Biglaw, Bonuses, Money

Associate Bonus Watch: Sullivan & Cromwell Breaks Its Silence

A major theme of the 2013 bonus season so far: WWSCD — What Will Sullivan & Cromwell Do? With a few exceptions — like Boies Schiller, land of the $300,000 bonuses — everyone has fallen in line behind Cravath.

But we (and many others) wondered whether S&C, Cravath’s arch-rival, might up the ante. As I wrote while discussing the Cleary Gottlieb bonuses, “When it comes to challenging the compensation dominance of Cravath, House Shenker (or should it still be House Rodge?) is the strongest contender. Recall that it was Sullivan & Cromwell’s generous 2011 spring bonuses that ignited a trend that spread throughout Biglaw.”

The other white shoe just dropped: S&C just announced. Did SullCrom beat Cravath? Or mention possible spring bonuses?

(Please note the UPDATES at the end of this post.)

Sadly for some associates, especially Greedy Associates, no and no. S&C sends out individualized compensation emails, so we don’t have the full scale, but thus far everyone we’ve heard from has reported a match of the Cravath scale (as well as 2014 base salaries consistent with the Simpson Thacher scale, which hasn’t budged since January 2007). Sullivan & Cromwell’s pay date is the same as Cravath as well: Friday, December 20.

Bonus season 2013 is effectively over. Slow curtain, the end.

How do S&C associates feel about the news? Reactions are mixed. From someone who clearly belongs on Team Elie:

Litigation associates are working like dogs and the firm is doing incredibly well. Clear statement that junior/mid-level associates are fungible so long as law schools overproduce and 2nd tier firms aren’t doing the business they used to.

On the other hand, from a member of Team Lat:

My honest reaction is, hooray! I get a big wad of cash. No bitterness about that.

That strikes me as a healthy response. While more money is always nice, especially if you have law school loans to pay off, Biglaw isn’t all about the benjamins. If you’re doing interesting work with colleagues whose company you enjoy, that should be bonus enough.

Happy holidays, S&C associates, and congratulations on your big wads of cash!

UPDATE (5:05 p.m.): Or not such happy holidays? Some Sullivan associates still see this glass as half-empty. For example:

Here’s the thing about S&C’s bonuses. The firm leaders are very big about talking about how we are the best lawyers in the business. If true — and it is in some areas — then shouldn’t we pay our associates accordingly? The firm made NINE partners. It is probably more flush than any other firm. It can afford to pay better. Whichever associate said “hooray” over this bonus is probably junior and an idiot.

UPDATE (5:52 p.m.): We’ve heard from at least one associate who got a half-Cravath amount for their class (but we don’t know how widespread this is or why this individual did not receive a standard bonus).

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch (2012): Sullivan & Cromwell Speaks
Associate Bonus Watch (2013): A $300K Bonus At Boies Schiller

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