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.
What does it mean to be “newly admitted?” To us, it means endless possibilities!
We recognize that you already possess the ability and intelligence to succeed in a variety of legal professions. Our job is to expose you to various practice areas in a way that ensures those very attributes are successfully applied. Our seasoned and successful faculty present unique programs that provide an approachable and practical understanding of the avenues of achievement available as you launch a fruitful, enjoyable and promising career.
Our Live Bridge the Gap weekends satisfy the entire year of New York Newly-Admitted CLE Credits in only two days!
After physically attending a full weekend, you will receive:
• 3.0 Ethics CLE credits,
• 6.0 Skills CLE credits, and
• 7.0 Professional Practice and/or Law Practice Management CLE credits
Date: Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9, 2013 Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:35 p.m. (EST) Location:
55 Exchange Place
New York, NY 10006
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.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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