Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Biglaw, Bonuses, Boutique Law Firms, Money, Susman Godfrey

Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Shatters the Cravath Bonus Scale

It seems that Cahill Gordon isn’t the only firm putting the 2010 Cravath bonuses to shame. The elite litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey — founded in Texas, but now with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as Houston and Dallas — is paying out associate bonuses as big as the Texas sky.

And, like good Texans, the folks at Susman Godfrey aren’t afraid to brag about their success. Unlike many other law firms, which play a ridiculous cat-and-mouse game with their bonus news, SG issued a press release about their bonuses. Such candor is refreshing — and shows that the firm has nothing to hide.

So how much are Susman Godfrey associates taking home this year in bonuses?

More than enough to sustain the proverbial “3500 sq. ft. and a Lexus” lifestyle that the Lone Star State is known for. Let’s look at their press release:

Susman Godfrey LLP, the 90 lawyer litigation boutique with offices in Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Seattle, has paid annual bonuses to full time associates ranging from $45,000 to more than $100,000. Ten associates got bonuses of around 50% of their salaries.

Wow. The bottom of the Susman scale ($45,000) is higher than the top of the Cravath scale ($35,000).

And the top of the Susman scale is in six-figure territory. Investment bankers might scoff at six-figure bonuses, but for law firm associates, this kind of payday is rare (with a few exceptions — e.g., some associates at Wachtell Lipton, some associates at Boies Schiller, etc.).

Note the Susman firm’s small size: 90 attorneys. When a firm is small, with a relatively low associate-to-partner ratio, paying big bonuses becomes that much easier. Note how Wachtell, Boies and Cahill are all relatively small by Biglaw standards (under 300 attorneys).

Unlike other law firm partners — e.g., this one — Messrs. Susman and Godfrey are happy to spread the wealth among the associates:

Managing Partner Steve Susman said that the firm loves paying big bonuses to its associates. “We had another fantastic year, from coast to coast. We have a great group of young lawyers, and are delighted to be able to pay even bigger bonuses this year.”

The firm also announced that it made five new partners, and will continue to grow in all of its markets. “We’re on the lookout for great young lawyers and great new cases,” said Lee Godfrey, the firm’s other Managing Partner. “In a challenging environment, our unique skills have allowed us to stay on top.”

Congratulations to Susman Godfrey on its continued success — and to Susman Godfrey associates, on their very merry Christmases.

Big Year Leads to Big Bonuses at Susman Godfrey [PR Newswire via ABA Journal]

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