Associate Bonus Watch 2010, Associate Salaries, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Salary Freeze, Silicon Valley

Associate Salary Watch: Wilson Sonsini Restores Pay to Pre-Freeze Scale

It appears that Larry Sonsini, chairman and name partner of the high-powered Wilson Sonsini law firm, is a very good golfer. Earlier this year, while playing golf to celebrate his 70th birthday, the legendary lawyer scored a hole in one.

Sonsini isn’t the only one who’s scoring over at 650 Page Mill Road. His partners are doing deals left and right, and the fees are trickling down to the associates, who just scored some nice pay raises.

What is Wilson Sonsini up to? Let’s find out….

As you may recall, during the dark days of the Great Recession, Wilson Sonsini froze associate salaries. The freeze was announced at around the same time as significant layoffs, so WSGR lawyers who survived the layoffs could hardly complain.

Today, however, Wilson Sonsini resurrected the pre-freeze salary scale. If Jesus can rise from the dead, so can associate salaries. Happy Easter!

(FYI: I’m Catholic. And I love Jesus. So please don’t get on my case about the foregoing paragraph.)

The details about the Wilson Sonsini pay raise appear in the memo below. Said a tipster:

At last, market salaries [return] to Silicon Valley. Think this is in response to the Cooley raises. But as discussed before, Gunderson raised a while back. Not retroactive, so it kinda sucks.

UPDATE (5/3/11): Actually, at the time of this post, Gunderson had not yet announced a pay raise, and Cooley had announced a raise that had not yet taken effect. But now they have.

Complaining about non-retroactivity sounded a bit like looking a gift horse in the mouth, but a second source at WSGR echoed it:

The firm is doing so many deals lately, the corporate monster is rebounding with a vengeance, and taking its toll on corporate associates. Three cheers for Jack Sheridan and Keith Eggleton for raising salaries.

Now if only they could restore the [tens of thousands I’ve] lost by the freeze over the past [few] years….

So Wilson Sonsini is back on the standard $160K pay scale (at least in New York, Palo Alto, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). What about spring bonuses?

One tipster isn’t expecting them:

I suspect that this true-up is a way of rewarding folks (in the wake of all the spring bonuses) without the one-time huge lump sum. The general tenor is that folks, given the option of either/or, much preferred the true up — because it keeps paying off each year.

Very doubtful that spring bonuses will follow.

As we previously said to class of 2010 associates who expressed unhappiness with their spring bonuses (or lack thereof), you really should look on the bright side of things. Wilson Sonsini is back on the NYC base salary scale. Isn’t that enough to celebrate?

Earlier: Associate Bonus (and Salary) Watch: Wilson Sonsini
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Major Downsizing at Wilson Sonsini (45 Lawyers, 68 Staffers)


To: All Associates
From: Jack Sheridan and Keith Eggleton
Date: April 22, 2011
Re: Associate Compensation

After a review of the market for base salaries in each of our office locations, the firm has decided on the following actions, which will take effect on May 1, 2011:

The firm will make market-based salary adjustments as noted below for regular, U.S. associates in New York, Palo Alto, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The adjustments will apply to associates in compensation years 2002-2009 in all of these offices, and also to associates in compensation year 2010 in Seattle. Salaries for associates in Austin will not change.

The salary adjustments will not apply to those attorneys in compensation year 2001 and earlier, as they already are at the top of our associate pay scale.

The revised salary grids in effect for regular associates in our U.S. offices are as follows:

New York, Palo Alto, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Class — Year — Base Salary
2010 1st $160,000
2009 2nd $170,000
2008 3rd $185,000
2007 4th $210,000
2006 5th $230,000
2005 6th $250,000
2004 7th $265,000

Austin and Seattle

Class — Year — Base Salary
2010 1st $160,000
2009 2nd $165,000
2008 3rd $170,000
2007 4th $185,000
2006 5th $210,000
2005 6th $230,000
2004 7th $250,000

Salaries for associates in class years 2002 and 2003 will be communicated individually.

In accordance with our normal compensation process, adjustments will be prorated for part-time associates and subject to good standing.

(hidden for your protection)

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