Biglaw, Bonuses, Money, Partner Issues, Partner Profits

Associate Bonus Watch: Irell & Manella Beats The Market Again (But By Less Than Usual)

The elite California law firm of Irell & Manella is a top firm for diversity. It’s a top firm for associate satisfaction. And, on a related note to associate satisfaction, it’s a top firm for bonuses.

Year-end bonuses at Irell & Manella for associates who meet their hours typically beat the New York market by a healthy amount. In recent years, they’ve been as high as twice the Cravath scale.

Alas, that’s not the case this year. But the Irell bonuses are still nothing to scoff at….

Bonuses at Irell & Manella are done in lockstep fashion; everyone who hits the 2000-hour mark gets the bonus specified for their seniority level (i.e., there are no enhanced bonuses for high hours or performance). Here is the 2013 Irell bonus scale, with the market (read: Cravath) amount noted parenthetically:

Class of 2012: $15,000 (market: $10,000)
Class of 2011: $20,000 (market: $14,000)
Class of 2010: $30,000 (market $20,000)
Class of 2009: $40,000 (market: $27,000)
Class of 2008: $50,000 (market: $34,000)
Class of 2007: $60,000 (market: $40,000)
Class of 2006: $75,000 (market: $50,000)
Class of 2005: $75,000 (market: $60,000)

As you can see, it works out to about 1.5 times the Cravath scale (except for the class of 2005; but maybe they care less, since they might be getting promoted to partner or on their way out the door).

It is less generous than the 2012 Irell scale, which worked out to about 1.75 times Cravath, and the 2011 Irell scale, which was double Cravath. But it’s still very nice.

How are folks receiving this year’s bonuses? One tipster told us, “People seem lukewarm; maybe a little apprehensive about the downward trend despite very — and increasingly — profitable years.”

But in fairness to the Irell partnership, have the past few years truly been that fabulous? As The Recorder noted back in February, Irell’s most recent jump in profits per partner — a hefty 19 percent — was fueled in part by a 9 percent drop in the number of partners.

We might do a longer story on goings-on at Irell based on some things we’ve been hearing. The firm has one of the nation’s top IP litigation practices — just this month, it got named California’s IP litigation department of the year — but the legendary Morgan Chu will turn 63 on December 27 (early birthday wishes to him), and people wonder whether he might retire soon.

What does the future hold for Irell & Manella in the post-Chu era? How strong are the firm’s non-IP-litigation practices, and have they fared as well as IP lit over the past few years? And what’s up with that 9 percent dip in the number of partners?

If you have thoughts to share for our possible story, please email us (subject line: “Irell & Manella”) or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

Revenue Growth Modest at Many Firms, But Profits Surge [The Recorder (sub. req.)]

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch (2012): Irell & Manella Beats the Market
Associate Bonus Watch (2011): Irell Whacks Cravath, Again

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