Wake Up Call: Kirkland’s Pass on Covid Bonuses Ignites Associate Ire

Sept. 21, 2020, 12:19 PM

In today’s column, homages poured in over the weekend for Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death Friday, even as a bitter battle loomed over who will name her successor; law firms pay big money to former Supreme Court clerks for the same reasons they shell out cash for influential lobbyists: to get inside information and influence, a report says; nine Big Law firms dominate a U.K-based charity’s latest listing of what it calls the top LGBTQ employers in the world; black employees at the U.S. Mint accused the agency’s legal department of covering up complaints of racism.

  • Leading off, Kirkland & Ellis in a Friday memo told associates the firm won’t be matching so-called Covid appreciation bonuses for associates announced by several firms last week, but it will take associates’ “hard work and extraordinary contributions” into account when calculating their year end bonuses, Above the Law reported. The Legal blog quoted anonymous associates calling the memo “disappointing,” “garbage,” “an opportunity to skimp,” among other “salty” responses. (Above the Law)

  • Meanwhile, L.A.-based Irell & Manella became the latest firm to match the fall associate bonus scale set by Davis Polk & Wardwell, which ranges from $7,500 to $40,000, depending on year. So far, Milbank and litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan, also based in Los Angeles, have matched the scale. Cooley started the “bonus wars” earlier in the week with a more modest scale, and later said staff will also get appreciation bonuses. (American Lawyer) (BLAW)

  • Seyfarth Shaw and Littler Mendelson said last week they’re rolling back their Covid pay cuts. The announcements come as several firms restore pay, saying their business is turning out better than they’d expected earlier this year, when they made austerity cuts to protect their finances from an anticipated economic hit from Covid-19. However, Seyfarth said it’s also making a “small number” of layoffs. (BLAW)

Death of RBG

  • After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday night, President Donald Trump said he expects to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement promptly and the person will probably be a woman. The fight over the nomination, likely to be furious, could extend until after November elections. (Bloomberg via BLAW)

  • Ginsburg’s death leaves eight justices to deal with the upcoming presidential election. (Bloomberg News) It also raises new doubts about the fate of Obamacare. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Former President Bill Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, said it took him 10 minutes to decide to appoint her. “She had this uncanny ability to be very much in the weeds...of the intellectual legal arguments, and yet never lose sight of the human impact of her decisions,” Clinton said. (CNN)

  • Generations of lawyers looked back at her career. (Boston Globe) While the Journal contemplated what Ginsburg will mean to “the next generation of legal minds.” (Wall Street Journal)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • When law firms pay $400,000 bonuses and high salaries to former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, they are buying prestige, but they are also paying to get a kind of inside information about how the court is thinking and how individual justices might be thinking, and for the possibility the clerk might influence their former Supreme Court employer’s vote, according to a report. (NYT)

  • U.K.-based LGBTQ charity Stonewall included nine Big Law firms on its latest list of the top 17 global employers in the world. It said Baker McKenzie wins its “global trans inclusion award.” Other firms listed include Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Dentons, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Pinsent Masons, and Simmons & Simmons. (Stonewall.org.uk)

  • Black employees at the U.S. Mint, in an anonymous letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, accuse the the organization’s all-white legal department of failing to properly investigate claims of racism. They also accuse the department of complicity in covering up such claims. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Defense lawyers in Philadelphia are warning that the city’s main courthouse is not ready for a resumption of jury trials. They say its ventilation, tight corridors and elevators could make it a Covid hot-spot. (Inquirer.com)

  • Deal update: Jones Day advised True Capital Ltd in connection with its participation in the KKR-led $450 million investment round for Zwift, an online fitness program for cyclists and runners that has surged amidst Covid-19 shutdowns and health fears. Sidley Austin advised KKR & Co. (BLAW)

Laterals, Moves

  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett said today that Clifford Chance partner, Owen Lysak, a specialist in U.K. and EU financial regulation authority, is joining Simpson Thacher as a partner in its London office. (Businesswire.com)

  • Blank Rome hired Hogan Lovells consumer finance lawyer Chenxi Jiao in New York as an associate. According to her Linkedin, she spent nine months as a New York assistant attorney general. (Blank Rome)

  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hired technology transactions partner Colleen McDuffie from Arnold & Porter in Washington, the firm’s third hire on the team this month. (BLAW)

  • Guaranteed Rate Inc., one of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the U.S., hired Sidley Austin partner Frank Favia Jr. as general counsel. (BLAW)

Legal Education

  • Two students at University of South Carolina Law School, with an associate dean, worked pro bono to help attorneys for Breonna Taylor’s family win a $12 million settlement from Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor was killed by Louisville police during a botched no-knock raid. (Law.com)

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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