Arnold & Porter, Associate Bonus Watch 2011, Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Finally, Someone Is Paying Less Than Cravath

In case you were wondering, it’s pretty much time to panic about the lack of spring bonuses. Believe it or not, Biglaw could actually allow bonuses to go down despite soaring profits. But that’s a post for another day.

The bad news today is that after a trend of firms easily topping the low bonuses set by the former “market leaders” at Cravath, we’re now looking at a firm that claims it is top tier, but is paying demonstrably less than the already sad CSM bonus amount.

Well, check that, if you bill upwards of 2400 hours at the firm, you might make a little more than your counterparts at Cravath. And hell, if you bill upwards of 2800 hours, you might really do well for yourself (which should help with the alimony payments after your spouse divorces you). But if you are just a standard, 2000 hour biller, the firm didn’t even match Cravath.

I don’t know, maybe making a pathetic bonus payment isn’t so much of an issue in Washington, D.C.?

At Arnold & Porter, some people who billed 2000 hours can expect to receive a bonus that is just 60% of what Cravath is giving out to everybody. Here is the underwhelming A&P bonus scale.

And that only covers the 69% of A&P associates who got a bonus at all. The other 31% of the firm didn’t hit 2000 hours and didn’t get any bonus. While you ponder that, I want you to think about how many people at the firm really hit 2600 or 2800 hours when a full 30% of associates couldn’t even scratch out 2000.

The raw numbers aren’t the only reason why tipsters are pissed:

[The bonus is] something like 60% of market, at a supposedly top-tier firm. Insane. And to add insult to injury, this asshole has the nerve to write: “The 2011 scale reflects that the Firm’s overall financial performance was strong in 2011, and the bonus scale in future years could be different.” Are you kidding me? We reserve the right to pay even less than 60% of market in the future if our “overall financial performance” isn’t as strong? Just insulting.

Yeah, the line is just as douchey when you put it in context:

As we previously announced, the Firm is awarding associate bonuses for work performed at Arnold & Porter in 2011 and U.S. associates who have qualified for such bonuses will be informed of their eligibility today via email. Eligible associates in our London and Brussels offices will be notified later this week. Approximately 69% of all Firm associates will be receiving bonuses in respect to their 2011 performance and the range of bonuses awarded this year, including the merit component, was from $7,500 to $78,000, depending on class year.

Bonuses were based on a combination of factors including productivity, the quality of an associate’s work, the extent to which an associate has performed at a level commensurate with his/her seniority, and whether an associate has complied with Firm policies, including timekeeping. To qualify for a bonus this year from a productivity perspective, associates had to have a minimum of 2000 combined billable, pro bono and business development hours (or a pro-rated part-time/part-year equivalent) and, with rare exceptions, 1800 of those hours (or a pro-rated part-time/part-year equivalent) had to be commercial billable hours. As in prior years, bonus amounts increased by class year and productivity. At higher hours thresholds, up to 15% of bonus-eligible hours could be pro bono or business development. In addition, associates whose performance or other contributions were identified as extraordinary based on input from the Associate Evaluation Committees were eligible for an upward adjustment in their bonus amounts. The 2011 scale reflects that the Firm’s overall financial performance was strong in 2011, and the bonus scale in future years could be different. We intend to announce shortly a date and time for a meeting with all associates to discuss the Firm’s 2011 performance and the results of the recently conducted associate survey.

Arnold & Porter didn’t pay out spring bonuses last year did pay out spring bonuses very late, in July according to tipsters. And now they’re rolling out with this. If you still want to call A&P “top tier,” you must be one of those people who suffers from chronically low expectations.

Earlier: Which Firms Are Definitely NOT Paying Spring Bonuses?

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