A few days ago, conservative political bloggers had some fun with the news of left-leaning commentator Matthew Yglesias buying a $1.2 million condo. But I tend to agree with Jonathan Chait: unless you’re a full-blown communist, there’s nothing inconsistent between being somewhat liberal and owning a nice place. I don’t even have a problem with so-called “limousine liberals” (although owning a $1.2 million apartment is hardly limousine land).
The news of Yglesias’s real estate purchase first appeared in Washingtonian magazine, which has fantastic coverage of the D.C. real estate market. The same column also contained news of several lawyers cutting seven-figure housing deals….
Last year, I complained that the complicated compensation system at Vinson & Elkins was giving me a headache. What’s wrong with a Cravath-style system of lockstep salaries and bonuses? Or a Kirkland- or Latham-style system of lockstep salaries and individualized bonuses? Is it really necessary, for purposes of paying associates, to utilize a system involving deferred compensation?
Luckily for me and my limited quantitative-reasoning ability, V&E has decided to streamline their system. Let’s learn about what they’re doing, which they revealed in the course of announcing their bonuses.
The law firm of Vinson & Elkins, one of Texas’s top shops, once represented Enron. I was reminded of this fact in trying to write up V&E’s bonus news (year-end bonuses and spring bonuses, which the firm just announced). Lawyers at Vinson & Elkins seem to thrive on complexity — in the service of hiding what’s really going on with respect to money matters.
Trying to get a grasp on the V&E compensation system gave me a splitting headache. Unfortunately, because the firm plays such an important role in setting compensation for the Texas legal market, attention must be paid.
So let’s discuss the just-announced V&E spring bonuses, as well as the 2010 year-end bonuses that were announced in January 2011, and try to figure out what the heck is going on down there….
Associates bitch when partners won’t share the wealth, but nobody says a peep when legal support staff get shafted. The very concept of staff bonuses has gotten lost in the recession shuffle, despite the fact that the support staff who remain are being stretched so thin.
Well, it looks like Vinson & Elkins remembers that staff are people too. Today multiple tipsters report that legal support staff at V&E will be receiving a bonus. Our sources didn’t know how much they’re getting, but they’ll be getting something.
UPDATE: Reports a Vinson & Elkins source, “As a matter of clarification, the staff bonus that [was just announced] by V&E is an EXTRA bonus being paid by Management. V&E staff already received their normal staff bonuses in December. Viva la V&E!!”
Compare this to Jones Day. In November, the firm broke its legendary code of silence about compensation just to say that their staff would not be getting bonuses. That’s not nice. That’s like a recovering paraplegic going through years of physical therapy to get to the point where he can give his doctor the finger.
So really Vinson does deserve quite a bit of credit here. Good job by them.
And oh yeah, the firm also told associates that they would be getting bonuses this year… and suggested that the bonuses would be better than the Cravath scale….
We’re doing our annual march through the Vault prestige rankings, to give ATL readers the opportunity to have their say about perks and pitfalls at these firms. If your firm actually let you swap your Blackberry for your iPhone, brag here. Or if your firm has such a strong stench that it makes you nauseous, vent here.
We’ve been doing open threads in batches of ten, but now we’re going to pick up the pace. Here are the Vault #41 – 60. This is when the prestige list gets a little more geographically diverse, with firms based in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Palo Alto and even Pittsburgh:
Cruciani alleges Budd “completely misrepresented the compensation system at Baron & Budd and the upside that allegedly existed there,” and Budd showed his “greed” when he paid himself a $50 million bonus in December 2005, which was 75 percent of the firm’s bonus pool that year.
Note to partners with a wandering eye: If a firm describes its compensation system as “Hully Gully,” be wary. In addition to misrepresenting the firm’s compensation system, Budd also neglected to tell Cruciani that there was bad blood between him and co-founding partner Fred Baron.
After hearing a host of counterclaims during a six-week trial, the jury sided with Cruciani, and decided the lost income and the impact on his future earnings warranted a $8.8 million award.
According to the Dallas Observer, the local legal community was shocked by the size of the award. Why was it so big?
A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the Vinson & Elkins bonus payouts. At the time, we noted that associates in New York were generally pleased with the payout, but associates in V&E’s Texas offices — notably, the firm’s Houston office — were not at all happy with their bonuses.
The issue appeared to be that V&E Texas associates didn’t receive a “make-whole” bonus. Some firms have followed Latham & Watkins’s lead and are using the bonus to give back the money that associates lost during last year’s salary freeze.
A couple of days after our post went up, Above the Law started to receive some interesting emails from Vinson & Elkins people in Texas. Here’s an example:
The partners realized they had screwed up and are making good by the associates, giving additional bonuses in the coming weeks. Top performers in Houston will end up making MORE than their counterparts in NY on the full Cravath scale (for the second year in a row). Pretty impressive that they are willing to admit their screw up and fix it quickly.
And it’s true. Instead of sticking to a decision many associates felt was unfair, V&E changed course and put more money on the table.
Details on this reversal of fortune after the jump.
We’ve got a tale of two states when it comes to the Vinson & Elkins bonus. The firm made true-up raises, putting their associates back at the top of the market for associate salaries. But the firm didn’t give out make-whole bonuses. For many associates, the money lost from a year of salary stasis is gone forever.
The surprising thing is that V&E New York associates seem to be much happier with the news than V&E Houston associates. Here’s what our New York sources tell us:
Vinson froze salaries at 2008 levels in May. But compensation memos were distributed this morning and salaries have been completely unfrozen. True-up, as you say. Added to that, we’re getting Cravath level bonuses.
Spokespeople for Vinson & Elkins confirmed the news: double-bump raises with Cravath bonuses.
But in Houston, that same story is playing out differently.
That’s the news we’re hearing out of Austin today. When Texas added a constitutional amendment in 2005 banning gay marriage, it may have actually banned all marriage, says attorney general candidate (and former Vinson & Elkins partner) Barbara Ann Radnofsky. Fort Worth Star Telegram broke the story. Slate sums it up:
A Houston lawyer who is the Democratic candidate for attorney general claims that a 2005 Constitutional amendment that was supposed to ban gay marriages actually took the whole thing a bit further than anyone expected. The amendment states that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” So far, so good.
But then comes Subsection B: “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” That was supposed to ban any form of civil unions or domestic partnership but may have put the legal status of all Texas marriages in doubt.
Texas: 3500 sq ft, a Lexus and babies out of wedlock?
Employer: Vinson & Elkins LLP (New York, NY) [view profile]
Title: Litigation Associate
The NY Office of Vinson & Elkins LLP is looking for a junior-level (Class of ’07-’08) litigation associate with 1-2 years of NY Law Firm experience to work in their Complex Commercial Litigation group. Applicants should be currently employed and seeking opportunities on their own volition. Must have outstanding academic credentials and be admitted to the NY Bar.
A couple of Above the Law readers felt that this listing specifically excluded recent Columbia and NYU graduates who have been laid off over the course of the recession.
Above the Law reached out to recruiting people at Vinson & Elkins. It turns out that this listing was simply an “in-artful” posting from V&E. Check out what the firm really means after the jump.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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