After almost a decade of continuous ascent in the categories of revenue, profits, salaries and bonuses since the last deep doldrums we experienced following the collapse of the dot-com bubble, BigLaw’s current plunge from the stratosphere feels to most of our players to be more perilous than ever. The prevailing sense of fear was exemplified this week by the venerable Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in announcing that as part of its keep-the-boat-afloat strategy, it is offering its incoming associate class a $75,000 payout to any rookie who elects not to jump on board, eclipsing the significance of Skadden’s historic offer earlier this year to pay associates at a rate of 33 percent of base to take a premature sabbatical.
While our economy crumbles, the American public observes like lemmings as the Wall Street criminals who executed the greatest financial fraud in history add insult to our collective injury by continuing to openly steal billions. Only now, instead of conning the world into believing that their excrement is some sort of sophisticated securities derivative too complex for non-Streeters to comprehend, they are referring to their cash grab as “bonuses.” Relatively insignificant sociopaths like Bernie Madoff can only aspire to sit at the desks of these miscreants whose greed may still prove monumental enough to bring us all to ruin. We at Hanover Legal are certainly not the first to ask whether and when members of our legal community should have recognized and tried to put a stop to the epic Wall Street slight of hand. However, we viewed our function as limited to servicing the financiers to whatever extent we were paid to do so, and as long as Moody’s and S&P were signing off on these transactions with their highest ratings, who were we to raise an eyebrow?