Here we go. Spring bonuses are making now making their way into firms that are not strict lockstep firms. They’re making their way into firms that are not predominately based in New York City. They’re making their way everywhere.

Yay. If you will allow me to channel my inner Oprah: you get a spring bonus, you get a spring bonus, you get a spring bonus!

WilmerHale is the latest firm to get in on spring bonus mania. The firm’s approach to associate compensation is merit-based. So if you had a crappy 2010 at WilmerHale, well, your life just got comparatively worse, vis-à-vis your more meritorious peers…

Am Law Daily reports that WilmerHale is trying to be at the top of the merit-based associate compensation market:

Coming off of one of its strongest years in recent memory, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr on Wednesday announced it will be paying out supplemental spring associate bonuses in line with the those announced by Cravath, Swaine & Moore and several other Am Law 100 firms.

Wilmer’s bonuses come with a twist. Given the firm’s merit-based compensation system, some Wilmer associates could receive higher payments than associates of the same class at Cravath, and some less.

“We’ve made a commitment to compete at the top of the market,” says Wilmer co-managing partner William Lee.

You hear that, Kirkland & Ellis? Your generous regular bonus is so last year’s news. And what about you, Quinn Emanuel? You’re no longer paying 150 percent of market. If you want to stay competitive in associate compensation, you’re going to need to step up to the spring bonus plate.

Not everyone was expecting Wilmer to step up. The announcement came as a “great surprise,” one WH source told ATL.

But WilmerHale has decided to make it rain — at least on treasured associates who meet billable-hour and performance requirements.  Now other non-lockstep firms are on notice. You can’t hide from spring bonuses.

Check out the full WilmerHale memo below.

WILMERHALE — MEMORANDUM — SPRING BONUSES

From: William Lee
Subject: Spring Bonuses

As we described in the State of the Firm address on February 14, WilmerHale had a very strong year in 2010. As we near the end of the first quarter of 2011, we continue to be very busy with many matters placing significant demands on all of us. We greatly appreciate your ongoing—in many cases extraordinary—efforts to meet our client demands.

Consistent with our commitment to provide competitive total compensation under our merit-based program, we are pleased to announce that the firm will pay spring bonuses to reward our associates (including senior associates) and counsel for their excellent work and commitment. Bonuses will be paid on April 29, 2011. In keeping with our system of merit-based compensation, associate and counsel spring bonuses will be based on the Cravath-market scale and reflect overall quality of contribution, productivity and value. We will use the year-end performance evaluation assessments to determine each individual’s quality of contribution, with Department input for those who did not receive a review due to their start date, and will use the period between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, with input from Department and Practice Group Leadership, to determine productivity and value. The bonuses will be pro-rated for those associates and counsel who joined us during the period of April 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010. To be eligible to receive a bonus, associates and counsel are required to be employed by the firm on or before December 31, 2010 and remain employed with the firm as of April 29, 2011.

The demand for the firm’s services has remained extraordinarily strong and it has resulted in much for us all to do. We thank you for your continued dedication to the firm.

Bill [Lee] and Bill [Perlstein]

Wilmer’s Spring Bonuses: Market Driven, Merit Based [Am Law Daily]


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