Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Skadden Arps Announces

Not many firms try to trump Cravath, the traditional market leader when it comes to year-end bonuses. Most major firms are followers.

There are a few exceptions, and one of the exceptions is Skadden Arps. Back in 2008, Skadden announced bonuses before Cravath, and those Skadden bonuses turned out to be much higher than Cravath’s. When most other firms subsequently followed Cravath instead of Skadden, my colleague Elie Mystal mocked these firms for their “Half-Skadden” bonuses.

Skadden just announced its 2013 year-end bonuses. Did it beat the Cravath bonuses, or did it join them?

It joined them. It seems that Skadden has learned its lesson since 2008. When bonus season rolls around, it’s Cravath’s world and the rest of us are just living in it.

As longtime followers of bonus coverage know, Skadden does not issue a universal bonus memo listing every associate class and their bonus. Instead, a memo from executive partner Eric Friedman goes out to each class that states the applicable bonus for that particular class. (We’ve pasted the Friedman form memo on the next page; it’s pretty much the same as last year’s memo.)

We’ve heard from the following Skadden classes: 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007, and 2005. Skadden has followed the 2013 Cravath bonus scale at all of these seniority levels except for the class of 2013. Skadden is paying class of 2013 members a flat $2,500, instead of Cravath’s prorated $10,000. There’s not a huge difference there.

So we’re guessing that Skadden has matched Cravath across the board (not counting the minor divergence for the class of 2013). But if you’re from one of the missing classes and received news of a non-Cravath bonus, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).

Congratulations, Skadden associates, on this repeat of the 2012 bonuses. Some might disagree with me, but as I said when Elie and I debated Biglaw bonuses on CNBC this afternoon, this is good news. In uncertain times, holding your ground is something worth celebrating.

(If you’re interested, you can check out the form memo from executive partner Eric Friedman on the next page.)

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