There seems to be lots of good news emanating from Akin Gump these days. Last month, for example, the firm won the Above the Law holiday card contest — a contest it has traditionally dominated, with two wins under its belt.

A cool holiday card is fun, but above-market bonuses are funner. And it seems that Akin Gump can boast about bonuses now too.

This is quite a departure from last year. Why are Akin associates so happy about their bonuses?

In 2013, as you may recall, there was bellyachin’ at Akin over bonuses. Last year, the firm followed its traditional approach of matching the Cravath scale in New York and paying “bonuses that are competitive with local markets” outside New York. But some non-NYC associates found these bonuses to be “surprisingly low” rather than competitive.

This year, Akin Gump is doing things differently, as you can see from the bonus memo issued yesterday by hiring partner David Botter (reprinted in full on the next page). First, the firm has adopted a unified bonus approach, eliminating the New York/non-New York distinction. Second, the firm appears to be paying better bonuses:

Our bonus program provides market competitive bonuses in all of our U.S. offices using the market scale set forth below. We are pleased that 75% of all U.S. associates and counsel received a 2013 bonus, with our highest performing associates eligible to earn bonuses that are substantially above the market scale.

Of those associates and counsel receiving a bonus, 36% will receive a bonus that is greater than the market scale, 55% will receive a market scale bonus and less than 10% will receive a bonus less than the market scale. The average bonus across all U.S. offices is at least 105% of the market scale class amount.

It’s that above-market average bonus that has attracted attention. One tipster told us, “While no one has yet received their bonus amounts, most associates are shocked at the prospects of a bonus at or above Cravath in offices outside New York. This is a drastic departure from prior years.”

Of course, note that not all Akin associates received bonuses. About a quarter of associates and counsel did not receive bonuses at all (perhaps because they didn’t hit the 1950-hour mark). But it seems that many associates who did receive bonuses received fairly good ones, at least compared to past practice. Congratulations, Akin associates, on the bonus bounty.

What else is going on at Akin? Last month, the first announced eight new partners:

Robert James Boller (New York) – Litigation
Brian T. Carney (New York) – Litigation
Lisa Leiman Hearn (London) – Corporate (M&A)
Ryan M. Katz (New York) – Tax
Meredith A. Lahaie (New York) – Financial Restructuring
Daniel J. Paulos (New York) – Tax
Matthew A. Pearson (Philadelphia) – Intellectual Property (Patent Litigation)
Svetlana Anatolievna Volevich (Moscow) – Corporate

There’s a nice diversity here in terms of practice areas — two tax partners is notable — and also in terms of gender. Almost 40 percent of the new Akin Gump partners are women, which is higher than the industry standard of 30.6 percent (according to the American Lawyer).

There’s less diversity in terms of geography. New York no longer gets special treatment in terms of bonuses, but it does seem to have a privileged position in terms of partnership decisions. As one of our sources noted, “There are FIVE new partners from New York, and none from DC or Texas. If the power shift from the firm’s traditional power bases of Texas and DC isn’t obvious at this point, people need get some Obamacare Lasik.”

Actually, Obamacare is arguably bad news for Lasik because of how it limits the amount of money that can be put into Flexible Spending Accounts (which is how I paid for my Lasik surgery years ago). But that shouldn’t worry Akin Gump associates too much; they can afford to pay out of pocket, thanks to this year’s generous bonuses.

(Flip to the next page to read the full Akin Gump bonus memo.)


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