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Wake Up Call: Cheers and Jeers for New Big Law Bonus Memos

Dec. 15, 2020, 2:08 PM

In today’s column, some in-house counsel are worried that law firms’ generous associate bonuses could be sending the wrong incentive in a tough year; LinkedIn has seen a big jump in use of its site by law firms; Texas law grads that took the state’s October online bar exam fell short of the grads who took the in-person test in September.

  • Leading off, Mayer Brown made its U.S. associates happy with an announcement that it will pay the Davis Polk scale for special Covid bonuses, $7,500 to $40,000, depending on year of seniority, with no billable-hour requirement to get them, legal blog Above the Law reported. The special bonus is on top of the firm’s regular year-end bonuses, which will be calculated based on the same hourly and other criteria as last year, the firm’s memo says. (Above the Law)
  • In a memo to associates, Hogan Lovells said its total year-end bonus amount could reach up $160,000, which would be $20,000 more than the two-part scale for year-end bonuses established in November by Wall Street firm Cravath Swaine & Moore. But some associates reacted angrily to the billable hour requirements Hogan Lovells attached to its special bonuses. (Above the Law)
  • After a “sobering year” in which Texas litigation firm Susman Godfrey lost founder Steve Susman to Covid in July, the firm’s year-end bonuses are down from the up-to $235,000 bonuses it paid last year. Nevertheless, the firm is again beating the Cravath scale, with median 2020 bonuses of between $80,000 and $170,000. The firm also announced it promoted all six associates in its 2020 class to partner, including four women. (BLAW)
  • Meanwhile, in-house counsel are not getting similar bonuses and some of them say they’re worried that all that cash tied to billable-hour targets could provide an incentive to over-billing. (American Lawyer)
  • In Texas, a criminal defense lawyer who believed he was infected with Covid by his client during a pre-trial hearing died of his illness. And in another part of the state, a district judge died of the disease. (Texas Lawyer)
  • The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington hired a Jones Day team, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn, to represent it in its fight against the District of Columbia’s pandemic restrictions on religious organizations. (National Law Journal)
  • A former general counsel at a Pittsburgh company is suing over alleged retaliation after he took sick time for his Covid infection. (Corporate Counsel)
  • U.K. Big Law firm Addleshaws Goddard cut 19 jobs from its real estate practice, according to a report from London. (The Lawyer)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • A Chicago federal judge froze the assets of prominent L.A. civil attorney Thomas Girardi as part of a contempt order linked to a settlement with the Boeing Co. Girardi is alleged to have embezzled the proceeds of client settlements to fund “outrageous lifestyles for himself and his estranged wife,” Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne. (LA Times)
  • Bloomberg Law’s new Black General Counsel Project takes a look at how top lawyers in Fortune 1000 companies approach leadership and work to increase diversity in their legal departments and in the outside counsel they hire. (BLAW)
  • The Young Black Lawyers’ Organizing Coalition announced a campaign to protect Black voting rights during the Georgia run-off elections. (The Atlanta Voice)
  • A Pennsylvania attorney was sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison for a scheme to steal close to $800,000 from clients. (Legal Intelligencer)
  • Haynes and Boone said it has relocated the Dallas-North office it opened in 1997 to serve technology companies opening in the area. The office is now in a new building in Plano, about 25 miles north of downtown Dallas. The firm has said it will relocate its main Dallas office to a newly built tower, in late 2023. (HaynesBoone.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • Cooley hired a former a federal deputy chief in New York, Tiana Demas, from Facebook Inc., where she led a team investigating cyberattacks. (BLAW)
  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett said Tuesday that its London office added veteran antitrust and competition lawyer Antonio Bavasso as a partner. Bavassa joins after close to 24 years at elite U.K. firm Allen & Overy in London, where he was a partner and co-head of the global antitrust practice and co-head of the telecoms, media and technology practice. (Businesswire.com)
  • Baker Botts recruited Sidley Austin IP partner Ted Chandler as a partner in Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to Chandler’s LinkedIn profile, he’d been at Sidley 17 years, and is president of the Los Angeles Intellectual Property Association. He follows patent and IP trial lawyer Pete Kang, who joined Baker Botts’ Palo Alto office in September from Sidley Austin. (BakerBotts.com)
  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP recruited KPMG tax principal and former IRS official Matt Frank as a partner in Washington. According to his LinkedIn profile, Frank was a senior tax counsel for transfer pricing at General Electric. He was earlier director of the U.S. advance pricing agreement program at the Internal Revenue Service, and a California federal prosecutor. He was a partner at Caplin & Drysdale. (Steptoe.com)
  • Baker McKenzie global chief operating officer Jason Marty is moving to Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner to serve in the same role on March 1, based in Chicago. (BLAW)
  • Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough added corporate attorney Joel Hughey as a partner in Atlanta. He arrives from Eversheds Sutherland. (NelsonMullins.com)

Promotions

  • Buchalter promoted three attorneys (two women) to shareholder. (Buchalter.com)

Technology

  • LinkedIn has seen a big increase in law firms using the tool for marketing and branding. (American Lawyer)

Legal Education

  • Texas law school grads who in October took the state’s first online bar exam scored lower, 60% on average, than grads who took the state’s in-person exam in September, almost 77% on average. (Texas Lawyer)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com

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