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It's Official: Reed Smith Has Balls and former Big Law Associate Is Cruella de Trump

Vivia Chen

June 25, 2018


Because you are rushed and have a short attention span—my quick and dirty edition of the news:

The ballsiest award goes to: Reed Smith. I don't know how long it will stick by its guns, but you have to hand it to Reed Smith for openly admitting that it won't be joining the Big Law flock in upping associate salary.

Usually firms duck from the press when it plans not to pay the "going rate." But Reed Smith partner and global head of legal personnel, Casey Ryan, dealt with the issue head-on, issuing a statement that the firm "has no current plans to increase associate starting salaries in any location," reports Legal Week.

The reason for this bold (non)move? Ryan said it was based on “the interests of clients.”

I don't know if this is true but you can't go wrong saying it's for the well-being of the client. It's kind of like saying I did it—lied, stole, cheated, whatever—for the sake of the children. I mean, who's going to argue with those constituencies?

In any case, there are sensible reasons as to why Reed Smith is drawing the line. For one thing, although it is a perfectly good firm, it's not in the same profit league as Milbank Tweed; Cahill, Gordon; Cleary Gottlieb; Davis Polk; Kirkland & Ellis; Paul, Weiss and the other Big Law firms that are raising their beginning salaries to $190,000 or more. 

Reed Smith knows that it won't draw the creme de la creme candidates, so why play that game? In a way, you have to give them credit for knowing who it is.

So many things you can do with a law degree! Look at Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of  Homeland Security and the youngest person (46) to lead the agency. 

A 1999 of the University of Virginia Law School, Nielsen started as a humble associate at Haynes & Booth in Dallas. (One former partner there tells me: "She was always nice and appeared to be a sharp, young lawyer." Boring, right?) Later, she became a staff member at Homeland, before becoming a special assistant to President George W. Bush.

What a quick learner Nielsen must have been to now lead Homeland, a mega agency with a staff of 240,000 and a budget of more than $40 billion. I bet most UVA law grads of her vintage aren't doing anything remotely as impressive!

And now she can add another title to her resume: Cruella de Trump. As the face of Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy, she's become the leading defender of the practice of separating migrants from their children. (So far, 2,300 kids have been taken from their parents. Though Trump has reversed the policy, it's uncertain when or how those kids will be reunited with their parents.)

At a press conference about the issue just before Trump rescinded the policy, Nielsen suggested that the spotlight on the plight of the children and their families was misplaced. She said: "They reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives. The narratives we don’t see are the narratives of the crime."

Is she suggesting that the children are criminals? Perhaps not the most sensitive interpretation. (Also, tone deaf: Nielsen dining at a Mexican restaurant a day after the press conference. Poor thing: She was met with so many loud boos that she couldn't even finish her Margarita. )

Anyway, if being the poster girl for Trump's draconian border policy is too much for Nielsen, she can always join Fox News's stable of commentators. I mean, gee, she already has the right hair color for the job.

Don't miss this: The secrets of rainmaking revealed! "It's not that the old boys club doesn't exist. It's just not in the same way. You don't have to go to a men's club to play squash to get business." 

Listen to my latest podcast with Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan and Sharon Nelles.  

Email me at vchen@alm.com

Follow me on Twitter @lawcareerist



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Why can’t you make your case without making nasty comments about a successful woman lawyer’s hair color?

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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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