Associate Bonus Watch 2011, Associate Salaries, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Bingham McCutchen’s ‘Extraordinary’ Bonuses

Congratulations to Bingham McCutchen, which recently earned a spot on Fortune’s best companies to work for — for the eighth year in a row. And congratulations to Bingham’s nine new partners. It’s a very international group: these seven men and two women work out of London (3), New York (3), Hong Kong (1), Boston (1), and Hartford (1).

And congratulations to high-billing associates at Bingham. They were rewarded with “extraordinary” bonuses, as set forth in the firm’s bonus memo….

Sorry if we got your hopes up — “extraordinary bonus” is just a term of art at Bingham, referring to the bonuses paid to high-billing associates. While the sources we’ve heard from seem pleased with their bonuses, which are perfectly fine, I don’t know that they would qualify as “extraordinary” by the general standards of Biglaw.

Here’s the relevant language from the memo sent out by partner Tony Carbone:

Bonuses Based on 2011 Performance

The Management Committee approved a bonus schedule for attorneys in Classes I to VI and Counsel I to III (see chart below). Bonuses are awarded in accordance with our bonus policy when an Associate/Counsel achieves 1950 billable / 2100 core hours. Designated pro bono team members are bonus eligible at 1700 billable / 2100 core. Bonuses for Of Counsel and Staff Attorneys will be decided on an individual basis. Awarded bonuses will be paid to US attorneys on March 16 and to UK, Frankfurt, and Hong Kong attorneys on March 28.

If the table looks familiar, it should; it’s the Cravath scale.

But wait! That’s not the end of the Bingham bonus bounty:

We will again provide an extraordinary bonus for attorneys who worked substantially higher hours as detailed in the chart below. Qualifying hours for the extraordinary bonus include all billable and pro bono hours, provided that Associates/Counsel met the following hours expectations under the policy: 1950 billable hours (inclusive of 50 pro bono hours) and 2100 core hours; 1700 billable / 2100 core for designated pro bono team members. Extraordinary bonuses are being awarded again this year as a way to recognize our colleagues who have worked the hardest and made extraordinary contributions to the success of the firm.

And here is the table of extraordinary bonuses:

What does this all add up to? According to Carbone, “[t]he combination of class bonuses and extraordinary bonuses provides an opportunity for Associates and Counsel to achieve total bonus awards of $7500 to $67,500.”

As noted, the Bingham associates we’ve heard from seem happy. “The extra money to high billers is nice,” one told us.

But, this source added, “people are really hoping for a spring bonus rush to begin any day now….” Binghamites, you are not alone.

On the next page, you can view the full Bingham bonus memo, which also contains the firm’s base salary table. There was a typo in the first version of the memo, an error in the base compensation table that listed the fifth-year associate salary as $220,000 instead of $230,000. Ten grand is not a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but as a matter of principle, it would be upsetting to see one’s salary rolled back (especially since we’re no longer in the Great Recession). We’re guessing that the fifth-years were freaked out until the correction email went around (which happened about half an hour later).

Hopefully the secretary responsible for that typo still has a job. As a partner at another firm famously put it, “it is my understanding that the job market is not so good right now, in case you did not know.”

(The Bingham bonus and base salary memo appears on the next page.)

(hidden for your protection)

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