Biglaw, Bonuses, Clerkships, Money, Skaddenfreude

Clerkship Bonus Watch: Year-End Bonuses for Clerks Who Left Biglaw?

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgJudicial clerkships. Year-end bonuses. Two great tastes that go great together.
We received some inquiries about whether clerks who leave law firms to go off and clerk might receive some kind of partial or prorated year-end bonus. It struck us as a rather obscure topic, of interest to only a small group of people.
But then the subject came up repeatedly in the comments to yesterday’s Debevoise bonus news. A reader pointed out that “with the end of salary match, this could be a question that could somewhat influence the choices of potential experienced clerks.”
So we’ve decided to write about it. From a tipster:

I am a federal clerk and my co-clerk, who worked at Kirkland & Ellis in NY for a year prior to his clerkship, was recently told that he will be paid the bonus he would have received had he not left to clerk. In other words, he will receive the pro-rated amount from Jan. 2007 to Sep. 2007 (8 months worth of 35K) even though he no longer works at K&E. This payment is NOT contingent on him returning to the firm after his clerkship.

This strikes us as highly unusual — and quite generous on Kirkland’s part. We don’t know about the mechanics or the exact timing of this payment, but we’d suggest to the lucky clerk that he talk to his judge to make sure this doesn’t raise any issues.
A little more, after the jump.

Our tipster continues:

The firm I left (a large New York firm) will not pay me any bonus for 2007 during my clerkship, but apparently WILL pay it to me if I return after my clerkship. Thus, strings attached.

From a different correspondent:

A departing associate could plausibly return to the old firm… [T]he clerkship schedule, [as opposed to] leaving for some other opportunity, is not within the individual’s control — and usually leaves people 2-4 months shy of that year-end. It seems like, from the firm’s perspective, they would probably profit from paying someone a pro-rated bonus for months worked, to encourage that person to bill with quota, versus incentivizing someone with a set end date to bill as little as possible, but I don’t know how the numbers break down given recruiting and relocation costs.

If you have any thoughts or information on this subject, please share them in the comments. Thanks.

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