Adoption, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Gay, Perks / Fringe Benefits, Travel / Vacation

A Biglaw Firm Institutes A Smaller Hours Requirement


Vacation Policy Change — US Lawyers

All – As a follow-up to the presentation at today’s meeting, we want to confirm for you the upcoming change in our vacation policy. As a result of the combination with some of our legacy firms, we have operated under two vacation policies for a period of time: one policy provides an accrued benefit and the other policy provides vacation time at each lawyer’s discretion.

Each year, the firm undertakes a benchmarking review of our full benefit offerings to ensure that we are aligned with the market and our key competitor law firms. After careful consideration of the benchmarking information, and both internal programs, we have decided to uniformly adopt across our U.S. offices our policy that provides discretionary vacation time for all lawyers. We have made the business decision to adopt a discretionary vacation time policy in order to have a consistent benefit for our lawyers in the U.S., and to remain aligned with the market and our competitors. Like all firms in the current economic climate, we consider both the benefits and costs when making investments to support our lawyers who work hard to help the firm thrive.

The firm expects that its lawyers will continue to exercise sound, professional judgment in determining the amount of vacation time taken. Our intent is neither to provide unlimited, nor to unduly constrict time off. Lawyers should keep in mind the firm’s overall performance expectations. The most important of these expectations is providing clients with quality legal work and service and meeting the needs of your Practice Area / Group, as well as attaining annual hours requirements and fulfilling professional commitments to pro bono and other non-billable needs of the firm. Lawyers should continue to seek pre-approval for all vacation time from their partner supervisors / practice leaders.
As a result of this change in policy, the following parameters will be in place:

April 15 will be the last accrual for lawyers currently on the accrual method;

For parental leaves, lawyers will be permitted to use up to four weeks of vacation time to replace unpaid time;

Lawyers with accrued vacation balances will transition to the discretionary benefit on a rolling basis as they draw down their available accrual balance, which will be utilized first in their upcoming vacations until all accrued time is fully spent down, after which time they will then take vacation time under the new discretionary policy;

If lawyers depart the firm prior to spending down their balance, they will be paid out their remaining vacation time.


The firm recognizes that employees choose to build their families in many ways. In order to support employees who are adoptive parents, the firm will provide adoption benefits that can be used for eligible adoption-related expenses incurred after January 1, 2012. In addition, this benefit can be used to pay surrogate fees, including surrogate mother medical costs, and resulting adoption and legal fees. Full-time employees may be reimbursed up to $7,500 per adoption with no lifetime limit. Part-time employees who work a minimum of 60% of full-time may be reimbursed on a prorated basis. If an employee and his or her spouse or domestic partner both work for the firm, only one employee can utilize the benefit for any one child.

This new program is available to any employee who has been employed on a non-temporary status for one year or more prior to requesting reimbursement, is in good standing with the firm, and is adopting a child 18 or under. Eligible expenses include legal and court costs, adoption agency fees, and transportation expenses.

For more information, please contact me.


Date: April 23, 2012
To: All Associates and Counsel
CC: All Partners, All Of Counsel
From: Anthony J. Carbone

RE: Associate & Counsel Hours and Discretionary Bonus Policy

This memorandum articulates the firm’s hours expectations and bonus policy, retroactively effective December 1, 2011. The firm’s hours expectations continue to reflect a desired balance between client billable work that is the foundation of our firm’s economic success and the non-billable contributions that underscore our commitment to pro bono and the wide range of firm citizenship activities that distinguish our firm and support personal growth and development. When the firm awards bonuses to associates and counsel, this policy would govern that process.

Combined Client Billable and Non-billable Hours Target

The combined client billable and non-billable hours required for associates/counsel to be bonus eligible is now 2,000 hours. Of this total, at least 1,900 will continue to be client billable hours. Up to 100 hours of pro bono work and up to 50 firm citizenship hours may count towards the 2,000 hour target.

Examples of associates/counsel who would meet the target

1. Associate/counsel who does 2,000 hours of client billable work.

2. Associate/counsel who does 1,900 hours of client billable work and 100 pro bono hours.

3. Associate/counsel who does 1,900 hours of client billable work, 50 hours of pro bono work, and 50 firm citizenship hours.

4. Associate/counsel who does 1,950 hours of client billable work and either 50 hours of pro bono work or 50 firm citizenship hours

Requirements for Class I

Associates in their first year of law practice will have a target of 1,800 client billable hours and 1,900 total client billable and non-billable hours.

Firm Citizenship Hours

Firm citizenship activities creditable toward bonus eligibility up to 50 hours constitute time billed under the following non-billable numbers:

[Table redacted.]

Hours Expectations and Modified Work Schedules and Firm Legal Work

Hours expectations for associates/counsel on firm-approved modified work schedules will be calculated based on the 2,000 hours expectation applicable to full-time associates/counsel. Hours expectations for of counsel, including of counsel with firm-approved modified work schedules, will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Hours billed on legal matters where the firm is the client will continue to count as client billable hours.

Discretionary Bonus Program for Associates and Counsel

Following the close of each billable year that runs from December 1 to November 30, firm management determines the amount, if any, of funds to be allocated to a discretionary bonus pool. The amount of the pool is based on a variety of factors, such as the firm’s profitability for the year, general economic conditions, and market information.

Bonus Eligibility

Associates/counsel will be eligible for bonus consideration in a billing year in which the firm has decided to award bonuses provided they are considered in good standing and have recorded a minimum of 2,000 hours (of which 1,900 must be billable). Associates/counsel designated as a core team member on a major pro bono matter that will require a significant commitment will be eligible for bonus consideration provided they are considered to be in good standing, have Practice Area Leader and Pro Bono Chair approval, and have recorded a minimum of 2,000 billable and pro bono hours combined, of which at least 1,700 hours are client billable hours.

All client billable and pro bono hours over the 2,000 hour target will be considered in any additional bonus decisions such as any “extraordinary bonus” the firm, at its discretion, provides. Associates/counsel must be employed by the firm up to and including the bonus payroll date to receive bonuses.

Hours Annualization for Bonus Eligibility Purposes

When the firm decides to award bonuses, hours will be annualized for bonus eligibility under the following circumstances:

1. Where an associate or counsel commences employment after December 1st in the relevant billing year. For associates/counsel who commence employment after September 1st, bonus eligibility will be made on a case-by-case basis.

2. Where an associate/counsel takes a leave of absence that falls under one of the following categories: (i) FMLA-qualifying leaves, including Parental Leave and approved Disability Leave; (ii) up to three weeks of approved Bar Exam Study Leave; (iii) Jury Duty; (iv) Bereavement Leave and (v) Military Service Leave.

For bonuses paid out based on annualized hours, the full bonus amount will be pro-rated to reflect the portion of the year the associate/counsel was actively working.

When conducting annual performance evaluations, the firm considers the overall time commitment associates/counsel invest in their professional development and the welfare of the firm. The following non-billable categories are considered Professional Development:

[Table redacted.]

Corporate Equality Index: Top Law Firms for Equality (2012) [Human Rights Campaign]

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