Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Debevoise, Linklaters, And Schulte, Oh My!

In the wake of recent matches of the Cravath scale from Simpson Thacher and then Sullivan & Cromwell, it’s looking likely that associate bonus season is over. Sure, there will be outliers — like Boies Schiller and its $250,000 and even $300,000 bonuses — but most Biglaw firms will probably end up following Cravath.

Still, as Staci Zaretsky observed earlier today, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that some firm that hasn’t announced yet will beat Cravath. And if you’ve bought a ticket for Friday’s $400 million Mega Millions drawing, you believe in one-in-a-million — actually, one-in-259-million — chances.

Three firms just announced their year-end associate bonuses for 2013. Let’s scratch off these tickets and see what lies underneath….

Three firms, one bonus scale — the Cravath scale. Debevoise & Plimpton and Linklaters matched Cravath, as they’ve done in years past.

Schulte Roth & Zabel, Debevoise’s neighbor in 919 Third Avenue, is kind of matching Cravath. There are two twists, which we’ve seen from Schulte in years past.

We’ll start with the good news. If you’re a high biller, SRZ will pay you more: an additional $10,000 for the 2300-hour mark, and $10,000 on top of that for the 2500-hour mark (i.e., a total of $20,000 for associates north of 2500). Billing more than 2500 hours isn’t fun, but if you’re going to do it — as some associates at Cravath and S&C have certainly done this year — it’s nice to be rewarded financially for it.

And now the bad news: a two-stage payout. Schulte will pay the first half of its bonuses on December 27 and the second half at the end of the first quarter of 2014. So if you want to lateral out of Schulte in the first few weeks of the new year, you’ll leave some money on the table.

Which system do you prefer: the Schulte system, with extra cash for high billers and a two-part payout, or the standard Cravath system, lockstep for all and with a single payment date? Feel free to debate in the comments.

(We don’t have the memos from Debevoise or Linklaters — feel free to send, and we’ll add them as an update — but you can check out the Schulte memo on the next page.)

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