Monday, January 31, 2011

Five New Attorneys Join Montage Legal Group

Montage Legal is proud to announce that we've added five outstanding litigation and transactional attorneys to our network: Samantha EverettLaura Finklestein, Laura Baskurt, Katie Hughes and Sidney Sadeghi. 

Update: After publishing this blog post, we had to say goodbye to both Katie Hughes and Sidney Sadeghi, but for great reasons!  We are happy to report that Katie Hughes has joined the estate planning law firm of Albrecht & Barney (a client of Montage Legal Group) and Sidney Sadeghi welcomed a beautiful baby girl and is practicing law through her own law firm, Sadeghi & Associates. We wish both of these attorneys good luck! For information on six new attorneys that we recently added, see our blog post: Montage Adds Six Lawyers from Gibson Dunn, Latham & Watkins, Bryan Cave, Baker & McKenzie and Other Firms.

Montage Legal now includes 24 female attorneys, all of whom have left law firms in search of work-life balance.

Samantha Everett 

Samantha obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law in 2004, cum laude, Order of the Coif, where she graduated in the top 5% of her class and was an editor of the San Diego Law Review.  Samantha previously practiced employment law and business litigation at Cooley Godward's San Diego office, and Stokes Roberts and Wagner ALC and Wilson Turner Kosmo, LLP. 

Samantha serves on the Leadership Development Committees of both the Association of Business Trial Lawyers - San Diego and the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Samantha lives in San Diego with her husband, her four year-old daughter, and her two year-old twin daughters.

Laura Finkelstein 

Laura graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 1993, where she was admitted into phi beta kappa.  She obtained her Juris Doctor from University of Southern California Law School in 1996, where she graduated in the top 10% of her class.  While at USC, Laura was a member of moot court and completed an externship with the Honorable Judge Hupp in U.S. District Court.  Laura previously practiced business law at Sheppard Mullin and Allen Matkins. 

Laura is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of RMIQ Foundation, a non-profit founded to raise funds to benefit her children's elementary school. 

Laura lives in Orange County with her husband, and her three children ages 11, 8 and 6.

Laura Baskurt

Laura obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1995.  Laura previously practiced business litigation and product liability defense at Snell and Wilmer's Orange County office.  At Snell and Wilmer, Laura defended consumer products manufacturers and automobile manufacturers in product liability, premises liability and commercial litigation. 

Laura is a member of National Charity League, Jrs., where she and her daughter work to raise funds and volunteer hands-on for a number of not-for-profit philanthropic organizations in their community. 

Laura lives in Orange County with her husband, her six year-old daughter, and her four year old son.


Please visit the Attorney Page of the Montage Legal Group website to see bios of all 24 of our freelance attorneys.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Montage Featured in USD Law Newsletter

Montage Legal Group was featured in the University of San Diego newsletter, The Docket.  The newsletter notes that Montage has six USD Law graduates (Samatha Everett ’04, Katie Hughes LLM '03, Laura Baskurt ’95, Tami Vail ’04, Erin Giglia ’01, and Laurie Rowen ‘04) and highlights that Montage has recently joined the law firm challenge. While Montage is not technically a law firm, we appreciate USD Law allowing our network of freelance attorneys to participate in the law firm challenge.
USD School of Law's office of development and alumni relations is pleased to announce that Montage Legal Group is our newest participant in the Law Firm Challenge. Erin Giglia, '01, and Laurie Rowen, '04, co-founded Montage Legal Group—a network of freelance attorneys comprised of former large firm associates who handle legal projects for law firms and small businesses. Erin will be leading the Law Firm Challenge outreach efforts to the six alumnae at Montage.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are Attorneys Satisfied With 2010 Bonuses?

It’s that time of year when law blogs are abuzz with stories and rumors about associate bonuses in BigLaw land.  A popular website for BigLaw associates – Above the Law – has a “Bonus Watch 2010” section where readers can click to view the latest scoop on how much money various firms are dishing out for last year’s billable hours.  The Wall Street Journal recently wrote and blogged about them as well.  Law Firms Hold Line In Setting Bonuses (WSJ December 27, 2010).  What do we learn from these stories?

Well, for starters, we learn that, despite the average billable hours increasing by 7% at the nation’s top 50 law firms in 2010, many firms are handing out bonuses that are only marginally better than 2009.  We also learn that Cravath’s bonuses are the benchmark of sorts, ranging from $7500 for first-years to $35,000 for senior associates.  See, Wall Street Journal Blog; see also Above the Law discussion re Gibson Dunn bonuses  (noting that, although Gibson Dunn pays individualized bonuses rather than lock-step ones, they relied heavily on the Cravath scale) and Above the Law discussion re Elkins bonuses (noting that Vinson & Elkins’ bonuses are supposed to be better than the Cravath scale).  In addition, we learn that some firms, like Irell & Manella, are paying bonuses that double the Cravath ones. To save you from doing the math, that’s a range of $15,000-$70,000 for bonus pay.  

What we already knew is that, regardless of the year and the bonus paid that year, there will always be many unhappy associates.  I recognize that bonus pay of $15-70,000 a year may seem excessive to some, particularly to those who have never worked in BigLaw, but I also know how hard most of these associates work and the sacrifices many of them make to crank out the hours they bill, so I wouldn’t touch the propriety of these bonuses with a ten foot pole.

What had me curious was the level of satisfaction associates had with their bonuses.  I can still vividly recall those first few bonus seasons I experienced many moons ago as a baby lawyer in a big firm.  Emails would start flying the day that the managing partner wore his “Santa tie” because that was the day bonuses were handed out.  Bonuses were supposed to be confidential but most wanted to know how theirs compared to others, and many associates frequently seemed to base their own satisfaction on that comparison.  I also recall a more senior associate who had purportedly received several fairly hefty year-end bonuses warning us younger folks that these big bonuses were not worth it.  He would have preferred to work less and make less but, like most associates in big firms, he didn’t have that choice.  Turns out he’s not alone.

On January 13, Above the Law blogged about associates’ satisfaction with their 2010 bonuses, based on a Career Center Survey that also broke down bonus satisfaction by hours billed.  According to the survey, for the number of hours billed, associates were evenly split about their bonuses -- 29% were satisfied and 29% were not satisfied.  Thirty-eight percent were at firms that hadn’t announced bonuses yet.  It probably comes as no surprise that the survey revealed a general pattern that, as the number of hours billed increased, those who were satisfied with their bonuses decreased.  Of those who billed less than 1900 hours in 2010, 29% were satisfied.   Of those that billed 2400-2499 hours, 5% were satisfied.

Having left my Big Firm life a year ago for a career as a freelance attorney (thanks to the support of my amazing spouse), my perspective on bonuses has changed quite a bit.  My bonus was the extra time I spent with my family in Iowa, my husband on date nights, my kids’ school and sporting activities, and my volunteer work through CASA.  It’s far from being stress-free and there are many attorneys in BigLaw who manage to do those things and bill full time hours too (I admire you all tremendously!) but I’m happy with my bonus.  Are you?

Amy Leinen Guldner joined Montage Legal Group in January, 2010 after practicing for over thirteen years at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP.  In addition to her legal work and caring for her two young children, Amy is a volunteer Court-Appointed Special Advocate with CASA of Orange County, mentoring and advocating in court on behalf of abused and neglected children. She also volunteers with the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s High School Mock Trial tournaments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ernie Halter in Concert!

Besides the fact that there will be many attorneys attending this concert, this event (thankfully) has nothing to do with law.  We did leave our firms to have more fun, after all.  I am fortunate to count nationally touring musician, Ernie Halter, as one of my good friends.  Ernie's music is everywhere - you can even hear his soulful sounds while walking through Target.  His songs are hot on iTunes for good reason.  He's great!  Check him out at

Ernie has agreed to do a private concert in Orange County this Sunday, January 16.  If you would like details and an invitation, please contact me at

Erin Giglia is a co-founder and co-owner of Montage Legal Group.  Montage Legal Group is a network of freelance attorneys who left big firm practice in favor of work/life balance and increased flexibility.   Erin Giglia and Laurie Rowen co-founded Montage Legal Group in 2009, added a third attorney in early 2010, and grew to a network of 16 freelance attorneys by January 2011.   

Friday, January 7, 2011

NALP’s Press Release states “Overall the number of lawyers working part-time continues to be very small”

Debra Cassens Weiss reported the following statistics in her recent ABA article Percentage of Part-Time Lawyers Trails Rate of Other Professionals:
  • Lawyers working part-time at major law firms has risen from 2.4 percent in 1994 to 6.4 percent in 2010, still much lower than other professionals (13.5 in specialties such as engineering, architecture and medicine).
  • The percentage of part-timers was 3.6 percent for partners, 5.3 percent for associates and 22.1 percent for other lawyers, including of counsel, staff attorneys and senior attorneys.
  • An increasing number of male partners are taking advantage of part-time opportunities, up from 28 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2010.
These statistics were from a press release by National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which stated “Overall the number of lawyers working part-time continues to be very small.”

It is probably no surprise to most attorneys that the percentage of part-time lawyers trails the rate of other professionals. If more firms allowed part-time schedules, would this really change attrition rates for women in law firms? Possibly, but only if firms respect part-time schedules and view them favorably.

In many instances, big firm associates that are lucky enough for their law firms to allow “part-time” schedules are not working what most people in the real world would consider to be part-time hours. In law firms, where a full-time associate works 60+ hours per week, a part-time attorney may get their hours down to 35-40 hours per week, which is still almost full-time in many professions. The definition of part-time is very different in law firms. Most law firms that allow “part-time schedules” actually only allow 75% or 80% schedules (meaning the attorney is required to bill 1500 hours or 1600 hours per year, not the standard 2000 hours).  This is very different than a “half-time” schedule, which is what many mother attorneys really desire during the baby and toddler years.

Part-time attorneys face other hurdles when they are on reduced schedules. Sometimes their case-load is not reduced, so unless they are comfortable dumping their work on other associates at the end of each day, they may still be working almost full-time schedules (but making a lot less money!) Also, partners who work with part-time attorneys sometimes view them in a different light than full-time associates since they are not in the office as much, so they get less favorable projects.

In addition, given the nature of the legal profession, a part-time attorney may be forced to work 200 hours for several months in a row due to a trial in one of her cases or a deal, even though she is really only required to bill 130-140 per month. While that attorney could potentially take a lot of time off in the next few months to balance out her hours, it usually does not work that way. Child care is also difficult to manage with part-time schedules in litigation groups with travel and depositions, so many part-time attorneys still need pay for full-time child care. Part-time attorneys in big law firms have to be okay with taking a substantial pay-cut, for a slight reduction in their hours and a lot of additional headaches. These are just some of the reasons that many part-time attorneys eventually leave firms altogether, or unhappily sacrifice time with their children to go back to full-time work.

A part-time schedule can only work if law firms see the benefits in retaining their associates and truly viewing part-time arrangements favorably, and by making concerted efforts to make those arrangements successful.  Part-time attorneys also must be willing to be flexible.

Until law firms change what it really means to be a part-time attorney, high attrition rates for females will probably stay the same. Hopefully more law firms will allow reduced hour schedules that truly make sense for mothers (and fathers) so more women will opt to stay in law firms, and will eventually make partner.  More female partners can only help the next generation of female lawyers.  In the meantime, Montage Legal Group and freelance law remains an option to law firm practice.

For more information on this topic, check out Deborah Epstein Henry’s new book -- LAW & REORDER: Legal Industry Solutions for Restructure, Retention, Promotion & Work/Life Balance (American Bar Association, 2010).