Biglaw, Billable Hours, Bonuses, Money, Partner Profits

You Want Your Bonus? We Want Your Time Sheets.

At large law firms around the country, associates and counsel are eagerly awaiting their bonuses. But partners and chief financial officers have their minds on other things: namely, collections. The fourth quarter is when firms step up their efforts at shaking down clients for cash.

As we all know from the law-and-economics reasoning that was taught to us in law school, people — yes, this includes lawyers — respond to incentives. At one leading law firm, bonus anxiety is being shrewdly harnessed in service of collections efforts.


The firm is Quinn Emanuel. Here’s the memo that was sent out last week by Jacqueline Toth, the firm’s chief financial officer:

As we will be pulling data as soon as we close the month of November on December 2nd, at 5:00 p.m. (pst), there will be NO EXTENSION granted to enter late time. Time not entered by the deadline will not be included in the bonus data. Please make sure all your time is entered and finalized by the deadline.

The 2011 bonus structure has yet to be finalized. Once finalized, Richard Schirtzer will send an explanatory e-mail to associates and of counsel.

QUINN REMAINS… inflexible?

In all seriousness, the memo seems reasonable enough to me. It’s basically saying, “If you want your bonus, please get your time in, so we can bill the clients who are ultimately responsible for funding your bonus.”

But one Quinn tipster — who read the “yet to be finalized” language as “we’re waiting on Cravath” — was less approving:

Can you believe this s**t?

“We can kowtow to the market and will hang you out as long as Cravath doesn’t announce, but if you’re 15 minutes late with your time entries, you’re f**ked.”

Profits per partner second only to Wachtell Lipton, and they’re cowering in the shadows waiting for the market.

In defense of QE, however, doesn’t the firm need to know what the “market” bonus schedule turns out to be, so it can then swoop in and put that bonus structure to shame?

If Quinn announces its bonuses first, and then Cravath (and all the Cravath followers) announce better-than-expected bonuses, then Quinn might be forced to make a second trip to the money well (sort of like how it had to sweeten the June bonuses this year, in the wake of spring bonus mania).

But will Quinn actually put the Cravath/market-level bonuses to shame? Only time — entered by the deadline — will tell.

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