Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Partner Issues

Associate Bonus Watch: Skadden Matches the Cravath Spring Bonuses!

This shouldn’t come as a shock: Skadden is paying spring bonuses. And it’s doing so on the top-of-the-market Cravath scale. Yay!

According to a memorandum sent to the Skadden Arps partnership by email this morning — before 8 a.m., so prior to the Davis Polk announcement — the firm was originally planning to match market for the most junior ($2,500) and most senior ($20,000) associate classes. As for mid-level associates, it was going to split the difference between the Cravath scale and the Sullivan & Cromwell scale: “We are planning a mid-level associate bonus range which is somewhat higher than the general pack, but not the highest levels currently announced.”

But then came the Davis Polk announcement, at around 10:30 a.m., in which DPW went with the Cravath scale. And now Skadden has too.

Did the Davis decision change the thinking at Four Times Square? Let’s look at the memos….

This was the memo from executive partner Eric Friedman that went out early this morning, before 8 a.m. Eastern time, to all SASMF partners:

From: Eric J. Friedman
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011
To: ALL PARTNERS
Subject: Associate and Counsel Bonuses

For those of you who have been watching the attorney bonus news, about 2 weeks ago a New York firm announced spring bonuses. A number of firms followed suit, and one firm announced a scale with higher amounts for mid-level associates. At junior and senior levels, the bonus amounts were consistent among firms and we are matching those bonus levels. In recognition of the importance of our mid-level associates, we are planning a mid-level associate bonus range which is somewhat higher than the general pack, but not the highest levels currently announced. Bonuses will be paid at the end of April and will range from $2,500 to $20,000. Counsel will be eligible to receive a spring bonus of $20,000. Below is the text of a memo that will be sent today to associates on an individual basis. A similar memo will be sent to counsel.

Bonus Memo to Associates

In recognition of the valuable contributions associates continue to make to the Firm and consistent with our commitment to offer competitive associate compensation, you are eligible to receive a bonus of _______________ on April 29, 2011. This bonus is based upon the same criteria used in determining your 2010 year end bonus, and will be paid to associates in good standing who are actively employed on the payment date.

Thank you for your continued dedication and support.

But then, just now — at around 12:30 p.m. Eastern time — the firm sent associates the bonus memo reprinted below. It sets forth a spring bonus scale that matches the higher Cravath levels, not the lower Sullivan & Cromwell ones.

Note how the memo reprints the full scale (unlike the draft bonus memo that went to all partners this morning). Including the full scale is not the Skadden tradition; usually Skadden discloses bonus amounts individually, requiring us to piece them together with help from tipsters.

In recognition of the valuable contributions associates continue to make to the Firm and consistent with our commitment to offer competitive associate compensation we are pleased to announce we will be paying a bonus on April 29, 2011 to associates.

Class of 2010: $2,500
Class of 2009: $7,500
Class of 2008: $10,000
Class of 2007: $15,000
Class of 2006 and senior: $20,000

This bonus will be based upon the same criteria used in determining 2010 year-end bonuses, and will be paid to associates in good standing who were employed as of January 1, 2011 and who remain actively employed on the payment date. Bonuses will be prorated based upon start date, status changes, and reduced hours schedules.

Thank you for your continued dedication and support.

SASM&F

Did the Davis Polk announcement — which was promptly reported by us here at Above the Law, within minutes of its being made — change the plan of the Skadden partnership on bonuses? Or did the powers-that-be at Skadden just make a last-minute, executive decision to be more generous to midlevel associates?

Regardless of what went on behind the scenes, it’s good news. Congratulations on your spring booty, Skadden associates and counsel.

Ed. note: This post was revised extensively after its original publication, since the final bonus memo to all associates, which superseded the earlier memo to all partners, was distributed within minutes of this post going up.

Earlier: Springtime Bonus Watch 2011
Associate Bonus Watch: Davis Polk Matches the Cravath Spring Bonuses!

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