Over the past few months, we’ve devoted several of our ATL / Lateral Link survey posts to compensation issues like base salaries, bonus amounts, and clerkship bonuses. But we’ve received quite a few requests to do another survey or open thread on another compensation issue: starting bonuses and stipends.
Associates at four New York firms (anonymized) have recently e-mailed the same general question:

Next year top law firms in New York, as well as those around the country (Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.), will pay their incoming associates $160,000 plus a $10,000 STARTING BONUS. [My v5 firm], on the other hand, will pay incoming associates $160,000 with a $10,000 SALARY ADVANCE. Simply put, I will be going on a bar trip this summer with money I loaned myself from my first year salary! I find this very strange considering that [my firm] considers itself to be the cream of the crop in New York in terms of pay.

i’m wondering if you can post a thread on firms giving incoming associates stipends for the summer. i’m at a v5 nyc firm and just learned that they don’t offer a summer stipend but do allow an advance (up to 12k, i believe). some friends i know at peer firms mentioned that they’ll be receiving stipends (10k from what i hear) as opposed to advances. any assistance in shedding some light on this would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

I read your blog and I have a suggestion for a thread – the types of loan/stipend firms give to cover studying for the bar. I’ve heard that some firms give out-right cash bonuses, whereas others (including my Vault Top 5 firm) give a no-interest loan that you must then repay over your first year. Since these amounts are usually around $10,000, it can make a not insignificant difference in first year compensation.

Thought you might want to run a story on advances/stipends offered by law firms for incoming associates. I’m an incoming associate at [big prestigious firm], and was frustrated when I heard that most other top law firms pay a stipend of $10,000 to their associates for the summer of the bar, while [big prestigious firm] is offering only a “$3,000 signing bonus” and a 7k loan, which will be deducted from our first 6 months of salary.
I know several other incoming associates who are surprised to see [big prestigious firm] below market, but are afraid to communicate this to the firm.

About a year ago, when ATL previously posted an open thread on the subject, commenters suggested that firms in New York were more likely than non-NY firms to pay stub bonuses (first year bonuses pro-rated for the number of months worked), which made up for the lack of a signing bonus. But is that true today?
Today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey will probe your firm’s policy on signing bonuses and salary advances. Feel free to speak up in the comments, too. Or send us information by email. If we get enough responses, we’ll put together a table like the clerkship, maternity, and paternity leave tables (each of which will be updated this weekend, by the way, so feel free to send tips about those as well).
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this survey.


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