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The year 2000 started off on a bad note. First, American Airlines’s lawyers found out that they weren’t going to get a bonus for 1999, because the airline had not met financial targets. And bonuses are usually an added 15-30 percent of their base salaries. Then they learned that first-year associate salaries at the law firms in their area, Dallas-Fort Worth, had jumped to $115,000. That meant that kids right out of school were getting paid more than many of AA’s attorneys, even though most of the AA lawyers had been practicing law longer than ten years. Lawyers at AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, love the travel privileges that come with their jobs, and they find their work interesting. But a significant number complain about what one described as the “poor” compensation and “dismal” prospects for advancement. One-third of the department’s 45 lawyers completed the survey and, of those, 11 said that they were unhappy with their compensation this year; only four said they were “satisfied.” Last year, the attorneys seemed slightly happier; seven out of 16 respondents reported being “satisfied.” But not one AA respondent — this year or last — chose “quite satisfied” or “very satisfied” to describe their feelings about their salaries. This stands in sharp contrast to the overall survey sample, in which 39 percent said that they were “satisfied” with their compensation and an additional 33 percent said they were “quite satisfied” or “very satisfied.” A third of the AMR respondents report earning between $90,000 and $100,000; 40 percent report salaries in the $100,000-$125,000 range; 13 percent earn $125,000-$150,000; and 7 percent between $200,000 and $250,000. This is relatively little, considering that 53 percent say that they have practiced ten to 14 years, and another 33 percent for longer than 15 years. In-housers also indicated unhappiness with the lack of prospects. Not one AMR respondent rated the advancement opportunities as “above average” or higher. Nearly half (47 percent) termed the opportunities “below average,” with a little more than a quarter saying “very poor” (27 percent) and another quarter (27 percent) calling them “average.” As a result, some say that they are ready to fly away. Exactly a third of the lawyers surveyed admitted that they were in the midst of looking for a new job — compared to only 13 percent of the overall sample. General counsel Anne McNamara says that salaries can always be better. There also may not be a lot of room to move up within the legal department. But she says, AMR is particularly good at giving employees “really interesting work” and allowing lawyers move to the business side. That would do the trick for some. A little more than half (53 percent) said that they are interested in making such a move — compared to only 30 percent of the attorneys in the overall survey sample. There is ample precedent for a switch at American. Glancing at the roster of AMR Corporation’s 39 vice presidents, McNamara points to three who started at the company as lawyers. There are even more ex-practicing attorneys, maybe eight to ten, at the managing director level, which is roughly the equivalent of an assistant vice president, she says. David Korn, who joined AMR’s legal department four years ago, recently moved out of the law department to become a managing director in a new department focusing on safety, security, and environmental compliance. Beverly Goulet made a similar move last year: She had been associate general counsel for corporate finance and transferred laterally to become the managing director of corporate development, the group that had formerly been her in-house client. McNamara herself crossed from legal into business and back again. She joined AMR’s law department in 1976; then, in 1988, she became vice president of personnel. When the general counsel spot opened a few months later, she became senior vice president and general counsel responsible for both personnel and legal. In 1993 she relinquished the HR component of her job to focus on running the law department. “If a candidate is interested in the business side, we have a decent shot at letting them get there,” says McNamara. “We look for what’s good for the company and good for individuals.” Still, some stay on board with the legal department just because they love the work. “The industry is fascinating and always challenging,” one lawyer wrote in response to the survey. “Far more interesting and challenging than anything I saw as an outside lawyer,” says another, pointing to a docket that includes high-profile cases, complex litigation, and antitrust matters. But the work is no more interesting than what other companies’ lawyers reported in the survey. Nearly three-fourths of the AMR attorneys polled found their work “above average” (53 percent) or “outstanding” (20 percent), numbers that are on par with the survey sample in which 56 percent rated the interest level of work “above average” and 22 percent “outstanding.” On vacation, though, AMR is a standout. A remarkable number — more than 90 percent of AMR’s lawyers — rated the company’s vacation policy as “above average” (40 percent) or “outstanding” (53 percent). Perhaps that’s because when they are on vacation, they get to fly anywhere American Airlines goes, for free. That’s a great perk, even though they have to fly standby. Three years ago, worried that her department’s salaries weren’t keeping pace with the market, McNamara commissioned a market survey and performance review that resulted in most lawyers receiving raises. Is it time to do another market survey? “I don’t know that it is,” says McNamara, adding: “I know that not paying a bonus is a problem; I don’t need a [market] survey to tell me that.”

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