BY SEYMOUR GREEN
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz, already known for its grueling hours and astronomical bonuses, announced this week that it will be increasing its official billable hours to 4500 a year. However, it has promised to make up for the increased hours with a higher base pay and increased year-end bonuses.
“That’s only about 86 hours a week,” said Ruth Holly, director of recruiting for Wachtell. “That’s far less than the amount of time many of our lawyers spend at the office each week, but, of course, we realize that people can’t be billing hours all the time they’re in the office.”Wachtell’s Executive Committee made its decision after much debate and consideration. Although its current base salary is well above other New York law firms, it found its position encroached on by the upward trend among all law firms.”It’s a matter of ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ in the legal profession, and while in the past it was more like we were the Hiltons and firms like Skadden and Cravath were the Jonses, they’re rapidly catching us up and we at Wachtell felt like we needed to make a truly gratuitous display of our wealth,” said one partner, who asked not to be named.
He explained that although the Committee had considered increasing the base salary and bonuses without any increase in the number of hours worked, it decided that such a situation would be unsatisfying for its first-year associates and might lead to strife within the associate ranks.
“Current psychology suggests that people like to feel like effort is tied to reward. If we suddenly increase the reward without any increase in the nominal amount of work required, it would actually serve to disincentivize hard work on the part of our associates. Plus, the second and third-year associates who have been working so hard for us already might resent the sudden windfall.”
The firm has not yet released the new salaries and bonuses, but has hinted that the new base may be set somewhere around $300,000 and when asked to describe the nature of the bonuses, the Committee member would only say that they will be “exponential rather than geometric as they have been in the past.”
He also said that the firm is exploring “non-traditional” forms of compensation. For instance, many members of the firm are devoted oenophiles, and the firm may begin paying some of the bonus in grand cru and premiere cru. The firm is also considering buying a vineyard in France and offering its partners and associates time-share vacations in which they will be able to learn about the process of winemaking firsthand.
“We’re thinking about it much like a Wachtell kibbutz. In addition to lectures about growing wine and demonstrations of French cooking, we’ll have a chance to instill firm values in the vineyard’s residents.”
Soon-to-be summer associates are very excited about Wachtell’s newly announced compensation plan, and none that the Remand spoke with had any qualms about the increased hourly requirements.
“Let’s be realistic here, does anybody who’s looking for ‘quality of life’ go to work at Wachtell? No. You go to work for Wachtell because you’re a brainiac and a workhorse,” said 2L Morena Nariz.
“Personally, I’m planning on living in the office this summer and saving the rent money. I’m told that with their showers and next day dry-cleaning that it’s a pretty workable solution, and who wants to live in some closet in Manhattan? I’m sure my office will be much nicer.”
2L Albert Goldman expressed similar enthusiasm for the new salary arrangements.”My wife and I recently had our second child and it’s been putting a real strain on our marriage me trying to go to law school and helping her take care of the kids. Now, I’ll be able to buy her and the kids a nice place out in Connecticut and myself a place in the city years before I had imagined it being possible. This might save my marriage.”