Associate Bonus Watch 2009, Associate Salaries, Salary Freeze

Associate Bonus/Salary Watch: Wilson Sonsini Announces Bonuses A Few Days After Firing Staff

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGLast week, Wilson Sonsini was busy shuffling staffers out the door. Today, Wilson Sonsini is proud to announce bonuses for the lawyers — just in case any of them were feeling bad about their recently departed secretaries.
The firm-wide memo just went out; here’s the bonus news:

Merit Bonus
The firm will pay merit bonuses for FY10 to all eligible non-member attorneys. Continuing with the criteria implemented last year, the merit bonus program provides for hours-based awards to all attorneys in good standing who achieved 1,900 or 2,100 bonus-eligible hours over the course of the 2009 calendar year. In addition to the hours-based component, attorneys also may receive a discretionary amount based on work quality and overall contribution to the firm. …
This year’s total bonuses range from a maximum of $9,000 for eligible associates from the class of 2008 to a maximum of $49,000 for eligible associates from the 2002 and earlier classes.

While the top number is more than the Cravath scale, we have no idea how many lawyers actually exceeded the Cravath bonus. I’ll spare you the familiar rant about the uselessness of providing the high score without mentioning the average payout associates received. Suffice it to say: nobody’s fooled.
UPDATE: We now have the full bonus memo for WSGR, which appears after the jump.
Wilson Sonsini also announced salary news today. After the jump, you’ll see that it looks suspiciously like a thaw of one class year.


wsgr logo.JPGIt’s not surprising that a firm that conducted layoffs twice in a row in January is reluctant to bump people back up to the top of the market salary. But I suppose that Wilson Sonsini associates will be happy with whatever extra money they can get. Here’s the salary structure in WSGR’s main offices:

2009 (1st year): $160,000
2008 (2nd year): $165,000
2007 (3rd year): $170,000
2006 (4th year): $185,000
2005 (5th year): $210,000
2004 (6th year): $230,000
2003 (7th year): $240,000

The one-year thaw is nice, but it still represents a depressed salary as compared to firms that never froze in the first place. Also, note that this scale, with its odd half-step paying second-years $165K, is almost the same as the new Cooley Godward salary scale (with divergence at the most senior level — WSGR pays $240K to the class of 2003, while Cooley pays $250K).
Could Wilson Sonsini partners afford to pay their associates the market rate at firms that never froze? Probably. Could Wilson Sonsini associates afford to have had their salaries frozen in place for a second year in a row? Most likely. Will Wilson Sonsini associates band together and give back this minor raise so that the firm can re-hire the 20 staffers that just lost their jobs? Don’t hold your breath.
Earlier: Nationwide Staff Layoff Watch: Wilson Sonsini Makes Cuts
UPDATE: Here is the full bonus memo:
M E M O R A N D U M
To: All Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Associates, Of Counsel, Special Counsel, and Staff Attorneys
From: Doug Clark and Jack Sheridan
Date: January 25, 2010
Re: FY10 Associate Bonus Program
In recognition of our attorneys’ hard work and dedication over the past year, we are pleased to announce the firm’s year-end merit bonuses for non-member attorneys, as well as the associate salary schedule for the new fiscal year beginning on February 1, 2010.
Merit Bonus
The firm will pay merit bonuses for FY10 to all eligible non-member attorneys. Continuing with the criteria implemented last year, the merit bonus program provides for hours-based awards to all attorneys in good standing who achieved 1,900 or 2,100 bonus-eligible hours over the course of the 2009 calendar year. In addition to the hours-based component, attorneys also may receive a discretionary amount based on work quality and overall contribution to the firm.
For the purpose of determining hours-based awards, bonus-eligible hours include all chargeable hours recorded, pro bono hours, hours charged to accounts for the firm’s legal services, and a cumulative total of up to 40 hours charged to Knowledge Management activities, Attorney Recruiting interviews, or preparing and presenting internal training courses that qualify for CLE credit. The measurement period for bonus-eligible hours is January through December 2009.
In accordance with the firm’s usual practices, hours requirements and awards for attorneys who started mid-year, were part time, or who were on a leave of absence for any part of the year will be adjusted on a pro rata basis.
This year’s total bonuses range from a maximum of $9,000 for eligible associates from the class of 2008 to a maximum of $49,000 for eligible associates from the 2002 and earlier classes.
All associates who are receiving a year-end merit bonus will receive personalized notification on January 29, 2010. Of Counsel, Special Counsel, and Staff Attorneys who are receiving a year-end merit bonus also will be notified at that time.
Associate Salary Schedule
Effective February 1, 2010, the following salary schedule will be implemented for associates in good standing from class years 2009-2003:
Comp Year AU, DC, NY, PA, SD, SF, & SH Seattle
2009 1st $160,000 $145,000
2008 2nd $165,000 $150,000
2007 3rd $170,000 $155,000
2006 4th $185,000 $170,000
2005 5th $210,000 $190,000
2004 6th $230,000 $210,000
2003 7th $240,000 (H3) — $250,000 (E) $215,000 (H3) — $225,000 (E)
Salaries for associates in class years 2002 and earlier will be communicated individually.
We will discuss the firm’s financial results, outlook for the new year, and a number of other topics at a town hall meeting in February; meeting details will follow shortly. In the meantime, please feel free to contact your supervising member if you have any questions on the associate bonus program or salary schedule.
Thank you for all your contributions to the firm, and hope to see you at next month’s town hall.

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