As reported last week, the Vault 2009 law firm rankings are out. You can find Vault’s ranking of the top 100 most prestigious firms here.
As observed by one astute commenter, “the prestige rankings will tell you nothing about the quality of your work experience.” In order to address this, we are relaunching a popular feature from last year: a series of open threads on the Vault 100 firms, organized in batches of five, to allow for comparative discussion (and gossip) about perks, hours, recruiting standards, firm life, etc.
We’re starting with the top five firms — and experiencing a bit of déjà vu, since the list is identical to last year’s (although the prestige scores, indicated parenthetically, have changed a little):
[Ed. note: This post is by SOPHIST, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Sophist's avatar (at right).]
On Tuesday, American Lawyer published a follow-up report to their overall associate satisfaction survey, released last Friday. This report ranks midlevel associates’ satisfaction with their pay packages. Not surprisingly, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz midlevels were most satisfied with their overall compensation, thanks in part to bonuses which ranged from $175,000 to $215,000.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, associates still lucky enough to have jobs were less than thrilled with their pay. Overall, midlevel salary satisfaction has only risen 1% annually since 2006.
The new numbers are surprising to some because top firms in other major markets are now matching the base compensation awarded in New York, while New York associates still receive higher bonuses to keep their landlords at bay. According to American Lawyer, midlevel associates understand that extra compensation results in longer hours, less partner contact, and decreased job security. As one Jenner & Block associate put it, “They’re not raising because they value us. We’re just the collective beneficiary because the firm needs to keep up in the market. It’s a back-handed compliment.”
Perhaps it is time to use the lysine contingency to control the law student population in order to make firms care about associate retention.
Based on your feedback, it seems that the story of office sex between two Skadden summer associates may just be urban legend. But we don’t feel that bad, since it’s a story that very well could have happened — and surely has, in other years or at other firms.
As promised, we’re going to make it up to you with a story from our former firm that is similar to the Skadden one. Having heard this tale from multiple sources during our time there, with no divergences in the pertinent details, we believe it to be true (although we do admit it’s old, from the mid-1990s).
The story, while perfectly safe for work, does include reference to a specific sexual act (hinted at by the image at right). If this offends your sensibilities, please stop reading here. We try to keep the ATL front page PG-rated.
But if you’re cool with this, read more, after the jump.
Overall, Latham & Watkins dominated the field, pulling in almost one fifth of all votes. Latham was the most popular choice among voters in L.A., the Bay Area, and Washington, DC, and was particularly favored by tax lawyers and litigators.
Runner-up Wachtell was actually the top choice of respondents in New York, narrowly besting Davis Polk and Latham. It was also, by far, the most popular pick among M&A lawyers, with roughly 30% of their vote.
Kirkland placed third overall, but was the top choice of Chicago respondents and patent lawyers, with almost twice as many votes as the next most popular firm in Chicago (Latham) and almost as many patent votes as the next two firms combined (Latham and Quinn).
Williams & Connolly, Ropes & Gray, and Davis Polk tied for fourth, with Ropes & Gray dominating the Boston vote, Williams & Connolly pwning DC (and gaining the second highest vote from litigators after Latham), and Davis Polk rocking the investment management scene (with Ropes & Gray running second best in that field).
Paul Hastings was the clear winner among labor & employment attorneys, winning almost 70% of the vote, and was also the most popular choice among real estate attorneys and lawyers in Atlanta.
On the Magic Circle front, Linklaters proved more popular than Allen & Overy, and was actually the most popular choice among securities lawyers. Allen & Overy was the most popular choice among structured finance attorneys.
This month’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, focused on which firm you would choose if you could go anywhere, was dominated by Latham & Watkins and Wachtell Lipton. But several firms were close behind.
* Respondents had several reasons to applaud Latham: “Prestige”, “Friends there are happy”, “Awesome firm, awesome people”, “They rock”, “Prestige, substantive work, great litigation practice”, and “Top notch clients and matters; kick ass bonuses; selective hiring in a good way (need good grades plus a good; personality); Vault top 10 without the stuffiness of originating on the east coast; good growth but no risk of Brobecking (great management + tons of funds)…..should I go on?” Or, as one respondent summed it up: “ass kickers.”
* At Wachtell, with 2007 profits per partner of $4.48 million, money played a key factor in respondents’ enthusiasm for the firm: “100% bonus”, “money”, “it’s all about the cash”, “I want the compensation!”, “money honey” and, of course, “CASH.”
* “Money” was also a big plus for Cravath (even though their profits per partner were a mere $3.3 million). Voters also noted “Prestige, training, can go anywhere else afterwards.”
* “Prestige” and “Exit opportunities” also won several votes for Skadden, who also had more than $2 billion in revenues last year. (Their SideBar program is pretty cool, too.)
* “Bonuses and work” were praised at Kirkland & Ellis, as was stability: “They’re well positioned for the credit crunch and M&A downturn. And the pay’s better, of course.”
* Sullivan & Cromwell was also coveted for “good work, and $$$$” as well as “reputation.” With profits per partner of $3.13 million, that “$$$$” is appealing at multiple levels.
* Paul Hastings surged in popularity as respondents complemented their labor & employment practice and their compensation structures in Atlanta and Chicago.
* In an incendiary match-up, Davis Polk was heralded as “da bomb”, while Boston heavyweight Ropes & Gray was declared “the bomb.”
* Among the Magic Circle firms, Allen & Overy supporters declared “Great offices, european attitude” while Linklaters was called “the best globally, both in equity and debt.”
* Debevoise won several votes for its combination of “prestige and culture”.
* Litigators were torn between Quinn Emanuel, where “hard core litigators with a great reputation” create an atmosphere where “[p]ersonality, quirkiness, and fun seem prevalent,” and Williams & Connolly, as “the best litigatio[n] shop. Period.”
So of these fourteen juggernauts of practice, prestige, and sweet, sweet profits, who would you most like to work for?
Cast your vote in today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, after the jump.
JPMorgan and Bear were prompted to renegotiate after shareholders began threatening to block the deal and it emerged that several “mistakes” were included in the original, hastily written contract, according to people involved in the talks.
One sentence was “inadvertently included,” according to a person briefed on the talks, which requires JPMorgan to guarantee Bear’s trades even if shareholders voted down the deal. That provision could allow Bear’s shareholders to seek a higher bid while still forcing JPMorgan to honor its guarantee, these people said.
When the error was discovered, James Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, who was described by one participant as “apoplectic,” began calling his lawyers at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to seek a way to have the sentence modified, these people said. Finger pointing over the mistakes in the contracts began as bankers blamed the lawyers and vice versa.
In last week’s ATL / Lateral Link surveys, we asked you whether you would want to work in a different city, whether, knowing what you know now, you would still want to work where you do, and where, if you could go to any other firm, you would choose to go.
We received 1,189 responses to last Monday’s survey on whether you would want to work in a different city. A whopping 88% of respondents said they would consider moving to a new city to practice. Sixty-eight percent cited a better lifestyle as a reason to move, while 45% would move for more money. Thirty-eight percent of respondents would move for a better practice, and 35% would be willing to move to be closer to friends or family. Only thirteen or fourteen percent, however, would move to be closer to a spouse or significant other, suggesting that most respondents are either single or willing to be. Responses: Would you consider moving to a new city to practice?
Where would you go? The Bay Area was the most popular destination, chosen by twelve percent of respondents. Another nine percent chose London. Eight percent would move to either the Pacific Northwest or Washington, DC. Six percent chose LA, Texas or Chicago. Five percent chose Boston, New York or Atlanta. Less than four percent would move to Paris, Hong Kong or Dubai to practice, and only a handful would consider Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, or Frankfurt. Quite a few people wrote in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Denver, Miami, and San Diego as their preferred destinations, putting them in about the same range as Tokyo.
Can you get there without updating your resume? Maybe not. Only a third of respondents thought their current firm would allow them to change offices. A quarter said no, and the rest weren’t sure.
Our ATL / Lateral Link surveys about whether, knowing what you know now, you would still want to work where you do, and where, if you could go to any other firm, you would choose to go are both still open, but you can sneak a peek at the results so far after the jump.
It’s Friday afternoon, and things are kinda slow. So please forgive the randomness.
Remember Kirkland & Ellis’s big gay party from last month, featuring cocktails and hors d’ouevres, but open only to LGBT lawyers? A source at our former firm writes:
Hors d’ouevres? That’s nothing! At Wachtell Lipton, the gay partners (and whatever associates/summers are out and proud) go to a verrry nice dinner every year. Last year it was at Per Se.
Magnificent. We’ve been to Per Se — on our own dime, not Wachtell’s — and it lives up to the hype.
So if you’re summering at WLRK, say that you’re gay (whether you are or not). You can always “change your mind” when you return to school in the fall; sexuality is fluid. And Per Se’s salmon tartare cornets are to die for! Earlier: Kirkland & Ellis’s Big Gay Party: Discriminatory?
The recruiting season for 2Ls — scooped up by law firms eager to hire them as summer associates, fatten them up at fancy lunches, and get them addicted to a luxury lifestyle — is pretty much over. So now is a good time to take stock of who fared well (and who didn’t).
From a tipster at Sidley Austin (New York):
On its internal site for new summers, the firm releases the list of incoming 2008 summer associate class. It is 38 people long, and one has to assume hiring has likely ended. The list from last year was accessible until recently, and that list was 62 people long. Additionally, NALP data shows the firm’s NYC office had 58 and 54 summers in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
The significant drop in number of incoming summer associates this summer may be a proxy for the economic health of the firm. In a way, it is positive, because it indicates a proactive measure on the part of firm. That is, they aren’t going to risk bringing aboard more summers than they can hire; chances of not getting an offer due to a downturn in business are much lower.
That’s an optimistic take. Most people would read a drop in summer associate class size as a sign of declining recruiting appeal or “mojo” among law students. Saint-cum-superman Barack Obama met his wife while summering at Sidley. Was that fact not enough to sway recruits? Update: We have contacted the firm for comment and are waiting to hear back from them.
Here are some other things we’ve been hearing (mere rumors, so take with a grain of salt):
1. Wiley Rein: vastly oversubscribed, perhaps due to their topping the Am Law 100 in profits per partner, thanks to the RIM / Blackberry settlement.
2. Wachtell Lipton: our former firm, which we shamelessly plug in these pages, is also hosting a much larger summer class than usual. Office space could become an issue.
So, if you know: How did your firm do in the summer associate sweepstakes? Please discuss, in the comments (or send us email if you prefer). Thanks. Further Update: Some tips we received via email, after the jump.
We have confirmed the rumor that has surfaced here and there in the comments: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz once again paid year-end bonuses to its associates that were 100 percent of their base salaries (which are already above-market; starting salary at WLRK is $165,000). This is consistent with past practice; Wachtell has paid 100 percent bonuses for several years running now.
Due to the new “special bonus,” the gap between Wachtell associates and their counterparts at other top shops, while still large, isn’t as enormous as it has been in the past. But when you’re a senior associate taking home roughly $600,000, it’s not very gracious to complain.
P.S. Disclosure: We worked at Wachtell from 2000 – 2003. For our thoughts on that experience, click here. Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Wachtell Lipton Windfalls
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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