Associate Bonus Watch 2008, Bonuses, Money, Skaddenfreude

Associate Bonus Watch: Skadden Memos Are Out

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgIndividualized memos have been issued to Skadden Arps associates to inform them of their 2008 bonuses and 2009 base salaries. The Skadden base salaries reflect the customary annual pay raises — sorry, Lathamites.

Because Skadden’s announced bonuses this year are so much higher than the Cravath-established market level, folks at other firms have wondered: Are the Skadden bonuses for real?

The short answer: yes. To quote the famous Seinfeld episode, “they’re real — and they’re spectacular.”

We’ve surveyed Skadden associates from a variety of class years, from 2008 through 2001. The scale we’ve pieced together looks like this (i.e., like last year’s year-end or regular bonus schedule, but without the “special” bonus amounts):

Class of 2008 — $35,000 (prorated)
Class of 2007 — $35,000
Class of 2006 — $40,000
Class of 2005 — $45,000
Class of 2004 — $50,000
Class of 2003 — $55,000
Class of 2002 — $60,000
Class of 2001 — $65,000

The bonus schedule is, of course, subject to the 1600-hour minimum. That’s not an onerous burden, and pro bono hours count towards the minimum, in unlimited amounts. If you fall short of the 1600-hour minimum, you may still be eligible for a 50 percent bonus — aka a “half-Skadden” bonus.

After the rest of the New York market settled around the Cravath bonus levels, some wondered: Do the Skadden partners feel like chumps?

Find out, after the jump.

According to one Skadden associate who has spoken to a few partners about the bonuses, the partnership is comfortable with its decision:

They felt it was “right” to give the associates the same bonus as the prior year, less the special bonus. I get no feeling that they regret giving this bonus whatsoever, even with the market setting itself lower. I think the partners here recognize that the bonus should be based on this year’s work, not in anticipation of what will happen next year.

We did hear — not firsthand, because none of our sources fell into this unfortunate group — that a handful of associates with poor performance reviews did not receive these amounts (and did not advance with their class years in base salary). But this happens every year at SASMF, to a small number of underperforming associates.

In other words, as one tipster told us, there was “no mass screwing” of associates on bonuses. To the vast majority of its associates, Skadden is delivering bonuses at the promised levels. The bonus memo from Bob Sheehan is the real deal, not a bait-and-switch tactic.

But since they are lawyers, generally a critical and unhappy lot, Skaddenites can still find things to complain about. From a Skadden lawyer:

After viewing Skadden’s new external website today, I think its pretty safe to say the full-bonus money cut into our marketing and technology expenses. In my years at the firm, this is one of more ridiculous blunders, and will hopefully be corrected (i.e. removed) soon.

Let the Skadden haters rejoice: our client-facing and recruiting-based website appears to be designed by a summer intern. For a firm that spends an excessive amount of money cultivating its brand, I have no idea how the marketing department approved such an atrocity. I never thought I’d long for the blinding red background of yesterday.

A couple basic marketing and website principles that are clearly violated:

1) You should never scroll up/down or left/right on a homepage (clients aren’t used to hunting around briefs all day for basic info).

2) The reflective Skadden logo at the bottom was clearly borrowed from the newest version of iTunes, and looks awkward at best.

3) Pics on bottom: yeah Skadden has a “face” and isn’t its negative Death Star stereotype, but we shouldn’t be subjected to partner “glamour shots” right away.

Overall, the website unfortunately propagates the often accurate stereotype that many lawyers lack fundamental knowledge about business. But as many of our clients are businesspeople with such knowledge, I’d rather keep the secret safe. Give us our old website back.

Skadden Luddite

Skadden Luddite, quit yer whining. Given the bonus amounts being doled out to you and your colleagues, you’ll take whatever website they give you. And like it.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Here Comes Skadden

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