Associate Salaries, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Bonuses, Money, Pro Bono

Associate Bonus Watch: Goodwin Procter


On behalf of the firm and its partners, I would like to thank each of you for your contributions to the firm over the past year. As we moved into our second century, we had a very strong year, notwithstanding the challenges that continue to be presented by the industry-wide flat demand for legal services and today’s somewhat unpredictable business environment. This was due in no small part to your hard work and commitment. Thank you.

This memo outlines the 2013 bonus determinations, describes the firm’s plans for 2014 base salaries, and provides an overview of bonus eligibility for 2014.

2013 Bonus

For calendar year 2013, we continued our practice of awarding bonuses based on a combination of factors – legal excellence; the amount of time spent on billable work; pro bono and legal advice to the firm; shadow training time for first year associates; overall productivity and efficiency; the nature of firm investment time; and commitment to professional development.

Associates in good standing who met the 1,950 hour threshold and professional track attorneys in good standing who met their hours requirements during our fiscal year ending September 30, 2013 through annualized billable work, pro bono work and legal advice to the firm, and for first year associates shadow training time, are eligible to receive bonuses. Since bonuses are based on performance during our fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, recently hired attorneys (including associates in the Class of 2013) are not eligible to receive bonuses.

In addition, as Regina and Rob announced on December 11, 2013, we will count all pro bono hours the same as billable hours for bonus purposes. The firm has decided to apply this policy retroactively for fiscal year 2013, in recognition of the firm’s continued commitment to pro bono.

As in past years, the ARC members spent a significant amount of time assessing your reviews, contributions and professional development in order to provide you with meaningful feedback in your messaging sheet. The messaging sheets and the ratings provided to you were generated after a series of lengthy subcommittee and full committee meetings where the performance of every associate and professional track attorney at the firm was discussed. The Business Units and Legal Practice Areas also provided thoughtful and meaningful feedback throughout this process.

The firm’s compensation philosophy for all attorneys is to reward both hard work and high-quality work. In order to accomplish this, the percentage of the class bonus amount listed below that each associate will receive is determined based on the associate’s rating generated by ARC and his or her hours. The same weight is given to each component for each associate class to ensure consistency and fairness in bonus awards across the firm. Since bonuses reflect both hours worked and quality of performance, some highly-rated attorneys will receive bonuses below the class bonus because they worked fewer hours than many of their peers. Likewise, many attorneys will receive more than the class bonus in recognition of outstanding contributions and hard work.

Bonuses for professional track attorneys are determined on an individual basis, rather than by reference to the bonus scale listed below. However, a similar methodology factoring in hours and merit ratings is considered in determining bonuses for our professional track attorneys. As such, highly rated professional track attorneys with high hours will receive higher bonuses than similar-performing peers with lower hours. In addition, Counsel compensation is reviewed and approved by the firm’s Allocations Committee.

This year, 33% of associates receiving a bonus will receive an amount that is greater than the amount listed below for their class, 35% will receive their class amount, and 32% will receive less than their class amount. The average bonus is 102% of the class amount.

As has been the case in the past, bonuses will be pro-rated for recent hires, leaves of absence and part-time schedules during calendar year 2013.

Bonus determinations will be communicated individually to each associate and professional track attorney on January 22nd. Bonuses will be paid by direct deposit on January 24th.

2014 Base Compensation Levels

Our base salary scale for U.S.-based associates will remain the same as 2013. We will recognize and reward our salaried associates for their contributions through the class year bumps in base salary as listed below. The class year bumps will be effective January 1, 2014, and base salary adjustments will be reflected in the January 24th monthly paycheck.

Base compensation for professional track attorneys was determined on an individual basis and will also be effective January 1, 2014, and will be reflected in the January 24th monthly paycheck.

Base salary determinations will be communicated individually to each associate and professional track attorney on January 22, 2014.

Bonus Eligibility for 2014

As always, quantitative and qualitative components will form the basis for bonus eligibility and awards in 2014. The 2014 bonus eligibility threshold for associates will continue to be 1,950 hours during the fiscal year. Hours requirements for professional track attorneys are also unchanged for 2014 bonus determinations. ARC will consider the following when determining whether an attorney has met the required threshold.

  • Billable hours
  • Pro bono hours
  • Legal advice to the firm
  • Shadow training under the firm’s shadow training policy

As has been the case in the past, bonuses for associates and professional track attorneys will continue to be pro-rated for recent hires, leaves of absence and part-time schedules based on the calendar year.

Pro Bono and Investment (“91”) Time

The firm remains committed to the Pro Bono Institute Pledge of dedicating 3% to 5% of its annual billable hours to pro bono legal matters and has asked that all of the firm’s lawyers commit a minimum of 50 hours annually to pro bono. Goodwin Procter believes that pro bono service is a shared contribution on the part of the firm and each individual attorney.

The firm strongly encourages attorneys to expand their professional development through investment or “91” time, which includes involvement in marketing activities, knowledge management, Business Unit and Legal Practice Area initiatives, training and firm committees. In 2014, ARC will continue to focus on the quality, not the quantity, of these efforts, although each associate should aim for at least 100 hours as a guideline. All attorneys are expected to invest their time in a way that challenges them professionally and contributes both to the firm and to their own development.

ARC will assess the quality of attorneys’ investment hours on that basis, but as in 2013, investment hours will not count toward the 1,950 bonus eligibility threshold.


We recognize that you may have questions about the 2013 bonus program and/or the 2014 base salaries. We will convene three meetings (one for associates at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT, one for Counsel at 3:45 p.m. ET
/12:45 p.m. PT and one for Senior, Department and Discovery attorneys at 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT) on Tuesday, January 21st to discuss these plans and answer any questions you may have. Additional details on ARC’s work and bonus determinations will be provided at these meetings. A calendar request will follow shortly.

If you would like to submit questions anonymously in advance of the meetings, please use our online survey by 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT on Tuesday, January 21st. We will make every effort to address your questions. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to call me, Heidi Goldstein Shepherd, any ARC member or your Office, Department, BU or Legal Practice Area leaders, with any questions or comments.

Again, thank you for your hard work and many contributions to the firm.

Scott A. Webster, chair, attorney review committee (ARC)

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