Associate Bonus Watch 2010

Associate Bonus Watch: Kirkland & Ellis Open Thread (of Awesomeness)

Partners are calling Kirkland & Ellis associates right now and letting them know about their 2010 bonuses. The early reports we are getting are positive — very positive. Thus far, the people we’ve heard from are getting more, often substantially more, than their class-year counterparts at Cravath.

Exactly how much more? That really depends. Kirkland has an individualized bonus structure that takes into account an associate’s seniority, hours worked, and performance rating (e.g., “with class,” “above class,” etc.). The folks we’ve heard from so far have been quite happy (although we’re guessing bonus laggards at K&E will be less quick to come forward).

While Kirkland can try to hide its generosity from public scrutiny, this is why God invented crowdsourcing. Please share your bonus numbers (or approximations thereof) over email or in the comments. We’re especially interested in hearing from people who have knowledge of the bigger picture (i.e., not just knowledge of their own individual bonuses, but the K&E bonus distribution more generally).

UPDATE: After the jump, we’ve added SEVERAL UPDATES about the overall distribution of Kirkland bonuses.

We’ll get you started with news from our tipsters…

I’m not even sure if Cravath is the standard we should be looking at when trying to determine whether or not a bonus is “at” or “above” market. The buzzword for the 2010 bonus season seems to be “variance,” as many firms (big and small) have already moved away from following in lockstep formation behind Cravath.

But since Kirkland’s bonus structure is so confusing anyway, let’s use Cravath as a baseline. To refresh your memory, here is the Cravath scale:

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 — $35,000

Now, again, the general impression based on our inbox is that many people at Kirkland are getting more than this — some of them much more. We’ve heard from associates with okay reviews and hours just marginally above 2000 who are getting a few thousand more than the Cravath scale. And we’ve heard from people with stronger reviews and/or higher billable hours who are getting significantly more than the Cravath scale.

In fact, word on the street is that over half of Kirkland associates received bonuses that were roughly double those at Cravath. And, as of now, we haven’t heard from anyone who is getting less than they would have if they worked at Cravath.

UPDATE (3:30 PM): Apparently K&E associates have been told that 92 percent of them received bonuses that beat the Cravath scale.

UPDATE (3:45 PM): K&E associates have also been told that 53 percent of them got twice (or more) the Cravath scale and another 25 percent received between 1.5 and 2 times the Cravath scale.

If this holds up (or substantially holds up), it would be significant. It would mean that, for the most part, Cravath is setting the floor for associate bonuses at Kirkland, not the ceiling. It would mean that, for the most part, if you were at K&E this year and didn’t screw up, you are valued as much as a Cravath associate. If you excelled, you are valued more highly by your firm than Cravath values its own people.

And that’s a Christmas present that goes beyond the Benjamins. In short, this means that Kirkland associates are working for a firm that pays top-of-the-market associate compensation, while Cravath associates work at a firm that sets a price floor that other firms are able to improve upon. I’m not sure how many prestige points that is worth, but it would seem significant to me.

Of course, reasonable people (read: bitter, angry Cravath associates) will disagree. But I can just go on what people are telling me, and right now Kirkland people are telling me that they are happy — very happy — with their associate bonuses.

So somebody pass me a glass of that delicious Kirkland Kool-Aid. Looks like I might need some refreshment. (But if you are a Kirkland associate who didn’t get a very nice bonus and know a lot of other K&E people who also got stiffed, please email me before it’s too late).

Seriously, congratulations Kirkland associates. Your apparent happiness today is making the Cravath bonus look all the more pathetic.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Associate Bonus
Did Kirkland & Ellis Already Promise to Blow Cravath’s Bonuses Out of the Water?

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