This actually happened last Wednesday — but, due to the less-than-exciting nature of the news, we doubt anyone has been prejudiced by our delay in reporting it. The law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf announced associate and counsel bonuses, on the Sullivan & Cromwell scale (i.e., the Cravath scale, but topping out at $42,500 instead of $37,500).
Even if not surprising, it is nice that Dewey is matching market. As you may recall, Dewey made our list of the top ten most generous law firms — i.e., ten firms that generally match Cravath-level bonuses, despite having significantly lower profits per partner than Cravath. Partners at these firms take a financial hit to keep their associates happy.
Just like last year, there are a few footnotes to the Dewey bonus news that merit comment. And there’s some positive news for top performers, too….
The eligibility requirements for the Dewey bonus are set forth in the memo of chairman Steven Davis (reprinted in full on the next page). The most important one is the requirement of 2000 hours for 2011 (which “may be a combination of fee-earning, pro bono and accountable hours, provided that there is an appropriate balance”).
In addition, “[e]ligible associates may also be awarded an additional discretionary bonus which takes into account exceptional performance.” This is nice to hear, especially since some firms — e.g., Weil Gotshal — are cutting back on bonuses for top performers. (On the other hand, one could imagine these additional discretionary bonuses causing controversy, if people feel that they were unfairly denied them. Perhaps that’s why some firms, like Weil, prefer to just go with a straight lockstep system.)
By the way, Dewey seems to be doing well these days. The firm is working on the Talbots takeover battle, and it’s also advising on a big gold mine deal. Presumably it can afford to put a few more gifts under associates’ trees this year.
If you’re so inclined, feel free to view the full Dewey bonus memo, by flipping to the next page (or by clicking here).
Talbots Rebuffs Takeover Offer From Sycamore [DealBook / New York Times]
Firms Hit Paydirt as Mining M&A Stays Hot for the Holidays [Am Law Daily]