This is getting ridiculous. It’s November 17th. Last year, Cravath announced its 2009 bonuses on November 2nd. In 2008, Skadden announced first, on November 19th, which was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving week. So essentially Skadden announced bonuses today, two years ago. In 2007, Cravath announced on October 29th.

You take the point. Where are the bonuses? It’s time, it’s past time. Look at the picture. We picked the new 2010 bonus logo WEEKS ago, but haven’t had occasion to use it. WHY? Is this thing on? Are we missing them ([email protected] or texts to 646-820-TIPS)? Whom do I have to sex around here to get some freaking bonus information?

Did firms think they could just not announce bonuses and have nobody notice? WE NOTICE. Right now, we are in a heightened state of taking notice!

Alright, calm down. They are coming. This is all a good sign. Bonuses are going to go up, but firms are unsure by how much. They are not allowed to collude, and nobody wants to get caught out there like Skadden did two years ago and have Cravath come in and Half-Skadden the situation. There is a reasonable explanation for all of this. REMAIN CALM, ALL IS WELL.

Let me get some oxygen, while we take a look at the best theories from our commenters, make some predictions, and conduct a reader poll….

The ATL commentariat has been increasingly worried about the lack of bonus news. I think this commenter pretty much sums up everybody’s worst fear:

BREAKING NEWS – In a joint statement issued by the nation’s top 100 law firms, the subject of annual bonuses for all attorneys and staff was laid to rest.

“No bonuses for anybody, period” announced John Quinn, spokeman for BigLaw partners. “We want everybody to know they are lucky to have a job at all, and their bonus is that they still have that job, at least for now.”

Partner shares took a steep dive last year across the board. Quinn’s firm represented the typical BigLaw 2009 partner take which plunged from $3.3 million each to a measly $3.15 million per. “We have all had to cut back, I for one had to forego upgrading my Maybach’s mudflaps from sable to ermine. This whole bonus concept is a failed experiment, employees continue to be sullen slackers regardless of our past generosity.”

In a related story, upscale garment manufacturer Bonobo’s stock price plummeted to 75 cents from a recent high of $1.10.

Over email, people have been less whimsical and more frightened. People have been emailing us as if we have bonus news that we are refusing to share. People want us to stage a sit in at Cravath’s offices until they release the news.

Despite the uncertainty, I really do think bonuses will be better this year than last year. We have indications that bonuses will be bigger. Morgan Lewis, for instance, announced that this year’s bonus pool will be substantially larger than last year. And the majority of you think they will be better too. Back in October, 51% of you said that you expected bonuses to be larger than they were last year. (Take our poll below to see if you still have such faith.)

How much bigger is anybody’s guess. Last year the Cravath market-setting bonus for full (i.e., non-stub) first years was $7,500 — which is frankly pathetic. It’s not going to be hard for firms to clear that bar. But how high will they go? In 2008, Cravath’s Half-Skadden bonus was $17,500 for full first years. That’s also pretty low (especially considering Skadden paid twice as much that same year). Will the market go all the way back to 2007 levels? If I had to guess, I’m feeling a nice, round $20K for full first years is where this is going to end up. Better than a “recession” bonus, but still far away from the boom times (like 2007, when Cravath paid a cool $45K to full first years).

As far as the timing of the announcement, I don’t know what to tell you. Clearly, firms are more concerned with matching the market than they are with making a payment based on their profitability (also, water is wet). But it makes sense for firms to be worried about setting the market. Just two years ago, Skadden tried, Cravath paid less, and everybody followed Cravath anyway.

So we’re waiting. We are all waiting for Cravath or somebody else to make a move on bonuses. Tick-mutherf*****g-Tock, guys.

How will your 2010 bonus compare to your 2009 bonus?

  • 2010 will be higher. (59%, 590 Votes)
  • 2010 will be about the same. (20%, 197 Votes)
  • What bonus? (17%, 172 Votes)
  • 2010 will be lower. (4%, 47 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,006

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Earlier: Pregaming the 2010 Law Firm Bonus Season


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