Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Reader Polls

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Bonus Season

We’re past Columbus Day, or as Daniel Snyder calls it, “Redskin Extermination Appreciation Day.” That means Biglaw bonus season is just around the corner.

Last year, Cravath kicked off bonus season late. They didn’t make an announcement until around Thanksgiving, the last Monday in November. But in the past few years, Cravath has announced as early as the first Monday in November. So bonuses should be here soon and might be here in a couple of weeks.

Will they be good? The difference between a good bonus and a crappy bonus has a lot to do with your expectations. What are yours?

Last year, Cravath doled out a $10,000 bonus for first-year associates. The lockstep bonuses ranged up to $60,000 for the most-senior associates.

The year before that, in 2011, Cravath year-end bonuses were a bit lower, ranging from $7,500 to $37,500. But if you include the “spring bonuses” that Cravath (and all the Biglaw firms that followed Cravath) offered in calendar year 2011, then total bonus compensation in 2011 was actually a bit higher than in 2012 (for most but not all class years).

To sum up, there has been movement, but not huge movement, in Biglaw bonus compensation over the past few years. Will 2013 be another year of relatively flat bonuses?

A $10K bonus is nothing to sneeze at, I suppose. It’s bigger than what my bonus will be this year. Of course, I write for a blog on the internet and got yesterday’s fake holiday off. Cravath associates contribute to a much bigger revenue operation, and have to service Biglaw partners. One would expect that they’re getting a bigger cut of the pie they’re helping to make.

Of course, since bonuses aren’t necessarily tied to the year-by-year health of the firm, with a variety of factors playing into the mix, there’s no reason bonuses couldn’t go down. I mean, how many secretaries can law firms lay off before they start having to cut back on the associate side of the ledger? If partners want a bigger piece of the pie, some of that money will come out of associate bonuses. I don’t think they’ll go down, but I occasionally underestimate the greed of Biglaw partners during times of economic uncertainty.

At the same time, bonuses could go up, you know. That’s also a possibility that doesn’t violate any federal laws or laws of physics that I’m aware of. Lateral hiring is a thing, remember. There is a lack of mid-level associates — since Biglaw firms laid off many would-be mid-levels back during the recession. One way to reward (and retain) the survivors is to offer nice bonuses.

How do you think this bonus season will shake out? Is it going to be like unwrapping a PS4 or Xbox One, or is it going to be like getting a $10 check from grandma?

What do you expect from bonus season?

  • Bonuses will be the same as last year. (55%, 726 Votes)
  • Bonuses will be better than last year. (32%, 421 Votes)
  • Bonuses will be worse than last year. (14%, 180 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,326

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Earlier: Breaking: Cravath Announces Year-End Bonuses; Let the 2012 Bonus Season Begin!

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