Are we really going to live in a world where the firms that consistently rank highest on the Vault surveys are paying a smaller bonus than the firms just one tier down? Are we really going to live in a world where partnerships at Cravath, Skadden, and Davis Polk are paying smaller bonuses to many of their people than Kirkland, Sidley, and Cahill?

Perhaps so. Cleary Gottlieb just announced its bonus scale, and the firm is doing its part to keep the associate bonus market as low as possible. It’s a straight match of Cravath….

We’re really starting to answer the question: “If Cravath jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge ,would you do it to?” For some firms, the answer clearly is “Yes.” Here’s the Cleary memo:

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL ASSOCIATES ON THE U.S. SALARY SCALE

Re: 2010 Bonuses

On behalf of the partners of the Firm, we are pleased to announce year-end bonuses for associates in good standing on the U.S. salary scale, at the amounts set forth below. To be eligible for a bonus, you must have been employed at the Firm prior to August 1, 2010 and be actively employed at the Firm on the day bonuses are paid. Bonuses will be paid on Thursday, December 30, 2010. Bonuses will be pro rated for those on reduced schedules and for those who joined the Firm after January 1, 2010.

Class of 2009 – $7,500
Class of 2008 — $10,000
Class of 2007 — $15,000
Class of 2006 — $20,000
Class of 2005 — $25,000
Class of 2004 — $30,000
Class of 2003 and more senior — $35,000

We thank you all for the terrific work you have done for our clients over the past year

Sigh. This seems to be a pattern; every time some firm comes in and betters the Cravath bonus, another big-hitting lockstep firm rushes in to try and reestablish the Cravath line. Are Cravath partners sending text messages to their colleagues that read: “Hold the line! Hold!”

S&C partners, you are the ones who can reestablish some market sanity. Even $5,000 on top of this paltry bonus would show that for the second time in three years Cravath does not set the top of the New York bonus market.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Associate Bonus season


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