Associate Bonus Watch 2008, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Bonuses, Job Survey

Associate Life Survey: Bonus Points

funny-pictures-cat-did-the-math-and-you-cannot-afford-the-dog.jpgLast week, our ATL / Lateral Link survey focused on when raises happen at your firms. But we’ve also been wondering about another prong of compensation: bonuses.

In 2007, Cravath kicked off bonus season early, on October 29th, but it’s much more common for firms to announce in December. Indeed, this year the first major announcement of October came from Morgan Lewis, who announced that they won’t be announcing bonus until January. (That said, though, Orrick announced their 2008 bonus structure back in June.)

But timing isn’t everything. There’s also the quantum of solace cash. On that front, comments in last month’s associate bonus open thread suggest some pretty diminished expectations. As one reader put it:

This year’s bonus in biglaw: you’re not fired. Let’s hope most of us can get it.

But a second reader posits that firms can leave last year’s bonus structures in place . . . because billable hours are actually low enough to avoid a cash crunch:

If firms keep the same bonus structure, they will still be spending *way* less on bonuses this year. That’s because so few people will make their hours. Most associates are way down compared to last year, and November and December are only going to be worse in terms of finding work to do. It wouldn’t surprise me if many firms will save 50% or more without making any adjustments to the bonus structure. That’s what gives me some hope that bonuses will remain the same. Of course, firms would be happy to use the remaining 50% of bonus money on other things. But they won’t want to chase away the few associates who are actually competent enough to make their hours.

Now, if I can just find a way to stay busy through November and December. . .

Sort of a “glass half full, so you don’t really have to tip” approach.

Do you agree? Are your billables really so low that you won’t get any bonus this year?

For that matter, would you actually give up your bonus this year if it would reduce the risk of layoffs?

Let’s find out.

Update: This survey is now closed. You can see results here, here, here, and here.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

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