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

Associate Bonus Watch: McDermott Will & Emery

Yes, we know: everyone is waiting for, hoping for, and praying for spring bonuses. We’ve been banging on that drum repeatedly in these pages, but let’s be honest: aren’t we just waiting on Sullivan & Cromwell? As far as we know, S&C is the only firm that stated, in its year-end bonus memo, that it “currently expects to pay a bonus in the Spring.” If Sullivan moves, others will; if it doesn’t, then we’ll be waiting a long time.

Anyway, here’s a sign of how late spring bonuses are. Last year, McDermott Will & Emery issued a consolidated bonus announcement, in which it combined year-end and spring bonuses. This time around, well, there’s nothing to combine.

But let’s get into it anyway. Last week, McDermott informed individual associates of their bonuses. What do MWE associates think of their pay?

Here’s a quick refresher on the MWE bonus system, from last year’s post:

Bonuses at McDermott are individualized, so there’s no bonus table to post. As you may recall, [in 2010] MWE announced its move to a non-lockstep compensation system with three levels, each with a different base salary: Level 1 at $145,000, Level 2 at $175,000, and Level 3 at $200,000.

Last year, MWE associates seemed very happy with their overall compensation. This year, it’s tougher to tell. One of our sources summed things up this way: “Reactions have been mixed, but that’s based on a small sample size.”

Our sample size is small as well, unfortunately. We heard from fairly junior associate who described the bonuses this year as “generous.” This tipster’s total compensation, base salary plus bonus, exceeded the comparable Cravath-scale amount by over $25,000. (We’re being a little vague to protect confidentiality.)

(Of course, if Cravath had issued spring bonuses, the feat of beating Cravath would be more impressive. Since the firm has not, at least not yet, exceeding Cravath comp is significantly less difficult this year.)

Another MWE source, a midlevel associate, was also enthusiastic: “So far people seemed very pleased.” This individual, with “good hours” (over 2000) and “good reviews,” received total compensation — consisting of Level 2 base comp of $175,000, plus a bonus that represented a true-up to the comparable New York base salary and an additional amount — that exceeded Cravath’s total pay package for that seniority level (although not by a huge amount, under $15,000).

“People who bill lot of hours I think really got paid,” this tipster told us. “Way over Cravath.”

But as we’ve stated before regarding individualized bonus schemes, we have no way of knowing whether the reactions of the handful of people we’ve heard from (under half a dozen) are representative of the broader mass of McDermott associates. If you work at MWE, feel free to comment on this post to share your views on the latest bonuses.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: McDermott Will & Emery’s Good News

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