Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: That’s All Folks, Sullivan & Cromwell (Basically) Matches Cravath

This is just coming into the ATL inbox, but it appears that Sullivan & Cromwell has announced bonuses that will essentially match the Cravath bonus scale.

“Essentially,” because there are a few interesting caveats: people in the class of 2003 will get $37,500 — i.e., $2,500 more than the Cravath class of 2003 — and our tipsters say there is language in the memo suggesting that S&C might pay a spring bonus next year. (You’ll remember that S&C did not pay out spring bonuses this year.)

UPDATE (1:07 PM): In addition, people in the class of 2002 will get $42,500. The spring bonuses will depend on the firm’s performance.

UPDATE (1/21/11): Read about the S&C spring 2011 bonuses over here.

If you have more information (or the memo), please send us an email at, or a text message at 646-820-TIPS.

In the meantime, this news looks like a compromise between the conflicting SullCrom factions we reported on last week

Last week, we told you that there were some S&C partners who wanted to pay more than the Cravath bonus. The firm had a strong year in 2010, so paying out last year’s bonus for a second year in a row would just look cheap.

Obviously, those partners lost out to the extreme pressure to do whatever Cravath tells them to do. But I guess if they hold out the option of giving out a spring bonus, that will keep S&C associates tied to the firm — instead of leaving to go somewhere that pays better, like Cahill or Kirkland or Sidley — for another couple of months. Since S&C can no longer reasonably claim that it pays top of the market associate compensation, I suppose telling its people that it might one day again pay top associate compensation was the compromise.

As commenters have noted, however, you have to wonder why firms like S&C and STB decided to wait this long when all they were going to do was act as the enforcers of Cravath’s lowball bonus.

In any event, let’s all stop caring about firms like Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath and Skadden for the moment. Clearly, these guys are not where you want to be if you want to make as much money as possible. Let’s look at some other firms that could be poised to pay a bonus more like Cahill and less like Cravath.

Any thoughts? I said this a couple of weeks ago, but I’m keeping my eye out for Latham. It fits with their model. In bad times, suffering to all. In good times, models and bottles. I’m thinking that the Latham survivors might get 2010 bonuses that trounce the former market leaders like Sullivan & Cromwell.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: What’s Up With S&C?
Prior ATL Coverage of Associate Bonuses

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