Associate Bonus Watch 2008

Associate Bonus Watch: Kirkland & Ellis

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgThe big bonus / salary meeting at Kirkland & Ellis is still ongoing. But tipsters are now reporting that K&E is essentially designing its bonus scheme around the Cravath scale (subject to the Kirkland system of adjusting bonuses for hours and performance — “above class,” “with class,” “below class,” etc.).

We’ve also heard some good news: K&E plans to raise salaries on schedule.

While the bonus news is not terribly surprising, it’s still depressing to associates who felt that K&E had a strong year:

What’s maybe most upsetting is I was told specifically that [the Kirkland bonus grid] was based off the Cravath scale. Not that the firm was hurting. Not that the firm was being conservative. Not that the firm has a pessimistic outlook on 2009. Just that someone else was getting away with being cheap, and they wanted to do the same.

That’s a constant theme from associates working at firms that have followed Cravath. This year bonus payments seem much more tied to Cravath’s announcement, instead of a reflection on the strength of the firm’s year.

But maybe firms are just trying to hunker down for a rough 2009.

Update (11:53 AM): Check out some more reader reactions after the jump.

A commenter reports an interesting turn of phrase from the New York meeting:

This is the non-informative quote from Desmairis today at the NYC meeting concerning layoffs.

“No layoffs in the foreseeable future if you are performing at the top of the market.”

What does that mean? Well, some tipsters think that K&E could be laying the groundwork for a little “forced-attrition.”

[A midlevel associate] billed 2400 hours, and [is] getting less than $30k. … If K&E wants to force attrition on us, that’s who they’re going to lose — the people that make them lots of money. [F]or those “extra” 400 hours, [one gets] paid $20/hour. Basically, K&E pays top billers like Wal Mart greeters (all the while, they’re bringing in $400+/hour off the associates’ time).

Another tipster puts a nice holiday bow on the Kirkland package:

Very dissatisfying day.

Hey, it could always be worse.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of associate bonuses

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