Akin Gump, Associate Bonus Watch 2009, Bonuses, Salary Freeze

Nationwide Salary Thaw Watch: Akin Gump

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgWe previously expressed skepticism towards the notion of a salary thaw. As Elie wrote, “Ha. Haha. Unfreezing? Yeah. Let me just ride my unicorn down the streets of El Dorado and see what there is to see.”
But perhaps the joke is on us. It seems that some firms are unfreezing salaries. On this subject, of course, we are happy to be wrong. Green shoots, an end to the recession — yay!
On Friday, we reported on Allen & Overy’s decision to unfreeze associate salaries. Today we bring you news of a similar decision by Akin Gump.
Memo after the jump.

The email, from Akin Gump chairman Bruce McLean, appears below. It also contains a status update on 2009 associate bonuses:

In addition to continuing with our current compensation system, I am also pleased to announce that we will be awarding bonuses for 2009 performance. As usual, that process should be getting under way shortly.

When the bonus numbers come in, please let us know (subject line: “Akin Gump bonuses”).
The memo below should be read in light of two of our prior posts — here and here — regarding an earlier, partial salary thaw at Akin Gump. The firm’s compensation system is a little complex.
As we understand it, if you’re at Akin and hit the 2000 billable hours pace in each quarter of 2010, you will earn — with the help of the “quarterly productivity payments” — an amount equal to the standard New York market rate for your class year. For example, a class of 2007 associate who bills at the 2000 billable hours pace for the entire year will earn a total of $185,000 in 2010. If this class of 2007 associate falls short of this pace in each quarter and receives no quarterly productivity payments in 2010, then the associate will earn a flat $170,000 base salary.
Have we gotten this right? Feel free to discuss in the comments, or email us. Thanks.
From: McLean, Bruce
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 5:58 PM
To: FW Associates; FW Counsel
Cc: FW Practice Managers
Subject: 2010 Associate and Counsel Compensation
As you know from my past communications, Kim Koopersmith and I have been in discussions throughout the year with firm management and the Chairman’s Associates Committee regarding associate and counsel compensation. After much review and deliberation, the firm has decided to continue with the current salary grid and productivity adjustments. Thus, in 2010 associates and counsel who meet performance and productivity expectations will move up one class in base salary with the potential to earn an additional class increase through quarterly productivity payments based on performing at an annual 2000 billable hours pace (including 100 pro bono hours).
We have made significant progress on developing a core competency system for professional growth that will define the expectations at each class level, ensure that each of you are provided the opportunities to obtain the necessary skills and that you are provided feedback through the evaluation process to keep you fully apprised of your progress and development. Kim has already been working with an outside consultant on this process and we intend to complete it during the first quarter. We believe that implementation of this system is imperative to provide you with the greatest opportunities for professional development. In addition, should we conclude at a future date to adjust our compensation system to move away from the current lock step system, we believe that a well defined system of core competencies and feedback will significantly enhance any such transition.
In addition to continuing with our current compensation system, I am also pleased to announce that we will be awarding bonuses for 2009 performance. As usual, that process should be getting under way shortly.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their hard work and dedication to the firm and its clients. While it has been a challenging year for all of us, everyone’s contribution have helped make 2009 a success.
I wish you and your families a very happy and safe holiday season.
Earlier: Open Thread: Salary Thaw? Anybody?
Akin Gump: Salary Unfreeze Update
Akin Gump (Kind Of) Unfreezes Salaries

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