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
We had a tough time picking our finalist couples this week, and LEWW will be the first to admit that we’re not totally certain we chose the right three. (We’re sure our commenters and e-mailers will let us know if we’ve dropped the ball.) Specifically, in addition to our three finalists, we considered thesethreecouples, and if you work at Shearman, Simpson Thacher, Wachtell, Willkie, or Ropes & Gray, you might want to click on those links to read about your colleagues or their spawn.
But onward to this week’s finalists! Here they are:
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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 protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.