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What are the perks that set a young associate’s heart afluttering? I’m simple-minded, so I think cold, hard cash is always a good bet. These days, however, associates want more—something more sympatico with their lifestyle or priorities. Here are two powerhouse firms that offer benefits that stand out from the pack.

1. Quinn Emanuel will pay for you to work from the beach: We all know this firm is aggressive and eccentric (remember, its lawyers wear flip-flops in the office) but founder John Quinn is really out-doing himself lately. Quinn just dashed off an email—all in lower-case, which means he either did it in a flurry or has an e.e. cummings thing—offering associates something truly different. Here’s part of Quinn’s email, from Above the Law:

its january and its dreary in most places of the qe world, and next month it will be february, and then march, promising more of the same. hard working qe lawyers need a break for sure. so we are introducing a new program. we haven’t really come up with a cool name for it yet–maybe “qe work away week”? the idea is this:

the firm will give associates $2k to go work anywhere in the world they want to work for one week.

That’s pretty cool: $2,000 to send you off. In fact, Quinn seems quite smitten with his own idea. He describes the offer in almost wistful if not poetic terms:

maybe you will throw down a power strip in a beach cafe in india. maybe a hostel in a village in the mountains of columbia. freak street in kathmandu?.

What a romantic image: throwing a power strip on a beach!

Alas, there are a few catches: Associates can’t just trot off to the island of their choice by themselves: They have to go in groups of six to 10 lawyers. To qualify, associates must also have billed at least 2000 hours last year. Moreover, Quinn warns:

there must be 24/7 connectivity wherever you go. you must be available at all the hours you would be available if you were in your home office . . . and we expect that you will be working, just as if you were in manhattan, paris or wherever, even if u are wearing a bathing suit. we need to know how to reach you at all times, instantly. partners may or may not go–it depends how cool the places are that you pick.

Despite the requirement that associates must go off in groups (why does this firm make everything into an Outward Bound experience?) and the on-call requirement, I think it’s a pretty niffy idea. You really have to hand it to Quinn for giving law firm work some spice and sex appeal.

2. At Gibson Dunn, you can tell the partner to take a hike. We don’t expect Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to be nearly as hip and trendy as Quinn (it’s the WASP-y New Englander of L.A.), but it seems to offer better work life balance than some firms (certainly Quinn). According to former associate Patrick Dykstra, who recently left Gibson’s Dubai office to start an adventure travel business, Gibson gives associates a lot of control over hours. He tells ATL’s David Lat:

I was able to carve out a very manageable work/life balance throughout that entire time and I always held my ground when it came to keeping travel and other plans intact.… If people generally like you and you do good work, your job is safe… even if you tell that partner that you are going to your friend’s wedding this weekend, despite the fact that there is an “emergency” with the IPO.

Whoa—did you catch that? You can tell the partner you won’t be doing that “emergency” IPO because you’ve got better plans for the weekend? If associates at Gibson really have that kind of freedom, I’d say that’s the best perk in the world.

Somehow, I’m not sure you should count on that privilege.

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