Well, the bonus scale has been set. Cravath led — by copying their bonus payments from last year — and now everybody is following. I’m on record saying that these bonuses are underwhelming and disappointing.
Gone are the days where the first-year bonus represented a significant chunk of your law school debt. Sure, you can pay down some interest with your bonuses, or you can prudently save it, or maybe even invest it. But you can also blow it. I mean, it’s a “bonus,” right? In this depressed market, your bonuses look less like deferred compensation and more like “found money.” Instead of making a fiscally sound decision, using your bonuses for profligate, discretionary spending might make you feel better. (Disclosure: Elie Mystal is not a registered financial adviser and is too… stupid to follow a budget.)
Bonuses range from $10,000 for first-year associates to $60,000 for senior people. Professor Paul Caron of Tax Prof Blog tells me that associates can expect to take home about 60% percent of that, depending on where they live and how many dependents they have.
What can a young lawyer buy with that? In addition to what’s in the ATL holiday gift guide, here are 10 things…
1. You could rent this beautiful apartment for a month.
You’re a “Wall Street” lawyer, you deserve a Wall Street address. With your first-year bonus, you could rent this lovely apartment in the financial district for one entire month! Think of the fun you’ll have. Marvel at the views.
It would be a pretty fun month. Just don’t try to buy anything with your bonus. It took me a while, but I found something for $36,000 all-in — 60% of your $60,000 senior associate bonus — that you can buy in New York… Worcester, New York:
Worcester is only about 180 miles up I-87, then a few hours west. So… bring your helicopter.
2. No, you can’t afford a helicopter for your ride in, but…
What about a helicopter drone? Instead of trusting a “messenger” to get your documents to court before the filing deadline, why not just fly them there in your own Draganfly X6 UAV? It’s what Amazon would do. It’s only about $15,000 on eBay, so it’s perfect for the mid-level who really wants to seem useful to the partners.
3. Maybe you should just get something for your dog?
There are companies who will make very expensive custom-made doghouses. La Petite Maison will apparently make this little number for $6,000. You should take care of your best friend, since as a Biglaw associate, you are already probably low on friends:
4. Oh, just buy the TV already.
The Sharp Aquos 80-inch, 3D HDTV (affiliate link), for course. Only $5,497.
Don’t act like I’m the only person to blow their bonus on a television.
5. Or the motorcycle.
Haven’t you ever wanted to roll into work on your classic-looking Vulcan? Everybody will think you are super cool. People will say, “Now there goes a lawyer with a life!” You can buy this bad boy on Coney Island for $5,599.
6. You need something in your office that says “I should have a bigger one.”
You’re a senior associate, you just got a $60,000 bonus, but you really want to be made partner. You need something in your office so people will know that you mean business and have what it takes to command the respect of clients and associates. This is that thing.
Life-sized Terminator. Only $30,000 on eBay. You’re welcome.
7. Daddy never got you a pony? Buy your own!
She’s listed as a SMART six-year-old mare. “Quiet, smart and quick, trained in multiple events.” Sounds like a good lawyer, a real generalist. She costs $6,000 on Horse Deals.
8. A day with Sarah.
9. An evening to ponder your life.
Your bonuses might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of your debts and desires. But on the other hand, you are insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. Maybe you should think about that. One evening of telescope time at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii runs roughly $53,700. So your big senior-associate bonus should buy you about two-thirds of a night to just… think.
10. OR you could learn a real, marketable skill!
The average cost for a two-year degree in “Plumbing Technology” is only $35,714, according to College Calculator. What better way to use your bonus than on training that can’t be outsourced and has a viable future in the American economy? Heck, maybe the whole point of going to law school was to earn enough money so that one day you could go and do something useful.