Last week, John B. Quinn, managing partner of Quinn Emanuel, gave his “state of the firm” address. Quinn’s address made some associates feel better and more secure. Other associates were angry. But if you are interested in how partners really think, the address was pretty interesting.
Quinn takes questions during this annual address, and this year the questions quickly turned to Quinn Emanuel’s bonus structure. Quinn paid Cravath-level bonuses for associates that hit 2100 hours (while giving more money to associates who far exceeded that target).
But Quinn also showed a significant surge in profits per partner, up 11 percent from last year. So associates wondered why more of that money didn’t trickle down to the associate level. According to tipsters, John Quinn told the gathering:
He said that we could have afforded to pay the higher bonuses, and we could afford to increase everyone’s salary by 10 to 15 thousand a year, but that doing so just doesn’t make strong business sense.
When we contacted Mr. Quinn, he reiterated his position that the market, not profit numbers, sets the level for associate bonuses:
i also said that the amount of associate bonuses–for all firms, not just ours–is driven by the market, which is very efficient. and of course it’s a business decision. firms don’t base bonuses, or salaries for that matter, on “what can we afford”, but on the market. we are no different.
Of course, Quinn Emanuel isn’t the only game in town. After the jump, we learn that Mr. Quinn won’t hold it against you if you feel you can get a better deal than what his firm is offering.
Another set of questions focused on the fact that some of Quinn’s business litigation competitors — like Boies Schiller — paid more in bonus. John Quinn had an interesting answer for that one. Here’s how he explained it to ATL:
one anonymous question i got this year was why shouldn’t an associate consider going to the boies or kasowitz law firms since they are litigation firms that paid higher bonuses. in response, i questioned whether that was true. i also questioned whether, even if it were true, last year’s bonus should be the sole basis for a career decision like that. i said that i admired both those firms but that there might be other things to be considered in a job decision. i said that if, after thinking it over, there was anyone who decided they really would rather be at one of those firms they should pursue it. life is too short not to pursue what you really want. i did say that if there was anyone who really wanted to go to one of those firms, and who had a good record at our firm; i would write a letter of recommendation if they asked me to.
In this market, I’m not sure any firm is all that worried about associate attrition.
Meanwhile, Quinn tried to assuage associate fears that there would be layoffs at the firm. He didn’t “promise” that there wouldn’t be layoffs, but he went into detail explaining why layoffs wouldn’t make business sense for the firm at this point in time. At least one tipster appreciated the effort:
At least for this junior associate, that makes me feel better about not getting laid off any time soon.
You want answers? You want the truth? Well, here it is: law firms are businesses and will behave as such, in good times and bad. Are we clear?
Earlier: Quinn Is Rolling In It