* Forget playing with Wade. LeBron took his talents to South Beach to avoid tons of state taxes. [The Legal Blitz]
* Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey just completed the 180-mile trek from Houston to Austin by bike. Susman took part in this MS fundraiser with his grown kids and 35 other Susman Godfrey team members. Kudos. (You can donate via the link.) [National MS Society]
* The Obama administration is entering a showdown over its use of the “state secrets” privilege. The government is concerned that if it cannot shield “no-fly list” paperwork, it might chill their frank discussion of racial profiling. [Politico]
* A new in-house tool to replace outside counsel? Sure it may be cheaper, but can a computer get you playoff tickets? [Associate's Mind]
Even if the big lockstep New York firms are done, associate bonus news continues to roll in from around the country. For example, bonuses are out at Sidley Austin. We’re working on a story for tomorrow; feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477) with your reactions (to be used anonymously).
Today brings bonus news from Susman Godfrey. The high-powered boutique is known for high-stakes commercial litigation — and high, market-beating bonuses.
(And high-attendance holiday parties too; this year’s fête in New York drew more than 500 guests, many of them boldface names of the legal profession. As I observed on Twitter, “you could staff a great law firm with the guest list at the Susman Godfrey holiday party.”)
So how big were the Susman Godfrey bonuses this year?
As we recently mentioned, Biglaw is not all about the benjamins. There is so much more to the practice of law than the monetary rewards. Focus on doing the best work you can for your clients and your colleagues, and the money will take care of itself (well, at least most of the time).
Of course, it’s much easier to take a relaxed attitude towards money if you have a good amount of it. It’s easy for well-paidpartners to tell young associates not to worry about money, when the partners enjoy seven-figure paychecks while the associates struggle under six-figure student loans.
If you’re a young lawyer dealing with educational debt, you know that every extra dollar counts. Every dollar earned means you’re one buck closer to liberation from loans.
Which leads us to today’s question: which law firms pay the largest starting salaries to their associates?
[We were going to call this post something like "Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Beats Cravath Too." But then we felt bad for singling out Cravath for paying unsatisfyingbonuses, when so many other Biglaw firms have followed suit. So we went with a tamer title instead.]
Just as it did last year, the powerhouse litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey announced associate bonuses that put the bonus scales of most other firms to shame. Happy Holidays, Susman Godfrey associates!
(By the way, Susman is a firm that celebrates the season in high style. The holiday party of its New York office, catered by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, is already legendary, even though it’s of fairly recent vintage.)
So, the Susman bonuses — what are we looking at here?
Are you a female law student? Have you put on a few pounds during your time in law school? Would you like to be reminded that fit, attractive women have better employment opportunities?
Then maybe you should consider transferring to Cardozo Law School. The Cardozo Health and Fitness Club is holding a networking lunch, but the flier makes it sound like they’re staging an intervention for fat chicks.
The Health and Fitness Club is forcing me to ask: Are Cardozo women really ready to whore themselves out to potential employers?
Susman clerked at the Supreme Court, and the word on the street is that he’s a pretty theatrical guy. He was recently interviewed about the ideal candidate to work at his law firm, Susman Godfrey, and here’s what he had to say:
“Someone who’s clerked at the Supreme Court, is brilliant, and has theatrical presence. There’s a theatrical aspect to trial work.”
It seems that Cahill Gordon isn’t the only firm putting the 2010 Cravath bonuses to shame. The elite litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey — founded in Texas, but now with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as Houston and Dallas — is paying out associate bonuses as big as the Texas sky.
And, like good Texans, the folks at Susman Godfrey aren’t afraid to brag about their success. Unlike many other law firms, which play a ridiculous cat-and-mouse game with their bonus news, SG issued a press release about their bonuses. Such candor is refreshing — and shows that the firm has nothing to hide.
So how much are Susman Godfrey associates taking home this year in bonuses?
It’s actually not the divorce of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the divorce of real estate mogul Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie. Some call it the Dodger Divorce, however, since this bitter litigation could determine the fate of the storied baseball team — an asset worth hundreds of millions.
The couple is fighting over ownership of the Dodgers in a Los Angeles courtroom, aided by a long list of leading litigators. Frank McCourt is represented by Stephen Susman of Susman Godfrey, among others, and Jamie McCourt’s legal team is led by David Boies of Boies Schiller. (For a more complete listing of the lawyers involved, see here.)
But right now Susman and Boies aren’t the lawyers in the limelight. Rather, all eyes are focused on attorneys from Bingham McCutchen. The Boston Globe reports:
The high-powered firm is suddenly at the center of the drama because of work done by its lawyers. At issue is the wording of a document signed by both McCourts six years ago. According to media reports, three copies of the marital property agreement use the word “inclusive,” which would make Frank McCourt the sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and three copies say “exclusive,” which would make Jamie McCourt the co-owner of the venerable Major League Baseball franchise.
This is not the first time we’ve covered how a tiny difference in language — just two little characters, “in” as opposed to “ex” — could mean millions. Remember the single-digit error that could cost a real estate company tens of millions? See also the $900,000 comma and the $40,000 missing “L.”
Yikes. This is such stuff as lawyers’ bad dreams are made of. Law truly is a game of inches. (When bloggers make typos, commenters make fun of us; when lawyers make typos, people die lose money — sometimes lots and lots of it.)
The lead lawyer from Bingham McCutchen, Larry Silverstein — no relation to the World Trade Center real estate developer, as far as we know — admits that he messed up in preparing the marital property agreement (MPA)….
If you haven’t already done so, check out Vivia Chen’s series of interviews with hiring partners over at The Careerist. They’re fun and interesting reads. (Our favorite was her unintentionally hilarious interview of Steven Glaser of Skadden.)
What’s typical is the diversity of personality and style at the firm. David [Boies] has a broad scope of interests and abilities; he sends a strong signal that individualism is tolerated and encouraged. For instance, there’s lots of support for our work on Prop 8 [where the firm is arguing against the ban on gay marriage in California], but there are also lots of Federalist Society members here.
(Well, in fairness to the Fed Soc, many of its members are libertarian rather than social conservatives, and as such sympathetic to gay marriage — at least as a policy matter, if not necessarily a matter of constitutional law.)
Who are your competitors in the hiring game?
The usual suspects: Wachtell, Davis Polk, Cravath. And if they’re looking for a [litigation] boutique, it’d be Susman Godfrey, Williams & Connolly, or Quinn Emanuel.
Speaking of the competition, Vickery got in a good dig at Davis Polk….
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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.
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