Ah yes, the legendary bonuses of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Tout le monde wants to know: So, just how big were they?
Very big (and bigger than yours). We can’t give up specific numbers for specific classes, because that might get our sources in trouble (and WLRK is a pretty small firm).
But we’ll just make these general observations:
1. Wachtell Lipton pays base salaries that are at (or even slightly above) market.
3. When you add the midyear bonuses to the year-end bonuses that were paid out earlier this week — on Tuesday, December 12 — every class at Wachtell received 2006 bonus compensation equal or slightly greater than 100 percent of base salary.
4. This year, the percentage of bonus as base varied a bit from class to class. Historically this hasn’t always been the case; when we were there, it was pretty much constant.
Executive summary: Take your base salary, double it, and that’s what your law school classmate who went to Wachtell earned in 2006, “all in” (base salary + mid-year bonus + year-end bonus).
A shameless plug for our former firm, based on the time that we spent there (2000 – 2003), after the jump.
We worked at Wachtell Lipton for two and a half years, from 2000 to 2003, and we recommend it highly. It’s a great place to work whether you want to make a career out of Biglaw or want to move on after a few years.
Here’s a synopsis of our WLRK experience. We worked with some brilliant people, some of whom remain good friends to this day, on some phenomenal cases; learned a lot and got a ton of experience (e.g., depositions, a trial, appellate briefs), despite being so junior; and did very well for ourselves financially. This allowed us to move to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and then into blogging and freelance writing, without downsizing our lifestyle. So if you plan on spending only a few years in Biglaw, you might as well get the most out of them, in terms of both money and lawyering experience.
If you want to make a career out of large firm practice, the appeal of Wachtell is obvious. Yes, the associates (and partners) at Wachtell work harder than most. But they’re working on interesting, cutting-edge, headline-making cases and deals. And as you can see from the firm’s associate bonuses, as well as its profits-per-partner, the rewards for the marginal effort are outsized. For associates, a few hundred additional billable hours can add six figures to your paycheck. For partners, those extra hours can add seven figures to your annual partnership draw.
And that’s assuming you work harder than your friends at other firms. When we were at WLRK, we billed around 2700 hours a year (and worked quite a bit more — we weren’t very efficient). Those hours are nothing to sneeze at. But we had friends at other firms who worked just as hard or harder than we did, yet made significantly less. Several of them would tell us, especially around December, “I wish I had taken that Wachtell offer.”
So if you have the opportunity, go to Wachtell. You won’t be sorry.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of bonuses (scroll down)