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FROM THE JOB FRONT is EmplawyerNet's monthly newsletter covering the latest developments in the area of legal employment -- and a few other things. FROM THE JOB FRONT is published as a service of EmplawyerNet, the online interactive legal employment network.

MAY 2000


Summer Associate Salaries Also Rising

Perks of the Profession

New Jersey Partnership Track Full of Roadblocks

Rainmakers Open Umbrellas

Job Tips: The Partnership Track

Legal Trivia

Quote, UnQuote

One More Thing Before You Go


Following the jump in full-time associate salaries, law firms are now upping the amounts they pay summer associates. Once again, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison is leading the week. The California-based firm recently set summer associate salaries at $2,400 a week. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is matching that amount while other California firms OıMelveny & Myers and Latham & Watkins will pay $2,000 a week. Last year, the top salaries paid summer associates at California firms was $1,825 a week while New York firms paid up to $2,000 a week.

The Recorder


If high salaries are not enough to make you feel resentful toward big firm associates, thereıs more. This comes in the form of benefits that larger law firms are making available to their lawyers. The American Lawyer magazine recently surveyed 200 law firms and complied a list of the perks make available to attorneys. Among the most interesting are: client investment pool, pet insurance, broker fee reimbursement, law school matching gift program, mental health services, salary advance for first-year associates, elder care assistance, on-site gym, house-hunting leave, MBA tuition reimbursement, dry cleaning pickup and delivery, yoga classes and reimbursement for house-hunting expenses. (Note: not all perks available at all firms).

American Lawyer


What are your chances of making partner? Not very good if you work for a New Jersey law firm. A recent survey found that less than 25 percent of those who joined several prominent New Jersey firms in the early 1990s have made it to partnership. At other firms surveyed, the percentage was even lower. One firm, Shanley & Fisher, promoted only four out of the 64 associates hired from 1989 through 1991. At Riker Danzig, the number was two out of 31. In their defense, the firms note that many associates choose to leave for other positions; some of the lawyers included in the survey remain with the firm in counsel positions while others are still under consideration for promotion to partnership. The survey also found that approximately nine percent of associates left New Jersey firms after just one year. 43 percent left within three years.

New Jersey Lawyer


Times are good for many law firms, especially those in the Silicon Valley representing technology companies. Itıs clearly a sellerıs market as clients are competing for the attention of prominent law firms. A partner with the firm Gunderson Dettmer reports that his firm turns down between 80 and 90 percent of the opportunities coming to the firm. The partner adds, ³and some of them are pretty decent opportunities.² Another Silicon Valley law firm partner, this one at Wilson Sonsini, says that he has had potential clients offer to pay just for the privilege of putting the law firmıs name on the clientıs business plan, with no obligation to do any of the legal work.

Industry Standard


Few things are more sacred in the structure of a law firm than the concept of partnership. On the subjective side, it is proof of acceptance and approval by the firmıs top management. On the objective side, it is ownership, a stake in the firm as a business entity and the opportunity to share in the fortunes of the firmıs productivity. But like so many established concepts in the legal world, this most cherished ideal is undergoing a metamorphosis.

Most firms are made up of two classes of lawyers: partners and associates. Associates are usually younger lawyers who could be said to be going through an apprenticeship with the firm. Partners are lawyers of longer-standing who have a commitment to the firm evidenced by their ownership and management. The transition from associate to partner is a long established line and typically occurs over a set period of time often referred to as the ³partnership track.²

This track can vary significantly from firm to firm and from region to region. It might be a nine or ten-year proposition as it is in some major cities or it may be seven to eight years in other places. The larger the law firm, the more this track is a set and inflexible rule. In smaller law firms, the track may be shorter or, in some cases, the advancement to partnership might be made on an ad hoc basis.

The last decade has seen the development of the ³off-track² partner. This is an individual who is, in essence, a permanent associate. This personıs income will rise over time but he or she will not become directly dependent on the firmıs profitability. No partnership decision is ever made on such individuals and they do not have the prospect of becoming an owner in the business enterprise that is the law firm.

When a firm passes someone over for partner, they often ask that person to leave. But if that lawyerıs services are still valuable and he is willing to remain in the firm on a nonequity basis, an arrangement as a permanent associate can satisfy both partiesı needs. In fact, for some lawyers -- particularly those who stop short of committing heart and soul to the practice -- a nonequity position may even be preferable. Such an individual is not tied economically to the investments and debts of the firm and need not spend the additional time on management issues expected of partners. They simply do their job and are guaranteed their paycheck.

What goes into the partnership decision varies from firm to firm and even under the best of circumstances the result may be unpredictable. Certainly, the quality of work, the ability to work with clients, intra-office relations and the number of years one have put in with the firm have much to do with whether one is offered partnership. Other considerations are the overall health of the firm; the number of associates being considered for partner at any one time, the demand for your area of expertise and some vague intangibles that go under the name of ³politics.² Becoming partner is certainly not just a roll of the dice but neither is it perfectly predictable.

Our point is that the notion of partnership has undergone changes and it is no longer a realistic expectation that everyone who enters a law firm will, after some prescribed period of time, automatically become a partner. The profession is recognizing this and is developing alternative arrangements to the traditional up-or-out philosophy that was built on a strict partner-associate dichotomy.


Correctly match the numbers 6, 26, 41, 74, and 5,000,000 to the following choices:

  • (a) Number of Russian citizens who failed to file tax returns last year.
  • (b) Number of Russian tax collectors kidnapped last year.
  • (c) Number of Russian tax collectors injured during the course of their work last year.
  • (d) Number of Russian tax collectors killed last year.
  • (e) Number of Russian tax collectors who had their houses burned to the ground last year.

(Answer at the end of the newsletter)


"If we donıt, weıll turn around three months from now and have 50 fewer young folks."

    -- Managing Partner at Bostonıs Hale and Dorr on why the firm raised associate salaries



Judy Sheindlin, of Judge Judy fame, made $113,000 a year her last year as a supervising judge in New York City. In her current position as a television judge, Judge Judy now earns $150,000 per week.

  • Trivia Answer:
    5,000,000 Russians failed to file tax returns.
    6 Russian tax collectors were kidnapped. 74 Russian tax collectors were injured during the course of their work.
    26 Russian tax collectors were killed.
    41 Russian tax collectors had their houses burned to the ground.

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