Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: O’Melveny Announces Spring Bonuses
(While the associates are getting restless at Gibson Dunn….)

In its recent obituary for Warren Christopher, former U.S. Secretary of State and former senior partner at O’Melveny & Myers, the New York Times referred to O’Melveny as “the most traditional and prestigious of Los Angeles law firms.”

Well, if you want to be one of the “most prestigious” Los Angeles law firms — or national or global law firms, to the extent that O’Melveny has outgrown L.A. — then you need to pay your people appropriately. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that OMM has announced spring bonuses.

We received confirmation and details of the O’Melveny spring bonuses from multiple sources. Amusingly enough, about half of our sources on this story are anxious associates at Gibson Dunn….

Here are the key points about the O’Melveny spring bonuses:

  • The bonuses are on the familiar Cravath spring bonus scale (including $2,500 for class of 2010 associates).
  • The bonuses are lockstep — “which is a departure for them, since they do merit bonuses,” as one tipster noted. (See also our prior post on the OMM bonuses for 2010.)
  • The bonuses are being paid on April 29, 2011 (par for the course for spring bonuses).
  • The news was conveyed by voice-mail (no written memo).
  • The spring bonus eligibility requirement was that you received a year-end bonus for 2010, which had a “soft” 1950 hours requirement (some got bonuses with less).
  • According to one O’Melveny source, “some people who just missed in 2010 based on hours and got no bonus but have been very busy so far in 2011 would get [spring bonuses], to be determined individually — they find out in mid-April.”

The spring bonuses came as a surprise to one tipster, who previously predicted that O’Melveny wouldn’t pay them (back around the time of OMM’s original 2010 bonus announcement):

[Individualized] bonuses like this make it hard for OMM to pay out spring bonuses. OMM is not going to go through another lengthy review process to determine individual spring bonuses, but they also don’t want to hand out $20,000 to associates in CA who have been doing nothing and couldn’t get another Biglaw job in CA right now if their lives depended on it.

Probably the fairest thing would be to pay the NY associates the spring bonus to keep up with the market, especially since the New York people have been working their asses off for two years. Ever since the layoffs in March 2009, it is totally common for people to bill 2,500 or even 3,000 hours in New York. That is kind of what’s expected. If you bill less than 200 hours in a month, you are expected to take on new work.

But that prediction was made before the spring bonus news from several other firms — including, most importantly, Latham & Watkins.

Our readers at O’Melveny seem pleased by the news:

“General sentiment is positive, although we also assumed it was a done deal once Latham announced.”

“Give them lots of credit since they scooped Gibson on the announcement.”

Speaking of Gibson, we heard about the O’Melveny bonuses from just as many Gibson associates as O’Melveny associates. It appears that the OMM associates crowed about bonuses to their GDC friends, and their GDC friends started complaining to us. Here’s one representative comment:

Rumor is that OMM announced spring bonuses. The silence from GDC is deafening. OMM and Latham’s end of year bonuses killed Gibson’s, and now they’re apparently doing some major foot-dragging on spring bonuses, as well. People are confused and pissed. Thanks for calling out Gibson on this….

And here’s a second, from a different Gibson Dunn source:

My friend emailed me to tell me he’d received a voicemail from OMM saying they’re getting spring bonuses. I don’t have the info firsthand but you guys must have gotten the tips already. Please post. Gibson is now the only L.A.-based firm that hasn’t done the spring bonus thing and it’s awesome that there is a forum to yell at them in public. You guys are the best!

There were other messages, to similar effect, but we won’t bore you with them.

Congratulations, O’Melveny associates. As for associates at other firms with major California presences that have not yet announced spring bonuses — including, but not limited to, Gibson Dunn, Quinn Emanuel, and Irell & Manella (you can mention others in the comments) — good luck.

UPDATE (6:30 PM): In other OMM news, we’re told that O’Melveny recently announced a nationwide start date of December 5, 2011, for incoming associates. That seems a little late, but it could be worse.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of spring bonuses

ATL Law Firm Directory
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