Friday afternoons are for bad news. When you have some news that you want to disappear into the ether, you announce it on Friday afternoon. It’s a favorite time for disgraced D.C. figures to resign from office in order to “spend more time with their families.”

So why did Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the world’s most prestigious and profitable law firms, decide to announce good news — namely, generous spring bonuses for its associates — late on a Friday afternoon? (Was it perhaps in response to the Latham bonus news from earlier today?)

Yes, Cravath and Skadden and Davis Polk associates, you read that right. S&C is paying out healthy springtime bonuses. They’re supplemental to the 2010 year-end bonuses that S&C announced back in December.

So how much are we talking about? And when will these amounts hit associate bank accounts?

Let’s find out….

By the way, the S&C springtime bonuses shouldn’t come as a total surprise. When the firm announced year-end bonuses in December 2010, S&C mentioned that it might pay spring bonuses in 2011, subject to firm performance.

We’re gathering that the firm is performing well, since the amounts in question are significant. For junior associates, the springtime bonuses are equal to the end-of-year bonuses, meaning that S&C junior associates are getting twice as much bonus money as their friends at Cravath, Skadden, Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Weil Gotshal, Cleary Gottlieb, and Debevoise.

Here’s the full scale of Sullivan & Cromwell springtime bonuses, as set forth in today’s memo from firm chairman Joseph Shenker. The bonuses are payable in April — an incentive for S&C associates who were thinking of leaving to stick around until then.

Class of 2010: $2,500
Class of 2009: $7,500
Class of 2008: $10,000
Class of 2007: $10,000
Class of 2006: $12,500
Class of 2005: $15,000
Class of 2004: $17,500
Class of 2003: $20,000
2002+: $20,000

And here’s a table that we’ve prepared — if you see any errors, please note them in the comments — totaling the December 2010 and April 2011 bonuses for S&C associates:

Class Year: December 2010 Bonus + April 2011 Bonus = Total Bonus

Class of 2010: $0 + $2,500 = $2,500
Class of 2009: $7,500 + $7,500 = $15,000
Class of 2008: $10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000
Class of 2007: $15,000 + $10,000 = $25,000
Class of 2006: $20,000 + $12,500 = $32,500
Class of 2005: $25,000 + $15,000 = $40,000
Class of 2004: $30,000 + $17,500 = $47,500
Class of 2003: $37,500 + $20,000 = $57,500
Class of 2002+: $42,500 + $20,000 = $62,500

What might be motivating the springtime bonuses — and the January announcement? Said one of our S&C sources: “The early timing is likely due to the fact that the firm has been bleeding associates since January 1.” But another S&C tipster disagreed: “We get emails whenever someone leaves, and I haven’t noticed any uptick in attrition.”

UPDATE (1/22/11, 3 PM): There’s more discussion of this attrition issue in the comments. The majority view seems to be that attrition is running high at S&C these days. As for why it might not seem that way from emails, here’s a representative comment:

The reason that we haven’t seen an uptick in associate attrition on the weekly farewell emails is that the firm stopped sending them because so many people are leaving. Check the “S+C This Week” publications they’ve sent us and you’ll see a long list of people [leaving], and plenty more are — well, before the bonus news — scheduled to leave in the next few weeks.

In any event, regardless of the motives behind them, these spring bonuses are happy, happy news. Congratulations, S&C associates!

Now the question becomes: Which (if any) of Sullivan & Cromwell’s “peer firms” will match?

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: That’s All Folks, Sullivan & Cromwell (Basically) Matches Cravath
Associate Bonus Watch 2010


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