Patterico's Pontifications

11/22/2007

It’s Hard to Get Good Help These Days

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 6:41 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

Look what top law firms do to attract young lawyers:

“In Perkins Coie’s Chicago office, members of the firm’s “happiness committee” recently left candied apples on everyone’s desks. Last month, the happiness committee surprised lawyers, paralegals and assistants in the Washington office with milkshakes from a local Potbelly Sandwich Works, a favorite lunch spot.

“That’s the whole beauty of it all — it’s random acts of kindness,” said Lori Anger, client relations manager of Perkins Coie, which is based in Seattle. “We have pretty strict hours, so it’s a nice way to surprise people.”
***
The benefits go beyond the laptops and BlackBerrys, late-night rides home, Friday beer-and-pretzel fests and sports tickets that are standard fare at many large and midsize law firms. Many of the new perks recognize a lifestyle change that law firms are just coming to grips with.
***
On offer now are concierge services, in which a lawyer can have the equivalent of a personal valet pick up theater and sports tickets, the dry cleaning, take a car to the repair shop or even choose a Halloween costume.

“We compete in terms of having a life,” Ms. Anger said. “We don’t compete by dangling a lot of material perks.” Unusual in the industry, Perkins Coie offers pet insurance.”

Starting salaries for associates can be $160,000 in top markets, with bonuses of $45,000 to $85,000, but billable hour requirements have also continued to increase. In addition, firms offer benefits like on-site child care or paid emergency nannies, sabbaticals, and more:

“For example, Sullivan & Cromwell, another old-line firm, with more than 600 lawyers, guarantees the first $100,000 of mortgages of associates who have been with the firm for at least six months.

DLA Piper, the nation’s largest law firm, reimburses employees $2,000 when they buy a hybrid car. Fulbright & Jaworski offers on-site tailoring and reimbursements to employees who buy a Subaru, Nissan or General Motors vehicle. “In our business, people are our main asset so our benefits are designed to keep people happy and healthy,” a spokesman for DLA Piper, Jason Costa, said.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, a 600-lawyer firm based in New York, offers employees a service akin to a personal issues coach and psychotherapist through a deal with Corporate Counseling Associates of Manhattan. The consulting firm has a battery of staff psychologists and social workers to provide advice on issues including stress, anxiety, depression and divorce.”

Depending on where the firm is located, additional perks include catered food, yoga, or recliners:

“The new perks are separate from the wining and dining that top law firms conduct each year for their summer associates, whom they hope to lure back after they finish law school.

Still, the parties and the food for lawyers are getting better. “We’re not talking a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee anymore,” said William M. O’Connor, a partner in the boutique litigation firm of Crowell & Moring, which is based in Washington. Crowell & Moring recently began giving wine parties at its New York office, with tuna tartare, baby lamb chops and vegetable trays. One associate requested that the firm “explore Spanish wines,” a spokeswoman related, so Crowell & Moring recently provided bottles of a 2001 Rondan and a 2005 Olivares Altos de la Hoya.

At Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s New York office, lawyers who work into the evenings can have dinner delivered, on a silver tray, from the Palm restaurant, a hot spot for media and financial executives.
***
It is true that many of the perks have a lifestyle flavor. O’Melveny & Myers, a large California-based law firm with offices in Asia, holds yoga classes at its Newport Beach office for lawyers and their staffs.

And Kilpatrick Stockton, a large firm with offices throughout the Southeast, has a nap room in its Raleigh, N.C., office, complete with a reclining chair, sofa and travel alarm clock. “Yes, it gets used, “ said Carol Vassey, the chief administrator in the Raleigh office, though rarely for more than 15 minutes at a time.”

Not everyone likes the new legal order:

“Forget the pet insurance and concierge services: that’s setting up people’s lives, and I find that appalling,” said Mitchell S. Roth, a principal at Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein, a comparatively small firm based in Chicago. “The perk we offer in our world is a culture of collegiality and training.”

Still, Mr. Roth acknowledged that Much Shelist occasionally brought in a masseuse. “It’s for morale,” he said.”

It’s a battle for talent. May the best firm win, although clients don’t seem as supportive of this as attorneys are. Maybe it has something to do with being charged $300+/hour.

— DRJ

11 Responses to “It’s Hard to Get Good Help These Days”

  1. Heh! They can eat their candied apples and tuna tartare. I’ll stay up until 4:00 a.m. to rewrite my motion for summary judgment three times. They should find lawyers who take pride in their profession and want to win for their clients. (BTW, I had a case against Much, Shelist. I guess their masseuse didn’t do a good enough job because the judge agreed with everything I argued and incorporated my argument into his decision.)

    nk (09a321)

  2. This is not necessarily limited to lawyers – in spirit if not dollar value. I worked for a marketing agency where an unused conference room housed a pool table and a bar with cold beer on tap.

    Stephen Macklin (68591a)

  3. wait till the happiness committee starts providing hookers.

    assistant devil's advocate (567f6a)

  4. Clients absolutely LOVE reading about shit like this and thinking about how it finds its way into their bills.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  5. $300 plus and hour and it is amazing what mediocre work that really buys these days.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  6. Tech companies do this, too. Before I went independent, one firm I worked for offered shiatsu twice a week, we had a weekly mini-party, usually involving wine or beer (and good stuff, too), life-counseling, a pool table, a nap-room, paid dinner and cab if you worked later than 7PM, and I think some other perks.

    I didn’t mind the Friday beer, definitely loved the massage, and made frequent use of the dinner and cab (I was doing ~90 hour weeks at the time), but didn’t use much of the rest. Still, it was the work schedule that eventually convinced me that a pay cut and the option of actually having a life was worth working for myself.

    fishbane (1f2790)

  7. I had a 780 on the LSAT and good enough grades (back in 1977), but decided not to go to law school; apparently that was the wrong decision.

    Dana (3e4784)

  8. Good we need more good feeling amounst these office workers

    krazy kagu (0a3548)

  9. “I didn’t mind the Friday beer, definitely loved the massage, and made frequent use of the dinner and cab (I was doing ~90 hour weeks at the time), but didn’t use much of the rest. Still, it was the work schedule that eventually convinced me that a pay cut and the option of actually having a life was worth working for myself.”

    I think you’re on to it. Its not so much the compensation and price of these things. They look like they’re targetted ways to get people to deal with the big firm quality of life. Clients mad? They’ll get much madder when experienced associates leave.

    whitd (10527e)

  10. One of the complaints frequently heard about today’s society is that it is too litigious. Would a parallel be that there are too many lawyers? And, mining this vein, if there are too many lawyers, would it not be counter-productive to make their work invironements better, when we should be making that environement more harsh to discourage the over-population of the watershed?

    Another Drew (758608)

  11. wait till the happiness committee starts providing hookers.

    I knew I shoulda gone into law…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)


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