Elite law schools are withdrawing from the U.S. News & World Report rankings one by one, but what does it all mean? We’ve never loved the USNWR methodology, but the reasons these schools cite for departing the rankings don’t seem all that great. Maybe the schools would like to help a certain alternative ranking get better results! And the Biglaw bonus cycle has kicked off even amid an uncertain business environment.
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Joe Patrice: Hey, welcome.
Kathryn Rubio: Hey!
Chris Williams: Hello!
Kathryn Rubio: Hey, gal.
Joe Patrice: All right. All right, everybody. Everybody is feeling a little — a little —
Kathryn Rubio: Self-satisfied?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, all right.
Chris Williams: It’s good this whole self thing. It’s satisfying.
Kathryn Rubio: It is satisfying.
Joe Patrice: What show are we?
Kathryn Rubio: We’re Thinking Like A Lawyer.
Joe Patrice: Okay, good. Well, yeah.
Chris Williams: Oh, I thought this was a Jabot.
Kathryn Rubio: Oh, no.
Joe Patrice: No, that’s another show that people should be looking into.
Chris Williams: I was all excited I have my guest appearance voice on and everything. I was trying to — that was me trying to channel Kathryn there.
Joe Patrice: This is Joe Patrice from Above the Law. I am joined by a couple of other people from Above the Law.
Kathryn Rubio: He’s so salty. I love it.
Joe Patrice: Kathryn Rubino and Chris Williams are both here. We do this show every week to talk about some of the biggest stories in the legal sphere over the last week. But first, we always have a little moment where we chat with each other to just —
Kathryn Rubio: We do.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: So, does anybody want to start that?
Chris Williams: Sure.
Kathryn Rubio: I think you do.
Joe Patrice: No. That’s right. This is our small talk section. How’s everybody doing?
Kathryn Rubio: I’m doing pretty good. I have family in already for the Thanksgiving holiday. They came in the weekend before.
Chris Williams: Look at that.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah. Well, where my sister lives, they get the entire week of Thanksgiving off. So, they have —
Chris Williams: Sweden?
Kathryn Rubio: Texas as it turns out. But they have the whole week off so they came up to spend it with me. It was great.
Joe Patrice: Oh, well. I feel sorry for them. So, how’s –
Kathryn Rubio: Wow!
Joe Patrice: Oh!
Kathryn Rubio: Wow! They’re very excited. They went to see their first Broadway show this weekend.
Joe Patrice: That’s cool.
Chris Williams: Was it Book of Mormon?
Kathryn Rubio: No, it was Wicked.
Chris Williams: Wicked, gotcha.
Kathryn Rubio: You know, a fractured fairy tale as it were. My sister’s a teacher and apparently just finished that unit in her English class, and was like, “I’m going to use this as an example when we get back to school.” So, that was great. Yeah, how about you, Chris? Are you doing anything fun this weekend?
Chris Williams: Wait, the Texas? They let you make references to witchcraft in Texas?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I was going to say that’s not going work, fly for —
Chris Williams: Yeah. that’ll be wicked.
Kathryn Rubio: Wow, wow. Like Elphaba flying at the end of Act One of Wicked.
Chris Williams: This self-satisfaction shit is good. Yeah, fuck Buddhists.
Joe Patrice: Oh, you suck!
Kathryn Rubio: You’re such a jerk.
Chris Williams: That wasn’t very enlightened of you, Joe. No. Let’s see.
Kathryn Rubio: See, but now he is joining our self-satisfied train.
Joe Patrice: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Listen.
Kathryn Rubio: So, we were talking to Chris, what he was doing this past weekend.
Joe Patrice: We were.
Chris Williams: Yeah. So, I’ve been listening to a bunch of lectures because that’s the type of monster I am and that’s what I do for leisure. This guy’s name is Arthur Jafa, Jafer. He did this like seven-minute video, it’s called Love is the Message, the Message is Death, which is a compilation of black life really. It’s really interesting. It’s short. And I associate him with, you know, thinkers like Saidiya Hartman, Fred Moten, Hortense Spillers. Just brilliant, brilliant shit, stuff the guy is putting out. And I gave a lecture today on the red record, which is a comp, which is analysis of lynching that Ida B. Wells did, I want to say like 1905. I’m planning on comparing that to the Black Lives Matter movement. Tech stuff aside, I think is also contemporary report on lynching and I’m hoping to have my students look past the idea that history is like an old thing. I think it still animates the stuff that we engage with today and all of them just trying to make it seem like a thing that applies to their lives, you know, this thing from 1905.
Kathryn Rubio: Awesome. How about you, Joe? Did you do anything fun?
Joe Patrice: I had bourbon.
Kathryn Rubio: Bourbon. Bourbon.
Joe Patrice: Okay, yeah. So, with that, I think we come to the conclusion of small talk.
Chris Williams: Joe’s small talks are always intense.
Kathryn Rubio: I like that now you’re not just interrupting me.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No. So, anyway, so we’ll —
Kathryn Rubio: It’s equal opportunity interruptions.
Joe Patrice: We got a lot to talk about in the legal world. We got two major topics, but we’ll talk about them in different ways. All right. Well, this is looking down. I see that we have a bunch of messages, but —
Kathryn Rubio: Oh, no. I’m busy right now because I’m recording a podcast.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, right. Well, well.
Kathryn Rubio: If only, if only.
Joe Patrice: Yes, if only when you were doing your legal where you had someone else handling those and in taking those calls.
Kathryn Rubio: Right, so you can focus on the task that you’re trying to accomplish and not get distracted by telephone calls when you can have a virtual receptionist take care of that mundane work.
Joe Patrice: So, let’s hear from posh about exactly that.
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Male: Today’s legal news is rarely as straightforward as the headlines that accompany them. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we provide the legal perspective you need to better understand the current events that shape our society. Join me, Craig Williams, in a wide variety of industry experts as we break down the top stories. Follow Lawyer 2 Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.
Joe Patrice: All right. So, first big topic is rankings. The U.S. News and World Report on ostensible news magazine that really hasn’t done that in a long time.
Kathryn Rubio: It’s a ranking publication.
Joe Patrice: It’s really just a series of rankings. The U.S. News law school rankings had been incredibly influential, everyone kind of uses them as guidepost of what the state of a particular law school is in relation to others. Anyway, Yale Law School made the decision that they were no longer going to cooperate with U.S. news, and they were “withdrawing” from the rankings. This kicked off Harvard join them at this point. As of this recording, we’ve got, what, Harvard, Berkeley, Columbia.
Kathryn Rubio: Georgetown.
Joe Patrice: Georgetown, Michigan, I think.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah. Have all pulled out of the rankings, which is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. U.S. News has made a statement that they will continue to rank all of the law schools. And if they don’t provide information specific that U.S. News is looking for, they will do it based on publicly available information, which a lot of the employment statistics are available through NELP. A lot of the kind of tuition-based stuff is publicly available, et cetera, and the law schools are also frequently published a lot of the other information that originated, in importance because of U.S. News.
Joe Patrice: Well, in a lot of ways. Like the biggest single factor in the U.S. News ranking are the evaluation of peers, like what lawyers think of the university. So, to the extent, or the law school, I should say. But to the extent that that is the biggest factor and it’s something that the law schools have no control over, yeah, there’s very little here that makes even a lick of difference.
Kathryn Rubio: I mean, I think the best-case scenario for the schools that have decided to “pull out” of the rankings is that this movement puts pressure on U.S. News to change their formula in some way to whatever they’re hoping for. But to be very clear, they will continue to be ranked. Yale is likely to still hold the top place in the next year’s U.S. News rankings despite this PR pull out move.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, no, you say PR, which I think — I find that a lot of the coverage has been generally supportive of the schools for doing it. And look, we hear Above the Law have a rival ranking, that we have always trumpeted as a response to U.S. News to the extent the U.S. News is way more focused on the inputs by that —
Chris Williams: To be clear, the word there should have been better. We have a better ranking. But yes, go on.
Joe Patrice: Well, so the U.S. News is very fixated on inputs, what the average GPA and average LSAT score of the incoming classes.
Kathryn Rubio: The students incoming.
Joe Patrice: Right, which now that is information that usually the schools provide. And so, with that being taken out of this equation, U.S. News is going to be more similar to us sort of, although they’re going to continue to pretend that they can just guess what people’s LSATs are and stuff like that. With that said, or maybe they’ll get it straight from LSAT. Frankly I don’t even know.
Kathryn Rubio: It is also true that again, maybe because of the import that U.S. News has put on it historically, you can find a lot of that information from the law schools’ websites themselves, average LSAT, average GPA, et cetera.
Joe Patrice: Well, the argument is that they — so we’ve always however fixated on outputs. We more highly wait whether or not you go to that law school, are you going to be employed at the end? Now, the issue be in this is you could say, and several law schools for years have said, that they don’t like that it’s input based and prefer something that’s output based to which we usually say we’ve already got that covered here at Above the Law. Now, if that were the reason why people are pulling out, that’s all well and good, but it does not appear to be the primary reason any of these law schools are giving for why they’re pulling out.
I’m glad you took the obvious verbal cue and asked. So, what Yale cited in its decision, and everyone else seems to be mirroring is this, and this goes to Kathryn’s PR point. This largely contrived argument that what they’re doing is it’s a stand in defense of public interest work. The ranking just doesn’t care enough about people going on and doing public interest work. And so, we have to withdraw from these and give no more support to these rankings. This is complete nonsense. It is true, there are things that the rankings, the U.S. News methodology where they put their thumb on the scale in ways that are not really paying attention to how — like that hurt public interest counting, sort of, especially at the elite level. That said, the primary thing they are complaining about is that Yale will, for many students who are interested in public interest stuff, they will fund fellowships, basically, a graduate, hoping to work in public interest. Yale will pay their salary to go work for some organization for a year, or sometimes two, but a year.
Kathryn Rubio: That’s not a long-term job.
Joe Patrice: Well, so, the argument is that by Yale funding this for these organizations that don’t have a ton of funding themselves, hopefully on the back-end of that, maybe that organization will hire the graduate, or maybe not, but who cares? Because the 10-month window by which we account whether or not a graduate has gotten a job in law will have run. So, who cares on Yale’s perspective? Now, I don’t think Yale is really that cynical about it.
Kathryn Rubio: You don’t.
Joe Patrice: I don’t. I mean, look, a Yale grad is probably going to be employed at some point at the end. But the issue is U.S. News stopped counting school-funded jobs for a reason, which is that during the Great Recession, tons of law schools started doing that in order to gain and juice the statistics to make it look like the graduates were getting jobs when they weren’t really. This was especially a problem at the lower end of the rankings where students who already didn’t have many great job prospects, they were trying to prop up. The schools were trying to prop up their scams, basically, by making it look like everybody was getting jobs and continuing to charge people to go to law school without many prospects. For this reason, the ABA came out and said, “We don’t think you should count that anymore.” U.S. News agreed and stopped counting that, and Yale’s complaining that that stuff doesn’t count. Now, that said, they also are complaining what if one of our graduates decides to go get a PhD? And I’m like, well, then they’re employed?
Kathryn Rubio: That’s not employment. That’s not employed. I don’t know what to tell you.
Joe Patrice: Okay. But it’s such crocodile bullshit piece.
Kathryn Rubio: Well, also, because fundamentally, Yale is not being hurt by any of these U.S. News decisions. It is number one of the rankings. It has always been number one in the ranking.
Joe Patrice: Because scoreboard.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah, yeah.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubio: And they are likely to continue to be number one in the rankings.
Joe Patrice: Right, and so that’s the thing. To the extent that they say, oh, well, we’re different than those schools in the third tier who were taking advantage of this, so you should count this. It’s like, well, you aren’t being penalized by it. If we reverse course on this policy, either A you want us to reverse course just for you, which is not really a —
Kathryn Rubio: Nope.
Joe Patrice: Well, it’s not really a —
Kathryn Rubio: Methodology method.
Joe Patrice: Methodologically sound way of doing a ranking. Or you’re saying we should just do it for everybody and then you’re just inviting that abuse at the bottom.
Kathryn Rubio: And this is why I think it is very PR based as well. So far, the only schools that have come out against the ranking are already in the top tier T-14 currently schools. I think that if they’re correct and this becomes the way forward, it will more likely hurt not their students, not their potential students, but students who are going to the lower tiered schools.
Joe Patrice: It’s almost as though they’re couching themselves in this kind of noble language of oh, well, you know, we’ve got to withdraw from this ranking that doesn’t reward our public interest work. And it just is nonsense. One of the things that Yale is talking about also is that the school penalizes us for offering opportunities to people who can’t necessarily go to law school. And what they mean by that is that the rankings — this is a fair criticism of the rankings, that the rankings calculate based off of average debt load. Now, granted, this is only like 5% of the ranking. So, it’s not like it’s a big deal, but.
Kathryn Rubio: And again, the people who are doing the complaining are already number one and zero danger of losing that ranking.
Joe Patrice: But they want to calculate — but U.S. News calculates off of average debt load as opposed to like full sticker price tuition.
And there are arguments going both directions, but one of the arguments against counting average debt load is obviously if you then let in a bunch of affluent rich people, they have less debt on the back-end, even if the sticker price is higher, which is why our system tends to go based on (00:15:20) sticker price as opposed to their U.S. News going off of debt load. But it’s also just such a ridiculous thing to complain about. It’s A, only 5% of the whole ranking, and B, no, you aren’t actually being penalized for reaching out and letting more people go to law school. What you’re being penalized for is that you charge those people.
Kathryn Rubio: Your sticker price.
Joe Patrice: Because if you’re giving scholarships to those people, it’s not really a problem.
Kathryn Rubio: Right, because then their debt load is not impacted.
Joe Patrice: Their debt load isn’t impacted and therefore you’re doing good thing. Now, their argument there is, oh, well, that is a problem for us because if what we were doing is giving them discounts on tuition and scholarships, then that’s money that we aren’t spending on the student body, like in the expenditure to student ratio doesn’t count that, which means that we’re getting dinged for that and it pushes us to have higher tuition. It’s like A, no, it doesn’t, just lower tuition for everybody, and everybody’s better off. But they don’t want to do that.
Kathryn Rubio: They don’t see it quite that way.
Joe Patrice: Because that’s the whole scam of this. It’s ridiculous. And I think that — look, we’re all in agreement here at Above the Law that Above the Law’s rankings are cooler, and that it’s better to not —
Kathryn Rubio: Also, more dynamic, more likely to change based on the actual outputs, which change more frequently than the inputs do, so it’s actually a more realistic reflection of what’s currently going on in the law school world.
Chris Williams: Yeah, not to mention the name is much cooler. Like U.S. World News sounds generic. It sounds like a generic knockoff product you get at Walmart. Above the Law, that’s flashy.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, right. And the Yale and Harvard are not in our top 10.
Kathryn Rubio: Right.
Joe Patrice: And the reason they’re not in the top 10 is because our model is based on maximizing the value of your degree, vis a vis how much it costs. And it agrees that Yale and Harvard would be your most valuable degrees to be getting or more valuable than some of the ones that are up top. But the reason schools like Duke and Penn do really well, and UVA do really well in our system, is because they are also Elite T14 degrees that you can get for less money.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah.
Chris Williams: Wait, it’s not because of Amy Wax?
Joe Patrice: No, it is definitely not because of any way. You know, one of the criticisms I got over the weekend from somebody about this was that, oh, but your system cares too much about money, because we do consider the average salary that somebody can get with a degree from that school as an advantage. So, if you’re going into Big Law and making Big Law money, that will help the schools ranking. And the argument was that that’s kind of detracting from a public interest focus. I think, ultimately, my justification of it is I don’t think it does, because I think that the people who are going to go into public interest are always going to go into public interest. At the end of the day, though, if you’re trying to evaluate the value of your degree, and the flexibility of it, and the ability of it to go from one good public interest job to another, the best proxy you possibly have for that is, are my peers graduating with me from my class demanding top salaries from elite law firms? Because that suggests that my degree is valuable. And it’s the difference between me going to one small nonprofit and me going to like a very big nonprofit.
Kathryn Rubio: Yeah. I mean, there’s also elitism in the nonprofit public interests world, 100%. And I can say, kind of it is a real-life experience. I have a family member who’s currently applying to law school, and I’ve spoken to him extensively about the process. I keep on reinforcing the idea of checking out what the average salary is where people are likely to work at each of the schools that he’s considering. Because what I think people really need to understand is that law school is not some pure academic experience. It is a professional degree. It is designed to get you the job that you want. And it’s true, you will have fewer opportunities to get the elite jobs the further down the ranking your law school is.
Joe Patrice: Than the U.S. News ranking. Yeah, yeah.
Kathryn Rubio: Well, also, ATS.
Joe Patrice: Also, sure.
Kathryn Rubio: But the point is the more elite your law school, the more opportunities you have, and you have to look at that because your degree will forever be on your resume. We’re talking about Supreme Court justices. Immediately the first thing is Harvard law graduate, Ketanji Brown Jackson. This is something that will always stay with you and it can severely change what opportunities you have available upon graduation.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Chris Williams: And it really is worth buckling down on that, because one other thing besides lawyers being — I feel like lawyers would be great people to target for gambling. Because it’s always like, I know, but I’m the smart one, I am different. I’m going to graduate in top of my class. Nobody gives a fuck about that. It’s given that you are smart. Unless you say things like see you next Tuesday and the judge catches it. I mean, those people happen. But like the way that you have something that’s quantitative when everybody is qualitatively smart, you have to look to some other metric and the metric people use is prestige. So, like, yes, if you’re going to Rutgers Law, it’s a decent school. But the idiot that’s going to Yale is going to get first pick over you.
Kathryn Rubio: Yep.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I really like your point about everybody thinks they’re the exception. They will look at a law school and say, oh, only 20% of their people get jobs.
Kathryn Rubio: I will be in that top 20%. I have always been in the top 20%. Like, yes, as an undergrad, as the pool gets more elite.
Chris Williams: Everyone going in wasn’t a top 1%. Like, right. Like, I’m undergrad, I got two degrees, was in the honors college, did an extracurricular that was basically spicy nerds yelling at each other. I touched that. I mean, I was a boat builder, like I wasn’t an anomaly. I touched down. Everyone else was also an anomaly. Like law school doesn’t attract the people who flunked off, unless your parents were very rich. It’s generally the people who think that, oh, this is a place where I can succeed in an aggressive environment where we yell at each other, who have who a chip to prove because since they were eight and they weren’t annoying, they were told, “Hey, you’d be a good lawyer.” These are people that do this.
Kathryn Rubio: You’re annoying, you should go to law school one day.
Joe Patrice: Right. What I’m saying, what I liked about your everybody thinks they’re the exception point, is that it really comes down to and this is nothing from my discussion with critics over the weekend. It comes down to what you think a ranking is all about. And they were like, oh, well, we should be rewarding schools for having programs that help encourage people to get public interest jobs. And I was like, no, a ranking is about telling somebody who is thinking about going to law school, where would be a good law school given their situation.
Kathryn Rubio: Right.
Joe Patrice: And so, it’s not about oh, a few more people went into public interest law from this school. It’s like, well, sure, but what does that mean? What is the evaluation of whether that’s a good public interest job or kind of a bad public interest job? If it’s not the kind of public interest work you want to do, does it count? A better way of doing that is by basing it on how the market as a whole evaluates the quality of that degree, because the point of the ranking is ex ante. It is about you thinking about what law school to go to, not about patting a law school on the back for what it does afterwards.
Kathryn Rubio: Law school rankings are not meant for law schools. They’re meant for prospective applicants.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And that’s what a ranking is about. The applicants.
Kathryn Rubio: I got there eventually.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. We weren’t going to criticize you on the air.
Chris Williams: And one odd thing to point to that I think is the implication that — oh, yeah, never in public. Another thing that’s way to think about it is there are some niche situations where a lower ranked school may actually be better for a person applying, not just necessarily because of cost, because of connections. For example, if you plan on working in the Philly market, you’re probably better going to Rutgers or Temple, then say, maybe even WashU, which is likely higher rank to than most other places, but WashU has difficulty with placing people in places outside of — like major legal, the specific markets that it caters to, right.
Joe Patrice: In the Midwest market, yeah.
Chris Williams: In the Midwest market, yeah. But when you’re looking at over 100 schools, to qualify and rank those places, you have to go to certain types of abstractions, right? It’s also important when you’re looking at these scales to factor in what’s really being said here, right? It’s difficult to do. So, one of the metrics people point to is something where they add an actual number they can pinpoint. Like, oh, this person makes X money, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great point too. Geography is a huge factor in making your final decision. That’s why I always say you use the rankings to figure out the tier of schools you want to talk to basically, and then you make your actual decision based on these additional considerations.
Kathryn Rubio: Well, I’m sure this is an evolving story as more schools pull out and U.S. News responds to the ongoing controversy, and I’m sure that’s something we’ll revisit in the future.
Joe Patrice: Your clients are expecting you to know a lot of things about a lot of things. Even topics like domain names.
Kathryn Rubio: Domains were definitely not covered in my law school classes.
Joe Patrice: Worse yet, your client might want a domain name to protect their brand or support a product launch that’s already taken.
Kathryn Rubio: Fortunately, GoDaddy Domain Broker Service can help. Expert brokers will help you securely and confidentially get that perfect domain.
Joe Patrice: To learn more visit, godaddy.com/dbs. Okay, we’re back. And you know what that sound means.
Kathryn Rubio: Bonus season!
Joe Patrice: Yeah, the Big Law season has kicked off a little bit early. Usually, it’s like —
Kathryn Rubio: Not as early as it’s ever been.
Joe Patrice: Correct.
Kathryn Rubio: We’ve had it as early as the first week of November. This is a little bit later than the earliest. But certainly, we’re looking at Thanksgiving week to the first week of December as historically the most common time that the first firm announces the bonuses.
Joe Patrice: Right. And about REITs and Baker McKenzie has come out, which Baker McKenzie has led the charge in the past, but normally they aren’t the ones that do it. They are kicking off the scale at 20 grand, that is 5 grand more than the prevailing market bonus. That said, they did give 20 grand to the first year’s last year.
Kathryn Rubio: So they’re matching their own salary.
Joe Patrice: So they’re really matching their own. That is a good point. But I still think that’s significant. Some detractors say, oh, they’re just matching their own. I still think it’s significant because they were an early mover last year, even if they weren’t the first mover. And they gave that and they have decided it wasn’t — at the time you felt like maybe what they were trying to do is —
Kathryn Rubio: Cut off the ability to be the — Last year was a crazy year. Last year, there was a ton of bonuses and matching and reraises, et cetera. I think maybe they were trying to say no, this is the real number.
Joe Patrice: Right. They were trying to reraise on somebody last year, and then that didn’t happen. At that point, there’s a lot of incentive to say, oh, we tried to go out on our own and we got burned, so let’s go back. They did not do that and I think that is a significant thing that they still want to do that. Now, that said, there are some knocks on it. They do not give bonuses to people who joined in the fall.
Kathryn Rubio: So, that’s stub year.
Joe Patrice: That’s stub year as we call it. So, they don’t —
Kathryn Rubio: People who graduated this year from law school are not getting a bonus at Baker.
Joe Patrice: Right. Normally, a lot of firms give a prorated bonus for the amount of time that they’re there, but they don’t do that. They also have a 2000-hour billable minimum to qualify, which in most years is pretty easy to get. But, you know.
Kathryn Rubio: Only other thing I would say I think this kind of pulls into our conversation that we were having previously about how lawyers always think that they’re the special ones, that they’re going to be fine. And particularly if you’re looking at which law firm to go to is also something to think about. Everyone thinks, oh, as long as you hit these billable numbers, you’re going to get it. I’m perfectly fine being filling that many hours and it’s not always your choice. It’s not always, oh, I’m willing to work, as much as what work is available.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubio: And firms that give it regardless of billable hours. There’s some real benefit there, particularly as we are heading into a questionable recession.
Joe Patrice: Right. So, if you’re an M&A associate in the latter half of this year, you might not be hitting your 2000-hour target, and it’s not because you are lazy or didn’t want to, it’s because that work just didn’t show up.
Kathryn Rubio: It’s where the market is right now.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, so, that’s unfortunate. Yeah.
Chris Williams: Question about bonuses. Is it an anomaly for bonuses to also coincide with shadow layoffs, or people that have made it this far, assume that they have some job security in the week or two ago? How’s that work?
Joe Patrice: Well, I mean, the bonuses happen no matter what.
Chris Williams: Even if people are getting cut.
Joe Patrice: Yes, that is a train that’s good, that’s never late. It’s not just because — it doesn’t necessarily factor into layoff issue because it has reached the point, I’m going to quote a little bit from Christmas vacation here. This is not like a bonus, like, hey, we had a good year, here you go. These bonuses may be set based on that, but these are so traditional and so baked in. People count on this bonus as part of their salary. This is really salary. And so, to that extent, you do keep getting bonuses even when layoffs are happening because the people who you are retaining are planning on getting that bonus.
Kathryn Rubio: That’s the thing that I’ll say too, is they announced these numbers, but oftentimes it takes a couple of weeks or even months for folks to get their individualized notice like, yes, you are in fact getting this. Now, if a firm, which we have not heard rumors that it’s happening at Baker McKenzie, but if a mythical firm is also doing stealth layoffs at this time, though that associate will be told, you’re not meeting performance standards, you are not getting a bonus. You will have three months to find a new job or here’s your severance. But everyone else who “still meets these performance standards” will get the market bonuses.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I know, that’s a good point. And then we also have heard rumors of law firms trying to tie bonuses to office attendance in their weird — there was a great article, I can’t remember if it’s Bloomberg or law.com or Law360.
Somebody wrote an article recently that made the analogy that the office attendance thing is becoming the white whale for some of these law firms. They’re running around. Everyone kind of agreed that we were going to go to a hybrid work model and then we’ve talked on this show about these firms that are deciding, oh, well, we’re going to be hybrid, but we’re going to mean you have to come in these days and only these days. Like getting rid of flexibility, which is the whole point of it. It’s becoming a white whale for certain managing partners, and they’re fighting desperately against the current of history to bring people in.
One of the rumors we’ve heard is that some firms are going to attempt to make the bonuses contingent on you being here Monday through Friday, or Monday through Thursday, or whatever.
Chris Williams: Literary comment, literary comment for the listeners who are below 60, because I’m also recognizing that, I’m just fucking with you, Joe. But yeah, like that thing where you recognize that people are not really able to read cursive anymore, because it’s not being taught. Not everyone might be familiar with Moby Dick. So, a white whale is like a mythical creature that everyone is trying to chase.
Joe Patrice: You see, you know, you say over 60. Somebody who was around when that book came out would be like 150 or something like that at this point.
Chris Williams: Listen, given that you made the reference, I’m just trying to be generous with aging you here, you know.
Joe Patrice: Okay, fair enough. I’m pretty confident everyone was caught up. We think our listeners, you know, who are always at the top of any ranking in our books —
Chris Williams: Including age.
Joe Patrice: No.
Chris Williams: Hey, if you are — (00:31:42) know the listeners are, if you are 25 listening to this and did not know what the white whale meant, send us an email at [email protected].
Joe Patrice: Yes. Actually, this is a great poll. Everybody write in to say Chris is completely wrong. Obviously, we know what a white whale is.
Kathryn Rubio: I took a literature class once. Yes, I know what a white whale is.
Joe Patrice: I mean I’ve watched a cartoon in my life. SpongeBob makes jokes about this. Come on. All right.
Chris Williams: Everyone knows who Barbra Streisand is.
Joe Patrice: I mean, yes, they do other than you. All right, yeah.
Chris Williams: That’s out of pocket.
Kathryn Rubio: But to be very clear, though, about these attendance requirements. We have no concrete information as of yet that any firm has actually linked bonus money to office attendance. I think what is probably most likely if a firm does go this way is that at the end of the year they announced that in the future that will be true. But I think most firms will not do it for this year as it was not previously announced as part of the requirements to get your full bonus. So, my guess is that if it is coming, it’s a little bit more of a longer tail. Folks will have an opportunity to adjust their schedules and their lives to orient themselves that way. But as of right now, we have no information that someone is actually doing it
Joe Patrice: Hey, you know, if your firm is doing that we would love to know.
Kathryn Rubio: Please let us know.
Joe Patrice: So, let us know.
Chris Williams: Also at [email protected].
Joe Patrice: That’s right. Okay, with all of that, let’s wrap up. Thanks for listening, everybody. You should be listening to this every week. You can subscribe, that way you get them when they come out. You should give it reviews, write something, give it stars. It’s always awesome. You should check out other shows. Kathryn is the host of the Jabot. I may guest on the Legaltech Week Journalist Roundtable. There’s a bunch of shows at the Legal Talk Network that we aren’t on that you should check out. You should be reading Above the Law so you can read about these stories and others as they develop before we get a chance to chat about them here. You should be following us on social media. The blog is @ATLblog. I’m @josephpatrice. Kathryn is @kathryn1. Chris is @rightsforrent. I guess those are all Twitter handles. I’m assuming Twitter will still exist by the time you hear this.
Kathryn Rubio: Who’s to say? Who’s to say?
Joe Patrice: Frankly, who knows? Thanks to sponsors and stuff, and I think that’s everything.
Kathryn Rubio: Peace!
Joe Patrice: And thank you as always to Posh and GoDaddy Domain Broker Service for sponsoring the show.
Kathryn Rubio: Thanks.