Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Associate Salaries, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Winston & Strawn
(And an additional issue about base salaries.)

As we’ve explained before, we want to hear about your law firm’s bonus news, even if it’s old. As long as we haven’t written it up yet, please consider it fair game. (Use our site search box in the upper-right-hand corner, or scroll through our Associate Bonus Watch archives, to see which announcements we’ve already covered.)

One firm that announced bonuses many moons ago: Winston & Strawn. This was well before the spring bonus phenomenon took hold, so the Cravath 2010 year-end bonuses were still the benchmark.

Find out what Winston did — and learn about an additional issue that is bugging some Winston associates (and maybe associates at other firms, too)….

As we’ve discussed before, Winston issues individualized bonus memos, consistent with its non-lockstep, merit-based compensation system. The sense that we have from sources, however, is that the firm basically matched the Cravath year-end bonuses for 2010 (without the yummy Cravath spring bonuses, not yet announced at the time).

Here’s what we heard from one Winston tipster:

Winston pretty much matched the low end of market. Criteria: 2000 hours threshold and “appropriate evaluation rating.”

Class of 2009 – up to $7500
Class of 2008 – $10000
Class of 2007 – $15000
Class of 2006 – $20000
Class of 2005 – $25000
Class of 2004 – $30000
Class of 2003 – $35000
Class of 2002+ – case by case

The “up to $7500” for class of 2009 members reflects different start dates, our source explains:

The class of 2009 started in three waves — February, June, and October 2010 — and were given bonuses based on start date of $7500, $5000, and $2500 respectively, with no hours requirement (which the class of 2009 is pretty happy about since hours were hard to come by).

A second source confirmed the essentially correctness of this: “It is all individualized — we don’t get a memo that tells generally what people got. Anecdotally, though, it seems lots of people who got bonuses got them in amounts similar to the Cravath scale.”

As noted, there has been no word at Winston about spring bonuses. But Winston associates are perhaps more upset by the fact that their base salaries haven’t gone up to reflect increased seniority, even though it’s now March 2011. Explains a tipster:

Winston & Strawn has not announced salaries for 2011, despite promising the news would be announced “in the coming weeks” back on 2/4, when they handed out bonuses. Five weeks later doesn’t seem like “in the coming weeks” to me.

What makes their delay most interesting, though, is the fact that the firm just put up the cash to send all partners down to Boca Raton, Florida, for a weekend-long, all-expenses-paid partner retreat at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Even if they claim that the Howrey nonsense was distracting to them, they have obviously had enough time to plan their partner retreat amidst the madness. And really, how hard is it to just pay us all market salaries and draft up a form letter to tell us?

We asked this source: So you mean to say that you’re all still at the 2010 pay rates?

Yes, we’re still making what we made last year. Last year they did single and double bumps, ostensibly to make up for the frozen years, but also had subjective factors (that were not described) to keep many people below market.

In years past, according to this tipster, associates would get their raises around the start of February — so mid-March is definitely on the late side.

It seems that W&S associates are caught in the middle, with partners enjoying Florida retreats and staffers enjoying raises:

As of today (we got paid last night as usual), Winston still has not addressed raises at all. Winston did give staff raises 2 weeks ago or so.

Definitely don’t begrudge staff getting raises — they are well-deserved.

Is this a trend — firms not advancing their associates in terms of base salaries? We suspect that most Biglaw firms have given their associates the customary seniority-based pay bumps. But if your firm is still paying you the same base salary as it did in 2010, feel free to email us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Base Salary”). If we receive enough data points, perhaps we’ll do a follow-up.

UPDATE (4:20 PM): Two quick updates on Winston:

1. From a third tipster, a clarification on bonuses:

[A]s a general rule, originally it didn’t matter how much you billed. So, class of 2008 who billed 2000 got $10,000; those who billed 2600 apparently got $12,000. This obviously caused an uproar. My understanding is that the entire fourth-year class wrote a memo to the committee about how unfair this was for the high billers and disincentivized working hard. So, two weeks later, they gave everyone supplemental bonuses (which varied — for class of 2008, it was $5000 more) to people who billed over 2200, to recognize the difference.

2. And more ire on the apparently frozen base salaries:

What is the most BS is that most people who are now third years (and over halfway through their third year if they started in September 2008) are still only getting paid $160K. This is because most first years didn’t hit their hours back then, so they didn’t get a raise in 2010, and are now still waiting for their first raise after hitting well over 2000 in their second year. So they’re getting paid the same as the current first years.

UPDATE (3/17/11): Well that was fast! Winston has raised base salaries and returned to a lockstep system.

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