Associate Bonus Watch 2011, Biglaw, Bonuses, David Boies, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Boies Schiller Shellacks Cravath

Just to be clear, the people who think that Cravath is the “compensation leader” in terms of Biglaw firms are incorrect. Wachtell Lipton, for example, regularly pays more than the people at Worldwide Plaza. Cravath does not set the top of the market in terms of associate bonuses.

The first firm to make Cravath associates feel impoverished this season appears to be Boies Schiller. Yep, the house that David Boies built is once again paying money to its people like bonuses are a reward for hard work.

But some say the payouts don’t appear to be quite as generous as last year. Others disagree. But you really don’t have to try that hard to beat Cravath anymore…

As many people know, the Boies Schiller bonus is highly individualized. It’s not a lockstep system; instead, associates are paid a bonus based on a percentage of the revenue they generate for the firm — we explained their system a couple of years ago. And that’s on top of the fact that Boies pays a better base salary than Cravath.

It’s complicated, but the upshot is that, just like last year, we have yet to speak to a person who received a smaller bonus than a similarly experienced attorney at Cravath. Cravath is like a bonus floor that Boies Schiller associates are walking on.

Because of the individualized nature of the bonuses, we can’t tell you too much about how much more the Boies Schiller people are making without outing our sources. Generally speaking, though, we’re hearing figures that outpace the Cravath bonuses by a significant margin. It’s a good day to work at Boies.

Cravath is so far in the rear-view mirror that Boies associates are comparing their bonuses this year to their bonuses last year, instead of comparing them to the paltry Cravath bonuses. Some Boies associates that we spoke to say that bonuses are down this year compared with last. As one tipster told us, “Many got less than last year, which granted was a huge year. Sentiment seems to be happy but not blown away.”

But some of the numbers our sources are talking about would blow us away — and they would blow away the average Cravath associate. Like last year, it appears that the average Boies bonus was $75,000 for associates who have worked at the firm for more than a year. For high performers, we’re talking about bonuses in excess of $150,000. And there are still some lucky (and high-billing) dogs who hit the mother lode with $200,000 bonuses.

To sharpen the point even more, we hear that bonuses just for the class of 2010 are averaging around $65,000. That’s $65K at Boies versus $7,500 at Cravath. Who’s your daddy?

Because of the Boies system, a slightly smaller bonus could be your reward for having a more manageable year in terms of hours. From a (very pleased) BSF source:

I think bonuses are consistent with last year’s, but at an individual level, good or bad depends on how many hours an associate bills — given that we are on a formula compensation system. So some people have gotten bigger bonuses this year than last, and others [have gotten] smaller bonuses than last year….

I worked fairly humane hours this year, and I think my bonus is still around five times more than the Cravath bonus for my class year. So no complaints from me.

We reached out to Boies Schiller for comment. Here’s what partner Phil Korologos had to say about this year’s bonuses:

Boies, Schiller & Flexner is once again very proud of its associates’ contributions to the firm’s successful and busy year. In addition to leading-level associate salaries, associates, after their first year, receive bonuses based on performance.

It doesn’t sound like anybody has complaints about their “leading-level” salaries or their total compensation. While Cravath is making its people feel unappreciated, Boies is making people feel like valued and respected members of the firm. There are some things that money can’t buy.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Boies Schiller Sets the Bonus Bar
Bonus Season Blues

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