The first weekend after Easter traditionally marks the beginning of High Wedding Season, where the weekly NYT fodder switches from merely interesting to heart-stoppingly impressive. This year is no exception, as last Sunday’s pages were chock-full of prestigious lawyer couplings.
Last night we wrote about some of the top-notch talent that will be filling senior legal positions in the Obama Administration. These are big names, and you probably also read about them in big publications, like the Legal Times or the Wall Street Journal.
ATL is willing to drill down deeper. We now bring you personnel news at more junior levels. If you graduated law school in the past 15 or even 10 years, you might actually know some of these people.
Our prior post focused on two of the most prestigious parts of the Department of Justice: the Solicitor General’s office, and the Office of Legal Counsel. We now turn our attention to two other top offices: the White House Counsel’s office, and the office of the Deputy Attorney General.
As the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.
So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.
“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”
“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”
“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”
Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.
In honor of the new Vault rankings, we’re doing a series of open threads on the 100 most prominent law firms. We invite you to compare and contrast the firms in the comments. In the last open thread on Vault firms 6-10, there was an animated discussion about litigation at Cleary and which Kirkland office is best to work for.
Moving on down the Vault 100 list, here’s the next bunch up for discussion, with prestige scores in parentheses:
The oddest language in the “notable perks” in this bunch is at Williams & Connolly: “Fancy bunch of smarties.” Well-dressed intelligent lawyers, or a big basket of the tart candy?
Please discuss the work, perks, and lifestyle at these firms in the comments. More threads to come. Earlier:Vault 100 Open Threads- 2009
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.
Not too long ago, we reported the move of Williams & Connolly to a pay scale with a starting salary of $180,000. Today we bring you more happy compensation news from W&C.
First, the firm just raised its clerkship bonus from $35,000 to $45,000. This is a welcome development, although not super-exciting; $45K is slightly below the $50K that is the market clerkship bonus, at least for the top firms.
The second piece of news is more interesting. If you have two clerkships under your belt — e.g., a federal district court clerkship and a federal circuit court clerkship — Williams & Connolly may be the place to be (assuming you’re interested in working on sexy, high-profile litigation matters). For people with two clerkships, the firm pays a total clerkship bonus of $90,000.
Most of the firms that pay a $50,000 bonus for one clerkship pay a $70,000 clerkship bonus for two clerkships and/or two years of clerking experience. So $90,000 would appear to be a new high in terms of clerkship bonuses.
Sorry, we don’t know the fine print on this offer (e.g., whether two years of clerking for the same judge will get you the $90K, what clerkships will qualify towards the two-clerkship bonus, etc.). But if you’re in the small class of people who might be affected by this, and if you secure an offer from Williams & Connolly, you may wish to make a polite inquiry into the precise contours of the policy. Earlier: Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Williams & Connolly to $180K
We’re a week or so into 2008, which raises the question: a new year, a new associate pay raise?
One might expect pay raises to be announced around fall recruiting time, to entice the 2Ls. Historically, however, the last two base salary increases were announced in January (perhaps in an effort to reduce the post-bonus exodus of associates). In January 2007, Simpson Thacher announced its new pay scale, with a $160,000 starting salary. The prior raise, by Sullivan & Cromwell to $145,000, was announced in January 2006.
But don’t expect more of the same in January 2008. From the National Law Journal:
As law firms wrapped up operations for 2007, the associate compensation picture looked eerily similar to the boom before the bust seven years ago.
The ratio of bonuses to base salaries for first-year associates at the nation’s top law firms in 2007 was on par with the figures in 2000, a year that precipitated a dramatic plunge in those annual perks that help to make the punishing associate hours more tolerable.
For 2007, beginning associates made as much as $45,000 in bonuses in addition to the $160,000 in base pay at top firms in New York and on the West Coast, with some shops doling out “special bonuses” and getting bragging rights ahead of competitors.
But all that cheer in 2007 may become a distant memory as 2008 is looking increasingly leaner.
“There’s more concern out there now than there was in the summer,” said James Cotterman, an attorney-compensation consultant with Altman Weil. “There’s more talk about a recession.”
Indeed. If we’re not already in a recession, we’re about to enter one. Sure, some firms have strong countercyclical practices. But litigation and bankruptcy never make as much as transactional work and M&A in boom times.
More doom and gloom, plus the promised digression on billables, after the jump.
The litigation powerhouse of Williams & Connolly has announced associate pay raises, effective January 1, 2008. We have confirmed the fact of the raise with sources at the firm.
There was no comprehensive memo, so we’re not 100 percent certain of the specific numbers. But word on the street is that the new pay scale is as follows:
These base salaries are well above market (160 – 170 – 185, etc.). But remember that Williams & Connolly traditionally pays an above-market base salary, since it does not pay year-end bonuses. So W&C’s move to a $180,000 starting salary is not as exciting as a similar move by Cravath or Simpson would be.
The old pay scale is available here. The pay raise appears to be a $15K bump for the first three classes. Fourth-year associates get a $20K increase. Fifth-year through seventh-year associates get a $25K increase.
We’re reasonably confident in these numbers. But, as noted, they were not set forth in a memo. So if you see any errors, please contact us. Thanks. Earlier: Skaddenfreude: Williams & Connolly Weighs In
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.