Biglaw, Bonuses, Job Survey, Money, Partner Profits, Reader Polls

Your 2013 Bonus Season Predictions

It’s nearly that time of year, when all the grueling hours that Biglaw associates have put in will pay off in the form of fat bonuses. Or don’t pay off, with miserly bonuses, or nothing at all. Or something in between? Point being, we have no idea how the 2013 bonus season will play out. Presumably, the answer is buried somewhere deep in Allen Parker’s unknowable heart.

The signs thus far are not especially encouraging, at least for those with a vested interest. (Admittedly, for most, this is all much ado about white-shoe people problems.)

Yes, Cravath might be doing well, at least if its large partner class is any indication. But on the subject of law firm 2013 profits in general, the Citi Bank Private Law Firm Group’s report on the first half of the year concluded:

Given the current demand environment and the likelihood of ongoing pricing pressure, it will be a challenge for the industry to achieve enough revenue growth during the second half of 2013 to ease the margin pressure we saw during the first half. Rather than seeing a repeat of last year’s result, we think it’s more likely that we will see a flat year.

Shorter version: looks flat, at best. To be sure, Citi hardly has a flawless track record as a prognosticator, and profits and bonuses don’t exactly correlate.

Over the past few days, we’ve been asking you for your predictions on the impending 2013 bonus season. When asked when will the first firm will announce 2013 bonuses, a majority of our survey respondents believe the news will break next week, the week of Thanksgiving:

The week of Thanksgiving: 57%
Monday (i.e., November 18): 10%
Before Hanukkah: 13%
Before New Year’s: 13%
All Your Bonus Are Belong To Us: 7%

A similar majority of readers believe that 2013 bonuses will resemble 2012’s:

2013 Bonuses will be Similar to Last Year: 54%
Better Than Last Year: 34%
Worse Than Last Year: 12%

Reader comments on the bonus question were all over the map. Some of you are expecting a nice windfall, while others are simply happy to be employed. A sampling of reader comments:

“Until a week ago, I would have told you that bonuses should be roughly similar to last year, on the basis that the market is not materially better or worse than last year. But with the past week’s news of lay-offs and buy-out offers, I am less than certain. I would not be surprised to see bonuses cut somewhat (not drastically, but somewhat) off the back of the recent string of bad news.”

“This year should be the year were top-grossing firms (V-10, and the like) give out bonus commensurate with their profits while smaller / less profitable firms will give out lower bonuses.”

“The bonus memos will all say ‘Your 2013 Bonus is $0’ and ‘You’re not fired! Thanks for your hard work in 2013!'”

“I’m lying about thinking they will be better than last year, but I’m pretending to myself that a poll suggesting people expect higher will put pressure on partners to make them higher.”

Thanks to the approximately 600 readers who responded to our 2013 Bonus Season Survey. When the bonus season kicks off for real, you all know where to turn for complete coverage.

Earlier: New Partner Watch: Another Big Partner Class At Cravath

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