Question: Will my Vault 100 firm protect my salary despite the recession? Answer: You must be using some other kind of 8-ball. Venable might be Washington, D.C.’s weirdest law firm, but you can’t eat quirky. Yesterday evening, Venable announced pay cuts for everybody. Associates, counsel, staff, non-equity partners, and even equity partners will be affected.
First year associates will be taking the increasingly standard 10% pay cut. But then things get crazy! According to the firm wide memo, most associates and counsel will be taking a wacky 8% pay cut. How adorably off-beat.
* Base compensation for all other associates will be reduced by 8%, although there will be a floor of $150,000 and $155,000 for second year and third year associates, respectively.
* Base compensation for all of counsel will be reduced by 8%.
We’ve written before about a unique perk for the attorneys in Venable’s D.C. office. Like many firms, the office has a rooftop with amazing views of the nation’s capital. Unlike most firms, it also has a rooftop bocce court.
The bocce balling and Venable’s representation of Michael Jackson led us to ask at the time whether the firm is DC’s weirdest. We hear the attorneys there were actually thrilled with the superlative.
Venable is proud of its bocce ball and touts its annual bocce tournament on its diversity page. This year’s tournament took place earlier this month. We came across an account of the bocce showdown:
Friday June 5 was the annual Bocce Happy Hour Kickoff. We take our Bocce Seriously – 64 teams in a “March madness” format. there are lots of rules, heckling, trash talking, and a prize. usually a month of free parking ($230) and your name inscribed on the Sir Francis Drake Trophy Cup. It’s big. oh AND you “get” to be Commissioner of the Tournament the following summer.
This year, the “Commissioner” decided to combine bocce March Madness with an American Idolish singing competition. Some of the bocce ballers got dressed up for their serenades, including “one guy dress[ed] up as Susan Boyle” who sang “Memories.” It sounds painful to us, but our narrator swears it was fun.
Read the full account of the bocce balling, karaoke singing, alcohol-fueled tournament, after the jump.
Today’s damage starts in the District. Multiple tipsters report that Venable has decided to make attorney and staff cuts today.
The numbers out of Venable are relatively small compared to what we’ve been seeing over the past couple of weeks: 16 attorneys, 43 staff, 5 paralegals. A firm wide email announced the percentage of cuts:
Approximately 3% of our attorneys (16), 8% of our full time staff (43), and 7% of our paralegals (5) will be directly impacted. The individuals who are subject to the layoff are being offered severance packages, as well as professional assistance in locating new employment. As part of the severance package, the Firm is offering health care coverage that will be paid by the Firm through June 30, 2009. We ask that you provide our colleagues who are affected by today’s action the respect and compassion that they need in this difficult time.
Again, that is not terrible given recent news.
Venable is also pushing back start dates for incoming first years until 2010. But, they’ll be giving those people a little extra money while they wait:
Venable will also delay the start of the incoming class of first year associates from September 2009 to January 4, 2010. The Firm will pay for the costs associated with preparation for, and the taking of, the Bar exam. In addition, the Firm will provide our incoming class with a $10,000 stipend in September 2009.
As we survey the smoldering carnage of the legal industry right now, you have to look at news like this as “not that bad.” Shocking.
As we noted in yesterday’s Morning Docket, even the New York Times has taken note of the salary freeze trend at law firms. The Times reached out to Above The Law’s own David Lat for the story:
Although many associates are angry about the freezes, others are relieved, said David Lat, founding editor of AboveTheLaw.com, a blog about law firms and the profession.
“There is this sense that firms didn’t act prudently during the boom and now they are getting religion, and that it’s better late than never,” Mr. Lat said. “Many associates we have spoken to think the freeze probably saved jobs.”
At the beginning of the month, we did a round-up of firms that have frozen 2009 salary rates at 2008 levels. That list was 16 firms long. Since then, quite a few other firms have announced freezes. Due to frequent requests, we’re updating the round-up list since the number of firms with freezes (that we know of) has more than doubled, to 33 32. Check out the as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it list, after the jump.
The new year is shaping up to be a cold one. As we noted in our 2008 Year in Review series, one of the biggest stories heading into 2009 has been that of the salary freeze. Rather than instituting lock-step raises for associates entering a new class year, a number of firms have informed associates that their salaries will remain at 2008 levels.
There have been two types of freezes: the “Solid Ice freeze”–with salaries frozen through all of 2009–and the “Slurpee freeze”–where firms are sticking with 2008 levels for now, but promise to revisit the decision later in the year.
Many an ATL reader has requested a round-up, and we aim to please. So find your pleasure, after the jump. Some of the firms have been reported on before, and some are new.
If you know of other frozen firms, send us an e-mail at email@example.com with the subject, “Salary Freeze: FIRM NAME.” Also, if your firm has raised salaries as expected, feel free to send us the news, with the subject “Salary Raise: FIRM NAME.” While freezes are news, raises as expected aren’t, so we will not be covering firm by firm, but we may do a round-up.
Find the list of the sixteen firms that have frozen, after the jump.
The 2009 salary freeze is steadily spreading through the bottom half of the Vault 100 firms. Yesterday, Venable held a firm-wide meeting to discuss bonuses and salary. Our tipster reports that Venable is hopping on the crowded pay freeze bandwagon.
Looks like we’re paying out “normal” bonuses (i.e. well below market) to those who billed enough, but we’re freezing salaries. Management says we are sound financially but freeze is needed to make it through. The decision may be reconsidered if economic conditions improve.
Other firms instituting a pay freeze have said they will review the decision on a specific date (March for McDermott Will & Emery; April for Bryan Cave; and mid-year for Womble Carlyle). The most shocking of the pay freezers, Latham, indicated a year-long deep freeze. Venable is keeping the decision open-ended, to be “reconsidered if economic conditions improve.”
As far as bonuses go, Venable does not have a lock-step model. Those who hit 1950 hours are eligible for bonuses, ranging from 5k to 20k.
As always, send your salary and bonus tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re semi-dormant today and tomorrow, but exciting news could rouse us from our egg nog induced stupor.
Our Vault 100 series is winding down. We hope that the insiders have enjoyed the opportunity to brag (or to vent) about their firms. And that the curious have appreciated insights into life at various firms in the top 100.
Here is the next bunch up for discussion (with their prestige scores in parentheses):
You can finally remove D.C.’s Weirdest Law Firm from your List of Shame. (Does the List even exist now, or is it being revamped for $190K?)
A memo was just issued announcing that first-year salaries at Venable will be raised to $160,000 effective July 2008. Sure, we’re a tad bit behind the times, but at least we finally came through. The firm also mistakenly upped first-years’ salaries for the pay period that ended this week, but in a move that shows their infinite generosity, they decided the first-years could keep this “bonus” money, with the next paychecks going back to the $145K level (until July 2008).
He’s back!!! Or is it possible Michael Jackson has been quietly lurking in our region ever since his early-a.m. Smithsonian tour last week?
The sometimes-reclusive, sometimes-exhibitionist performer was spotted Wednesday evening in the downtown law offices of Venable LLP. One spy said he looked exactly like — well, himself: black sunglasses, black jacket, white shirt, black pants, white socks, black loafers, a pair of oversize bodyguards.
For those lucky enough to glimpse Jackson, his appearance explained a memo the firm had just put out, warning staffers not to gawk at clients.
We’d love to see that memo (which we hear was actually just an email). As for what Venable is doing for the King of Pop, we think they represent him in some IP matters. Maybe he’ll sue our uncle for unlicensed use of “Thriller”? Update: Roger Friedman of Fox News reports that “Jackson was in the law offices of Venable LLP to give a deposition in the $30 million lawsuit brought by his former manager, Dieter Wiesner.”
More Venable eccentricity, after the jump.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
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