Usually, firms with main offices outside of Manhattan let the New York bonus market settle down a little bit before jumping into the fray. D.C., Chicago, Boston, and even L.A. — they all tend to allow New York to sort itself out before raising the hopes and dreams of people who aren’t paying NYC prices.
Not this year.
Ropes & Gray is jumping right into the middle of the bonus battle. For first and second year associates, they’ll be following the early payouts from Cravath and S&C. But further up the scale, where CSM and S&C diverge, Ropes & Gray is… not taking a position.
Yeah, Ropes wants to do its part to lock in the low bonuses for junior people, but for more senior people it’ll do it on a case-by-case basis….
Check out the Ropes bonus memo. They want to make it very clear that junior people are getting shafted while leaving themselves open to pay what they have to in order to retain top people:
We are announcing standard bonuses and total compensation for associates in the classes of 2009 and 2010 as follows:
As you know, we have an activity target of at least 1,900 billable and pro bono hours to be eligible for a bonus. This year, we have again increased bonuses from the above scale for associates who worked substantially more than the targeted amount, maintained bonuses for many associates who worked less than the target, and decreased rather than eliminated bonuses for many associates who worked substantially less that the target. We have also adjusted bonuses in unusual circumstances where an associate’s performance review is substantially below our expectations. Our career associates and London associates are compensated in accordance with their respective markets, so their compensation will be different.
For more senior associates, bonuses will, as always, be determined and communicated individually. These bonuses will reflect personal contributions assessed on both a qualitative and quantitative basis as well as prevailing market compensation.
As you know, it is becoming increasingly critical that we bill clients promptly at the end of each month, and timely diaries are also essential to our ability to monitor and manage alternative fee arrangements with clients. For these reasons, adhering to our diary standards is absolutely crucial. As previously announced, lawyers violating our diary standards have received an automatic bonus reduction.
All bonuses will be paid by direct deposit on December 23, 2011. Associates must be employed by the firm on that date in order to be eligible for bonuses. Compensation for associates who joined us during the year or who were on reduced schedules will be prorated appropriately.
We are proud of the extraordinary lawyers who comprise this firm and of their shared values and teamwork. On behalf of the entire partnership, thank you for your contribution and professionalism.
R. Bradford Malt
John T. Montgomery
The only reason I can see for Ropes jumping in at this point is to try to lock in those low bonus numbers for the Boston market. Ropes talks about looking at market conditions — which I interpret as spring bonuses — for more senior people. But does this memo mean first- and second-year Ropes associates won’t be getting a spring bonus, even if S&C and other firms go in that direction?
Is it possible that we’re really looking at a bonus season that will be worse than last year?
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of bonuses