Associate Bonus Watch 2011, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Irell Whacks Cravath, Again

As we’ve been saying, it’s not that hard to give your associates a better bonus than what they’re doling out at Cravath. At the elite California firm of Irell & Manella, they do it every year.

Once again, Irell has issued bonuses that put Cravath’s to shame. No muss, no fuss — multiple sources tell us the the bonuses were much bigger than the Cravath bonuses.

So how much bigger are we talking about?

Take the Cravath scale and multiply by two — the Irell memo literally states that the firm’s bonuses are “double Cravath.” To spell that out, the Irell bonus scale looks like this:

Class of 2010 — $15,000
Class of 2009 — $20,000
Class of 2008 — $30,000
Class of 2007 — $40,000
Class of 2006 — $50,000
Class of 2005 — $60,000
Class of 2004 — $75,000

These numbers shouldn’t come as a shock. As you may recall, Irell doubled the NYC market last year, and it doubled the NYC market the year before last. And while they were a little bit late to the spring bonus party, Irell paid “mid-year” bonuses in July.

Simply put, Irell pays bigger bonuses than Cravath. I’m not sure all top law students know that, but there it is.

But you’ll have to work for that money, and you might not love every second of it. While Irell & Manella people are generally happy with their compensation and their perch high above the plebeians at Cravath, it’s not all milk and honey at Irell. Notes one tipster:

2x Cravath topping out at 75K. Despite the 2x levels for two years now, associates are not happy: 104 of 108 on the Amlaw Summer Associate rankings and dropping from 55 to 114 (of 123) on the mid-level associate satisfaction surveys for 2011.

Question: how does a firm offer a 2X bonus and still finish at the bottom?

Well, presumably you’ve got to work your ass off to earn a bonus that’s twice as much as the Cravathians. Folks have been busting their humps, and money isn’t everything. Some people certainly have their issues with Irell.

But I don’t think firms like Irell pay big bonuses just so they can do well on associate surveys. Firms pay bonuses so they can recruit top people and keep top people. With these numbers, I don’t think any Irell hotshot will be jumping ship for Cravath or a Cravath follower anytime soon.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Let’s Make a List of Firms Like Irell & Manella That Are Killing Cravath Bonuses
Associate Bonus Watch: Irell Announces Mid-Year Bonuses
Associate Bonus Watch: Irell & Manella Pays Twice S&C

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