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News & Gossip: Associates' Outrage, Royal Finances and Cooley's Coolness

Vivia Chen

January 5, 2018

Unnamed-22Bonuses Are Tied to Hours: The Outrage! I don't know whether Big Law associates really feel this way or if the media is egging them on to act like entitled children, but I find some of the coverage about associate bonuses to be ridiculous.

I'm talking about the whipped-up indignation that year-end bonuses are tied to billable hours.

For instance, the headline at Above the Law reads: "This Firm Won't Give You Anywhere Near A Full Bonus If You Don't Meet Your Hours Requirement."  The firm is Norton Rose & Fulbright where  associates have to bill 2300 hours to get the market bonus. As ATL points outs, "anything less than that—specifically, 2000-2299 hours—will earn them just 50 percent of market." And since the year is drawing to a close, associates have little time to make up the difference. Boo hoo.

That sense of bait-and-switch was echoed in New York Law Journal's post, "Bonuses Come with Billable Hours Catch at Some Firms." The "catch" was again Norton Rose's billable requirement, though NYLJ offered the cheery news that "associates at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who have recorded at least 2,200 billable hours can earn even more than the scale set by Cravath." Whoopee!

Not to be a party pooper, but a "bonus" by definition is an extra treat, a gratuity; it's not an automatic entitlement nor an indispensable component of the compensation package (unlike what I-bankers get). 

I know, I know, some firms don't have explicit billable hour requirements for bonuses, so it seems unfair that some firms impose the burden. But does anyone seriously believe that associates at Cravath, Swaine & Moore or Wachtell Lipton aren't working their rear-ends off just because there's no stated billable minimum?

Frankly, I think it's much more honest and fair to say that those who bill more will take home more moolah. Firms might  be reluctant to use phrases like "eat what you kill" in front of their young, but that's the brutal truth. 

A royal pain
. Here's a brainteaser for you royal-obsessed enthusiasts: Guess what's potentially the biggest upset about the upcoming nuptials between Britain's Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle?

No, silly, it has nothing to do with Markle's African American heritage, her status as a divorcee or the fact that she's three years older than his royal highness. 

What's shaking things up is that the Internal Revenue Service could be an unwelcome intruder in the royal marriage. Reports The Washington Post (Hat tip: Taxlawprof):

For Harry, the issue isn't that he will suddenly end up paying U.S. income tax, but rather that Markle's American citizenship could open up the secretive finances of the royal family to outside scrutiny. If she remains a U.S. citizen, Markle will have to file her taxes to the IRS every year. And if she has more than $150,000 in assets at any point during the tax year—a likely scenario given her successful acting career and the family wealth of her husband—she will be expected to annually file a document called Form 8938 that will reveal the detail of these assets, which could include foreign trusts.

Don't worry you royalist loyalists. If Markle renounces her American citizenship, all this would be moot. But if Markle goes for dual citizenship, we'll get a peak at the royal coffers. (Word to the wise: I'd keep my U.S. citizen status if I were her, since royal marriages don't last like they use to.)

Imagine, the Queen might reveal her finances before we ever see a page of our own president's tax returns.

Cooley4_caphoto23856Is this the coolest, most family-friendly Big Law firm? Fortune came out with its best 50 workplaces for parents list and two major law firms were on the list. And get this, one firm even made it to the top 10!

Yes, it's Cooley, which came in #7 on the Fortune's list. (The other firm on the list is Orrick, #27.)

For whatever reason, Cooley seems to be the "It" firm these days. (Crains, Working Mother and who-knows-what-else have bestowed their stamped of approval on Cooley.) 

As you know, I tend to be highly skeptical of these lists, and I still am. That said, this comment from one of Cooley's lawyers in the Fortune article popped out at me: "I have been with Cooley for 17 incredible years. I am a parent to six kids and never once have I felt like I’ve had to make a choice between being a great parent and a great lawyer." The same lawyer goes on to say that s/he is able to "fully meet my parental responsibilities to all my kids and still also fully meet my responsibilities to clients and colleagues."

Let's just take a breather and take this in: This lawyer has six kids. I don't know if this person has a stay-at-home spouse or an army of nannies, but balancing six critters and practice without being institutionalized is an achievement under any circumstances. Hey, I'm impressed. 




Contact me: vchen@alm.com 


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Great writing! It approaches art. No kidding; this is genuine.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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