Before the world got wired, young lawyers kvetched about their salaries and 70-hour workweeks in relative privacy. They'd gossip in small groups, spreading the word about which firms were naughty or nice, stingy or generous -- one whisper at a time.
Those days are over. Young lawyers now are congregating in cyberspace to gripe and share notes about firm life. And Washington lawyers have their own World Wide Web site called, with cheeky candor, Greedy DC. Find it at http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/greedydc.
Judging from recent entries, it seems that young local associates are stockpiling weapons and getting ready for a French-style revolution, complete with guillotines and thumbscrews. Managing partners might want to log on every so often, just to know when to barricade the doors and hide their families.
Okay, Hearsay exaggerates. But Greedy DC makes clear that many associates often are peeved about life on the clock, even if the clock ticks at $150 or more an hour. That's hardly shocking news, but the site offers an unprecedented window into the particular angst of Washington's corporate legal world. (Hearsay is tactfully editing out firm names from quotes. This is the Web, after all.)
"I heard a story of someone accepting a job at a D.C. firm ... precisely because they required less hours than the other places extending an offer, even though salary was less as well," a lawyer wrote last week. "After the party signed on the dotted line the firm raised the minimum billables abruptly with no corresponding raise in pay. I feel like this could happen at any firm, at any time, especially with all the mergers in the works."
The majority of online kibbutzing, though, centers on money. There are constant updates about which firms are leaders and laggards in the salary department, along with extremely precise data about who offers 401(k) contributions and bonuses. Inquiring minds can even learn how many hours an associate must toil to pocket the most bonus booty.
"Effective 10/01/99 the class of '99 salary is $100K. Salaries for other classes have not yet been determined, but the steps are usually $5-6K/yr. Bonuses are discretionary based on quality and quantity of work, firm citizenship, and hardship factors (like extensive travel). Bonus range is $5-20K. [Firm] has a 401(k) plan but does not contribute on behalf of employees."
Which points to what is truly revolutionary about Greedy DC. By publicizing everyone's annual income, the site could make it far harder for a firm to get away with lagging behind the pay grades of its rivals. The result could be that differences in pay will begin to diminish (there is surprising variety now, with starting salaries ranging from $80,000 to $105,000 on the high end). Or it could hasten an overall increase in associate income by prodding firms to jack up their pay quicker.
Associates of the world unite.
Now Playing Defensive Back
The American Inns of Court never seemed like a hotbed of feminism. The group, based in Alexandria and co-founded by former chief Supreme Court justice Warren Berger, has quietly promoted ethics and professionalism in the legal business. But one pro football Hall of Famer isn't buying it. Last week Jim Brown branded the American Inns of Court a radical women's organization that is biased against black men.
Brown made this surprising accusation to explain why a judge handed him what he considers a stiff sentence for vandalizing his wife's car. During an argument, the former running back pounded his wife's vehicle with a shovel, authorities alleged. Prosecutors were seeking prison time, but Municipal Judge Dale S. Fisher sentenced Brown to three years' probation and 400 hours of community service and ordered him to pay a $1,700 fine. He also was instructed to attend a domestic abuse counseling program.
Brown was livid. So he petitioned to remove Fisher from the case and lobbed this bomb: "Judge Fisher has converted the court into a command post used to wage a war against all men, and black men." Then he pointed out that Brown is an officer of the American Inns of Court, which he denounced as a "radical and extremist group of white upper-class women who target men of color, including Jim Brown."
That's news to David Akridge, the group's associate director. For starters, just 31 percent of the organization's 22,000 members are women, which roughly reflects the composition of the bar. Try as he could, Akridge was unable to figure out what Brown was thinking.
"We're a nonprofit and we're completely nonpolitical," Akridge said. As for bias against African Americans, the group has three on its board, he added.
Fisher has declined to comment on the matter, though she planned to address Brown's allegations this week.
Guess Who's on the Line
Ever wonder how Larry Klayman ends up on so many television talk shows? No question, he's a spigot of political opinions, and as chairman of Judicial Watch -- a nonprofit that has sued the Clinton administration more than a dozen times -- he knows how to fulminate about the commander in chief. Sometimes, Klayman even brings his own videotape, lifted from recent depositions in his office. To producers, he's like a dinner guest who brings the meal, then cooks it.
But there's more to Klayman's television omnipresence than good sound bites. He's also a master, it turns out, at old-fashioned badgering. According to a former employee, Klayman demanded that his public relations person call a handful of talk show producers every single day, rain or shine, regardless of the day's news.
"He would come in each morning and ask, `Who have you called and why haven't you called?'" said the onetime employee, who requested anonymity. "If the show was doing Hollywood that night, he'd say call anyway. If they were doing Tiananmen Square he'd say, `Well, I'm an international lawyer, try to pitch that.' If there was a school shooting he'd say, `So what? We're doing important things here.'"
The nonstop barrage can get a little wearying for producers. "In his world, he wants the Klayman News Network," said one producer at a 24-hour news network. "His people call a few times a day. He wants to be on at 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock."
For anyone who can't wait for the next Klayman cameo, there's a growing line of Judicial Watch apparel, now for sale on the organization's Web site. Products include the "JW Pinstripe Henley," a shirt that features a "100 percent cotton pinstripe body with contrast color collarette, placket and sleeves dyed to match buttons. White/Navy Sizes M-2XL. $30.00" There also are a JW "swat team"-style windbreaker, poplin jacket, pique polo shirt; a couple of JW watches; and a mug and a paperweight.
Shameless Self-Promotion Corner
Lawyer John Kyriazis of Pennsylvania recently sent out a media alert to notify the world that he had been elected to "Who's Who in America."
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