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Career Center Survey Results: Biglaw Bonus Predictions

In this week’s Career Center Survey, we asked you to predict how Biglaw’s 2011 year-end bonuses will stack up against bonuses based on 2010 performance.

Of the more than 700 responses we received, 28% of respondents think (or is hope the better word?) that the 2011 year-end bonus will be bigger than the combined 2010 Cravath year-end bonus, plus the 2011 Cravath spring bonus.

If those bonus numbers weren’t already forever etched in your mind, here’s a quick reminder of what those totals were….

  • Class of 2010: $2,500
  • Class of 2009: $15,000
  • Class of 2008: $20,000
  • Class of 2007: $30,000
  • Class of 2006: $40,000
  • Class of 2005: $45,000
  • Class of 2004: $50,000

Coming in a close second are the 25% of respondents who believe that year-end bonuses will be equal to the combined 2010 Cravath year-end bonus, plus the 2011 Cravath spring bonus. The remaining respondents are not as optimistic:

  • 18% of respondents think that the 2011 year-end bonus will be equal to the 2010 Cravath year-end bonus.
  • 15% of respondents think that the 2011 year-end bonus will be bigger than the 2010 Cravath year-end bonus.
  • 8% of respondents think that the 2011 year-end bonus will be smaller than the combined 2010 Cravath year-end bonus, plus the 2011 Cravath spring bonus.
  • 5% of respondents think that the 2011 year-end bonus will be smaller than the 2010 Cravath year-end bonus.

Are Biglaw associates just being delusional, or is there any truth to their predictions? What are the grounds they give for their guesses?

The most popular reason provided by 33% of respondents is that Biglaw had a good year, and will award associates accordingly. That would be a perfectly reasonable expectation, except for the fact that 2010 was a much better year than 2009, and yet Cravath initially low-balled the market and paid 2010 bonuses that were equal to 2009 bonuses. The other reasons break down as follows:

  • 27% of respondents think that Biglaw tends to maintain the status quo.
  • 13% of respondents think that Biglaw had a good year, but won’t share the wealth with associates.
  • 13% of respondents think that year-end bonuses will be bigger because there won’t be spring bonuses again.
  • 7% of respondents think that Biglaw did not do so well this year, so bonuses will be down.
  • 3% of respondents think that year-end bonus pool will be smaller due to 2011 spring bonuses.

Here’s hoping that the majority of you are right, and that 2011 year-end bonuses will leave 2010 bonuses in the dust.

For more information about bonuses at the top law firms, check out the firm profiles on the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.

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