Associate Bonus Watch 2009, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Reader Polls

Breaking: Cravath Bonuses Are Out (and Down)

Year-end bonuses have been announced at the market-leading firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. And they are even lower than last year’s Cravath bonuses.

But look, this is 2009. Welcome to the Great Recession. Your true bonus is: you get to keep your job. That shouldn’t be taken for granted, even at Cravath.

Anyway, here’s the Cravath bonus scale for 2009 (via the WSJ Law Blog):

Class of 2008 — $7,500
Class of 2007 — $10,000
Class of 2006 — $15,000
Class of 2005 — $20,000
Class of 2004 — $25,000
Class of 2003 — $30,000
Class of 2002 — $30,000

Cravath’s bonus announcement is always important because the market tends to follow Cravath — as it did last year. Skadden’s 2008 bonuses, at roughly twice Cravath’s levels, were ignored.

Could this year be different? Are the Cravath bonus levels low enough such that a firm of similar or even lower prestige will try to better CSM? Or will other Biglaw shops simply avail themselves of the political cover provided by Cravath — which is arguably what happened last year, when Skadden’s generous bonuses went unmatched (excluding Wachtell)?

So, readers, what do you think? Read the FULL MEMO, take a READER POLL, and COMMENT — after the jump.

UPDATE: A commenter helpfully posted this side-by-side comparison of the 2008 and 2009 bonus amounts:

Year — 2008 — 2009
1st – $17.5K – $7.5K
2nd – $20K – $10K
3rd – $22.5K – $15K
4th – $25K – $20K
5th – $27.5K – $25K
6th – $30K – $30K
7th – $30K – $30K

Ed. note: For seventh-year associates (and above), some firms paid $32,500. Cravath’s scale topped out at $30,000 (and we’ve corrected the commenter’s table to reflect that).

Below please find the text of the complete memo, plus a reader poll.

CRAVATH, SWAINE & MOORE LLP — MEMORANDUM — YEAR-END BONUSES

November 2, 2009

We are pleased to announce that the year-end bonus amount for each associate class is as follows:

Class of 2008 — $7,500
Class of 2007 — $10,000
Class of 2006 — $15,000
Class of 2005 — $20,000
Class of 2004 — $25,000
Class of 2003 — $30,000
Class of 2002 — $30,000

Bonuses will be paid on Friday, December 11. Absent special circumstances (approved by the Managing Partners), an associate must still be at the Firm on December 11 to be eligible for the bonus. The Firm does not apply any billable hour or similar criteria in determining eligibility for associate bonuses. As always, while receipt of the bonus for each individual attorney is dependent on suitable performance at that attorney’s experience level, virtually all of our associates will receive the full bonus.

To be eligible for a bonus, an associate must have been employed at the Firm prior to September 1, 2009. Attorneys who are working part-time will receive a pro-rated portion of the applicable class-level bonus. Bonuses for special associates, discovery attorneys, foreign associates and senior attorneys will be determined on an individual basis.

We thank you for your hard work and dedication throughout 2009.

E. R. Chesler
C. A. Parker
S. C. Goldstein
S. A. Barshay

‘Tis the Season: Cravath Kicks off Associate Bonus Period [WSJ Law Blog]
Cravath Bonuses Are Out, and They are Lower than Last Year [Am Law Daily]

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Cravath Offers Less Than Skadden
Stealth Layoff Watch: Laid Off Cravath Associates Will Not Be Ignored

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