisions they made in better economic times.
In today’s Career Center survey, brought to you by Lateral Link, we want to know how your debt currently affects your decision on where you work or want to work. Is it Biglaw or bust? Or are you able to turn a blind eye to your debt and find more compelling reasons to work where you want to?
Please take our short survey and then check in next week for the results.
In Tuesday’s survey, we asked whether you left your firm after collecting your 2010 year-end bonus (paid in December for 43% of respondents).
About 14% of respondents reported jumping ship after their bonus checks cleared, while another 8% were in such a hurry to leave that they couldn’t bother waiting around for their bonus money.
That means the vast majority of respondents, 77%, are staying put — at least for now. About 9% are sticking around a little longer in the hope that their firms up the ante with a spring bonus payment. Another 18% say they aren’t leaving, but sure wish they could. Finally, 50% of all respondents report that they are staying at their firms because they are actually quite content at the moment.
Which class years and practice groups are most likely to see post-bonus departures?
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: email@example.com.
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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