Associate Bonus Watch 2007, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Skaddenfreude

Associate Bonus Watch: DLA Piper

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgToday brings us bonus and salary news from DLA Piper, the biggest of all Biglaws. Back in November, the firm was crowned by the National Law Journal as the nation’s largest law firm (with a whopping 3,623 attorneys).
DLA Piper may be the biggest — but not when it comes to bonuses. From a disgruntled tipster:

It’s official: no special bonuses for DLA Piper’s New York office. But first year associates in our secondary offices got raise to a $160,000 start. I attach the chart. [Ed. note: It’s after the jump.]

The firm did it in a very slimy way with no official announcement, just individual notices of bonuses. Pretty funny after last year’s heralded promises to stay with the New York market… I guess Frank and Lee thought: “never mind.”

So was DLA Piper managing expectations when it issued a somewhat gloomy email earlier in the month? From a few weeks ago (around January 8):

I’m an associate at DLA Piper and we got a firmwide email discussing the firm’s 2007 finances and applauding us all on a job well done. They exceeded expectations and last year’s totals. However, the email closes with this paragraph:

“While we are pleased with the results for 2007, we approach 2008 with caution, given the uncertain economic outlook. We intend to be conservative in both our budgeting for 2008 and in our financial management.”

It may be nothing… but I feel like they are bracing us for something, whether it’s crappy bonuses or no pay increase. Good times!

Today’s bonus and salary memo, plus the firm-wide salary chart, after the jump.

To: All Associates US
Cc: All Partners US; All Of Counsel US
Subject: Associate Compensation – Message from Frank, Lee, and Terry
As we communicated earlier in the year, DLA Piper’s financial performance in 2007 was again strong. Our results reflect the soundness of our overall global business strategy, the strength and breadth of our practices, and our commitment to providing superior client service. Our associates are central to our success, and we greatly appreciate your contributions. Our associate compensation approach is designed to recognize and reward your contributions fairly and consistent with prevailing market conditions.
Our 2008 salaries are $145,000 for new lawyers joining the firm in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, Seattle, and Tampa. In all other offices, the starting salary for new lawyers will be $160,000. As was the case last year, with limited exceptions for a very few class levels in certain markets, similar lock-step increases will be applied for other class years in each of these markets. We will be publishing an updated 2008 Associate Bonus Plan separately within the next few weeks.

Consistent with our overall performance standards, those who meet our high performance expectations will receive the class year base salary increase that has been set for their practice and market. You will each receive an individual communication shortly confirming your 2007 bonus and 2008 salary. Increases will be retroactive to January 1 and included in paychecks dated February 1. Bonuses also will be paid on February 1.
While we expect 2008 to be a challenging year, especially during the first six months, we look forward to our continuing success. Thanks again for all you do for the firm and, most of all, for the outstanding service you provide our clients.
Here’s the chart. It’s a thumbnail image, so click on it to enlarge:
DLA Piper associate salary chart small Above the Law blog.JPG

(hidden for your protection)

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