Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Associate Salaries, Banking Law, Biglaw, Bonuses, Boutique Law Firms, BuckleySandler, Clerkships, Midsize Firms / Regional Firms, Money

Clerkship Bonus Watch: BuckleySandler to $60,000!

What’s going on with clerkship bonuses? The last time we really checked was over a year ago. We might do a follow-up; if you have tips — not questions or requests for advice, but hard information about clerkship bonus amounts — please email us (subject line: “Clerkship Bonuses”).

In our last look at the subject, in February 2010, the going rate seemed to be $50,000. You can look back at our prior post for the names of at least 11 firms paying $50K clerkship bonuses. (If any of that info needs to be updated, in either direction, please let us know.)

We can confirm that at least one firm is paying a clerkship bonus in excess of $50,000: BuckleySandler, a young, highly-regarded firm that focuses on banking and financial-services law. We’ve written quite a bit about the firm before; it started with a bang, when Skadden partners Andrew Sandler and Benjamin Klubes left the megafirm to set up their own shop.

Let’s learn a little more about BuckleySandler, and check out the memo announcing the $60K clerkship bonus (along with other compensation-related information)….

The memo, from co-managing partners Benjamin Klubes and John Kromer, is reprinted in full below. It explains why the firm is offering an above-market clerkship bonus (and adopting other steps to make itself more appealing to potential hires):

[T]he Firm is seeking to recruit a number of junior and mid-level associates in each of our offices. We are doing so in order to continue to meet the needs of our clients, maintain our reputation for providing the highest quality legal services, and provide sufficient staffing to allow our attorneys to achieve a more appropriate balance of work and life responsibilities….

[W]e are in an extraordinary period in the financial services industry. Our clients, in large measure due to your extraordinary legal skills, work and commitment, are continuing to ask us for assistance on critical, high profile and time sensitive matters. We recognize that we have been and continue to be extremely busy, particularly during the end of last year and beginning of this year. We appreciate the great intensity and high quality of your work, and are seeking to increase the number of lawyers at the Firm so that we can continue to meet the demands of our clients while providing additional support and resources to you on our matters.

As described below, we are instituting a number of policies in order to continue to attract the highest quality associates….

[T]he Firm is increasing its efforts to attract judicial law clerks. We have long valued the clerkship experience, with more than 25% of our associates, counsel and partners having held federal court clerkships (13 Circuit and 11 District Court). We will be instituting a $60,000 “clerkship bonus” to be paid to any associate who joins the Firm directly from a federal district or circuit court clerkship. We also will be expanding our outreach efforts to judges and clerks, and likely will plan to host a reception for clerks this spring, among other activities.

A $60,000 clerkship bonus is well above market. Will other firms follow suit?

In addition to the clerkship bonus, BuckleySandler’s total compensation package is competitive with what you’d get at a Biglaw firm. For more details and tables, see the full memo below.

(What the memo lists as Biglaw comp “reflects our understanding of many major firms’ base salary plus end of year bonuses for 2010″ — i.e., it does not seem to account for the recent spring bonus phenomenon. But it’s worth noting that the firm might pay mid-year bonuses; in 2010, BuckleySandler paid summer bonuses.)

Of course, money isn’t everything. Here are some other facts worth noting about the firm, according to one enthusiastic source:

  • The firm “provides interesting and intellectually challenging work that many lawyers expect to find at larger firms, while providing opportunities for both advancement and work/life balance that are all too frequently missing from the large firm experience.”
  • As noted in the memo, the firm is thriving and in full expansion mode, more than tripling in size in less than two years (from under 40 lawyers to almost 120 lawyers).
  • Although its main presence is in D.C., the firm has offices in both New York and Los Angeles, and it’s actively recruiting for all three locations.
  • Partnership prospects are strong: four attorneys made partner last year, and three were advanced to counsel (a high promotion rate, given the firm’s relatively small size).
  • The firm is most welcoming of women: three of the four new partners are women, and two of the three new counsel are women. (According to the National Law Journal, with 46% female attorneys, BuckleySandler has the second highest percentage of women lawyers among major Washington, D.C. firms.)

So if you’re a law clerk thinking about your post-clerkship plans, if you’d like to work in D.C. or New York or L.A., and if you’re interested in the banking and financial services sectors, you might want to give BuckleySandler a good look. We can give you at least 60,000 good reasons for doing so.

Earlier: Career Center: Clerkship Survey Results
Prior ATL coverage of BuckleySandler

BUCKLEYSANDLER — MEMORANDUM — RECRUITMENT AND SALARIES

To Counsel and Associates

From Ben Klubes and John Kromer

Re Recruitment and Salaries

Date March 3, 2011

As we have discussed, the Firm is seeking to recruit a number of junior and mid-level associates in each of our offices. We are doing so in order to continue to meet the needs of our clients, maintain our reputation for providing the highest quality legal services, and provide sufficient staffing to allow our attorneys to achieve a more appropriate balance of work and life responsibilities. As we explained at our Town Hall meeting last November, we are in an extraordinary period in the financial services industry. Our clients, in large measure due to your extraordinary legal skills, work and commitment, are continuing to ask us for assistance on critical, high profile and time sensitive matters. We recognize that we have been and continue to be extremely busy, particularly during the end of last year and beginning of this year. We appreciate the great intensity and high quality of your work, and are seeking to increase the number of lawyers at the Firm so that we can continue to meet the demands of our clients while providing additional support and resources to you on our matters.

As described below, we are instituting a number of policies in order to continue to attract the highest quality associates. We appreciate your efforts at soliciting candidates, interviewing applicants and participating in the Hiring Committee. We welcome feedback on our recruiting process and the new policies set forth below.

First, the Firm is implementing a recruitment bonus payment of $5,000 to any associate or counsel who refers an associate candidate to the Firm. The referred candidate must be one who has not previously applied to the Firm and who accepts an offer of employment with the Firm.

Second, the Firm is increasing its efforts to attract judicial law clerks. We have long valued the clerkship experience, with more than 25% of our associates, counsel and partners having held federal court clerkships (13 Circuit and 11 District Court). We will be instituting a $60,000 “clerkship bonus” to be paid to any associate who joins the Firm directly from a federal district or circuit court clerkship. We also will be expanding our outreach efforts to judges and clerks, and likely will plan to host a reception for clerks this spring, among other activities.

Third, the Firm has engaged a professional recruiting firm to assist in identifying and recruiting high caliber candidates, particularly with respect to certain markets or niche practices where the placement challenges are the greatest.

Since its inception, our Firm has been strongly committed to recruiting and retaining candidates with diverse backgrounds. The Firm will undertake the new initiatives discussed above in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to ensuring diversity among our attorneys and also will continue our myriad on-going recruiting initiatives which focus specifically on attracting diverse candidates.

Finally, we recognize that information on compensation is an important consideration for candidates evaluating the opportunity to practice with us. As we set forth in the compensation memoranda distributed at the end of 2010, the base salary for associates for 2011 is as follows:

YEAR BASE SALARY
1st Year (Class of ’10) $155,000
2nd Year (Class of ’09) $165,000
3rd Year (Class of ’08) $180,000
4th Year (Class of ’07) $200,000
5th Year (Class of ’06) $220,000
6th Year (Class of ’05) $235,000

The Firm’s compensation philosophy emphasizes the role of discretionary bonuses in total compensation to permit a focus on individual quality and level of effort in the context of overall Firm success. This philosophy is consistent with our goals of operating as a “meritocracy” while intending to provide attorneys more flexibility to maintain their own life balance that is consistent with long term, sustainable professional satisfaction and productivity. Given that bonuses are not lockstep and constitute a greater percentage of total compensation than at many of our competitors, we believe the following chart providing the range of total compensation in 2010 for first through sixth year associates will be helpful in the recruiting process.

YEAR FIRM TOTAL COMP BIG LAW TOTAL COMP
1st (Class of ‘09) $182,000 – $185,000 $167,500
2nd (Class of ’08) $184,000 – $202,000 $180,000
3rd (Class of ’07) $184,000 – $225,000 $200,000
4th (Class of ’06) $233,000 – $267,000 $230,000
5th (Class of ’05) $271,000 – $299,000 $255,000
6th (Class of ’04) $289,000 – $301,000 $280,000

The Firm’s total compensation includes salary, 2010 mid-year bonus, and 2010 end of year bonus (including a profit sharing contribution for eligible attorneys that does not require any employee matching and is not typically provided by other firms to their associates). The “Big Law” compensation reflects our understanding of many major firms’ base salary plus end of year bonuses for 2010.

As we demonstrated last year, we anticipate that those who provide the highest quality legal work that delivers superior results for our clients and who contribute to the overall success of the Firm will have total compensation for 2011 that is highly competitive with the market.

We believe the Firm and our compensation structure are very attractive and highly competitive, and we appreciate your continued assistance in our recruiting efforts.

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