Associate Bonus Watch 2012, Biglaw, Bonuses, john quinn, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Not Enough Silver and Gold on the Quinn Christmas Tree?

Partners: Alright you associates, ready to get happy about bonuses?
Quinn Associate: I’d say we are.
Cravath Associate: Yeah, let’s sing it now!
Partners: Okay, Kirkland?
Kirkland Associate: Okay!
Partners: Okay, Cravath?
Cravath Associate: Okay!
Partners: Okay Quinn? … Quinn? … QUINN EMANUEL!!!
Quinn Associate: OKAY!!

Yes, the Chipmunk Christmas Song is the perfect holiday analogy for Biglaw bonus season this year. And not just because Biglaw associates do work that talking chipmunks could accomplish [zing]. I’m looking at associate reactions from all these firms, and it just seems like expectations are playing a much larger role than the actual dollar amounts.

You’ve got Cravath associates in the role of Theodore. Maybe they’re not as sharp as some of the others, but they’re just kind of happy to be here. Kirkland associates are playing Simon — nerdy and a bit grumpy, but they’re not going to make a big scene about it.

And then you have Quinn associates, playing Alvin, the diva. Their bonuses came out just before Christmas, and they seem really angry about this situation. Even though most of them are making more than Cravath.

I guess they were expecting a hula-hoop….

Quinn Emanuel bonuses have traditionally rewarded hard work with extra pay. Cravath serves as a baseline, and if you work hard and well, you can expect to get a lot more money that you would have gotten at CSM.

Last Thursday night, John Quinn sent out a short note to associates letting them know that bonuses were coming:

And year end bonus checks will be distributed tomorrow. Its basically along the model of what we did last year—most of you will get more than the “leading brand x” firm grid—many of you much more.

Thanks for all the hard work, brilliance, creativity, and care you have shown in representing our clients and the firm this year.

John B. Quinn

Hahaha, he just called Cravath “Brand X.” I guess this is what happens when you try to pay people with prestige points.

In any event, Quinn associates immediately jumped on this message:

Different from prior years, where he laid out the scale with increases in tiers by hours billed. My bonus was significantly less than I was expecting, given jbq’s statement that “it’s basically along the model of what we did last year” and that many of us would get “much more” than “leading brand x” firm. Because the firm hasn’t released the tiers, I can’t say exactly how much lower they are than last year, but in talking to other associates, it seems as those it might have been as much as halved. In any case, I billed well over the minimum and got about 15% more than Cravath scale. Maybe even worse — ok, not really, but definitely not better — is the perfunctory and almost dismissive tone of the e-mail. It’s like jbq is virtually tousling our hair and saying, “Don’t worry yer pretty little heads, kids, we’re takin’ care of ya. Now get out there and bill.”

Just like we saw with Kirkland & Ellis associates, making more than they make at Cravath just isn’t worth what it used to be.

We (and a number of associates) asked Quinn Emanuel leaders for the bonus grid, in order to get a sense of the overall picture. On Friday, the firm emailed it to all associates:

Some of you have asked about the schedule that was used in calculating bonuses. It is set forth below. In case it is not clear from the formatting, the amounts ranging from $7500 to $45,000 correspond with the 2000-2099 column, $10,000-$60,000 corresponds with the 2100-2399 column, $12,500-$65,000 corresponds with the 2400-2699 column and $15,000-$70,000 corresponds with the 2700 and Above column. All members of the Class of 2012 are receiving a prorated portion of $10,000, based on how long they have been at the firm. Happy holidays and thank you.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
December 2012 Bonus Schedule

*Billable hour credit given for non-billable time spent on collection E&O matters and up to 100 hours of probono/AAIT matters and time spent on approved travel, pitches and recruiting.

**Attorneys above 2,000 hours who were near a bonus level cut-off were rounded up to the next level

And here’s the scale from last year:

Okay, if you compare the two, it seems like junior associates who billed an extreme amount of hours did worse this year than last year. Meanwhile, senior associates who billed insane hours did better this year than last year. And everybody who billed more than 2100 hours did better than Cravath. So there you go.

But associates at Quinn who emailed Above the Law were pissed off:

I predict a big exodus. Ppp is all they care about.

Exodus = escaping bondage under Pharaoh.
Christmas = Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Low billing associates were protected while high billing associates took a hit? How? Why?

Okay, calm down there.

Do you know how many hours I billed? And all I got was this T-shirt that was a little nicer than Cravath’s tank top.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here. If you worked so hard at Quinn this year that you couldn’t possibly sustain a normal life, then you are pretty angry that Quinn didn’t pay you enough money to fill the giant hole created by a life that is all work and no play.

But let me submit, in this holiday season, that there’s really no amount of money that can “make you whole” if you are spending all of your time chained to a desk instead of being there for precious moments with your family and friends.

I mean, here we are, it’s just the day after Christmas, and if you are reading this you are probably working. It’s Boxing Day and you’re doing work? What are you doing here?

Come to think of it, what am I doing here? Even if I were getting a Quinn Emanuel bonus, I’d still rather be hanging out with my kid — and all he does is poop and then laugh while I clean it up.

If this year’s bonus really made you sad, maybe it’s a sign that you should be doing something else right now.

UPDATE (12/27/2012, 3:00 p.m.): Quinn has acted to address this situation. Please see Associate Bonus Watch: Quinn Emanuel Cuts Extra Check For Top End Billers.

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Kirkland Associates Did Better Than Cravath, But Not All Of Them Are Happy
Breaking: Cravath Announces Year-End Bonuses; Let the 2012 Bonus Season Begin!

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