Associate Bonus Watch 2011, Associate Salaries, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Bonuses, Money, Pro Bono

Associate Bonus Watch: Goodwin Procter Makes Good

Tomorrow, associates at Goodwin Procter will receive individualized news of their bonuses. You may recall that last month, when ATL’s new director of research, Brian Dalton, compiled a list of Biglaw’s ten most generous firms — i.e., the ten firms that pay the best bonuses, when measured against their profits per partner — Goodwin did good, winning fourth place. (The firm fares well in rankings; last month, it made Crain’s list of best places to work in New York.)

Will this year’s bonuses preserve Goodwin’s good standing? Let’s find out. Although the individual amounts are being communicated tomorrow, the firm has outlined its overall approach in a memo….

Earlier this week, partner Scott Webster, chair of Goodwin’s attorney review committee, sent around a memo explaining the firm’s 2011 bonuses and 2012 base salaries. The memorandum can be read in full on the next page of this post. Here’s the key language:

Associates in good standing who met the 1,950 hour threshold during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, through billable work, pro bono work (up to 150 hours) and legal advice to the firm will receive bonuses.

The 2011 bonuses are determined by reference to the bonus scale listed below. Individual bonus awards in each class may be above or below these amounts based on an evaluation by ARC of the factors described above. About 37 percent of associates receiving bonuses will receive the amount listed below for their class, and about 33 percent will receive more than the amount listed below.

The memo then reprints the Sullivan & Cromwell bonus scale, starting out at $7,500 for the class of 2010 and going up to $42,500 for the class of 2003 (and more senior). In a nutshell, Goodwin treats the S&C scale as its bonus lodestar: a third of the associates get more than the S&C scale, another third get the scale itself (which is effectively “market”), and a third get the Goody Proctor treatment. Building a bonus scale around the S&C / Cravath scale seems fair and reasonable, given the state of the Biglaw bonus market.

(Of course, many observers — e.g., Elie Mystal, Steven Harper, and law firm associates all across the land — believe that bonuses should be more generous than they are. If that’s your view, then you should direct your ire at places like Cravath and S&C, which play a major role in determining the going rate. Goodwin is merely keeping up with the Cravathians.)

As for base salaries, Goodwin is sticking with the status quo. The scale, viewable on the next page, starts at $160,000 for first-year associates and goes up to $280,000 for eighth-year associates.

The memo concludes by reminding associates of the importance of pro bono work:

The firm remains committed to the Pro Bono Institute Pledge of dedicating 3% to 5% of its annual billable hours to legal matters on behalf of people in poverty or to advance civil rights. Goodwin Procter believes that pro bono service is a shared contribution on the part of the firm and each individual attorney. As in 2011, the firm will credit up to 150 pro bono hours towards the 1,950 bonus eligibility threshold. Pro bono work in excess of 150 hours will continue to be considered by ARC when reviewing the quality of an attorney’s work.

Pro bono work: it’s a good thing at Goodwin.

You can read the complete GP memo on the next page (or by clicking here). If you have bonus news you’d like to share with us, please email us or text us (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS). Thanks.

Earlier: Keeping Up With the Cravathians: The Ten Most Generous (or Foolish?) Law Firms
Crain’s 2011 ‘Best Places to Work in NYC’ List Includes Seven Law Firms
Prior ATL coverage of bonuses

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