Associate Bonus Watch 2007

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgThe powers-that-be at Mayer Brown have made their decisions on bonus and salary adjustments, as announced in an email last night. And it appears that they’ve taken a page from the Dechert playbook, according to one associate:

“The second paragraph [of the memo] is a shock. We were never informed of financial ramifications for failing to enter our time.”

It might be slightly annoying, but it’s the growing trend. Expect more firms to adopt policies that tie compensation to timely time entry. Email exhortations without financial consequences don’t seem to be very effective.
(And it’s arguably not that big an imposition. You already slave away at the firm for ten or twelve hours a day — so what’s another five minutes at the end, to enter your time before heading home? It’s just a matter of getting into the habit of doing it, instead of letting a backlog build up.)
The Mayer Brown memo, after the jump.

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(And penalizes associates for delinquent time entry.)”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe previously reported on bonuses in the New York office of Winston & Strawn. Now it’s Washington’s turn:

Winston & Strawn’s DC associates recently received their bonuses. Associates received individualized bonus memos, so there is nothing that can be posted (this has been firm policy for years).

Bonuses were up significantly over previous years, and every associate seemed to be very happy with what they received. The general feeling is that the firm stepped up to the plate and is committed to paying market bonuses.

We do have one data point to pass along. One source (whose class year we won’t reveal) received a bonus that was higher than the NYC market year-end bonus, but lower than the NYC market-plus-special bonus, for someone of their seniority. Pretty good (although this person did bill north of 2400 hours).
Speaking of Winston & Strawn in D.C., we hear that a very interesting meeting took place on Monday morning, concerning controversial remarks made by managing partner Tom Mills to the Wall Street Journal. We’re working on a post. If you can enlighten us about what transpired, please drop us a line. Thanks.

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe were surprised by the strong, almost vitriolic commenter response to our recent post about Dechert LLP. The firm announced that it was reducing bonus amounts for associates who failed to enter their time in timely fashion.
We weren’t the only ones who were taken aback by reader reaction. From a source at the firm:

[See this memo] concerning Dechert’s bonuses, which increased substantially from the prior year. It looks like some of the criticism in the comments to [your recent] post are a little overzealous.

I don’t know how any associates are claiming that they were surprised by the announcement regarding time entry. The firm has been gradually tightening its policies on this over the last year, and there has been ample notice that there would eventually be a little financial pain for people who didn’t get with the program.

In light of the abuse we’ve been taking in the comments, it would be great if you could do a post pointing out the increase in bonuses from last year.

We’re happy to. Check out said memo, after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgHow can law firm administrators get associates to enter their time on time? Here’s one idea: link time entry to those beloved bonuses.
From a source at Dechert:

Attached is an email that all the attorneys at Dechert LLP received today regarding associate bonuses and potential penalties. According to the policy outlined below, an associate’s bonus may be reduced by up to 10% due to the late submission of billable time over the past year. I thought this might be of some interest to your readers.

We agree. Might this become a Biglaw trend? Nagging emails about timely time entry are easily ignored. Slashing bonuses, on the other hand, tends to grab associates’ attention.
In fairness to the firm, it’s worth noting that the policy is not super-draconian. Most of the bonus reductions were under 5 percent, and delinquent associates have the opportunity to redeem themselves: “[E]very associate whose 2007 bonus is reduced will have the opportunity to earn the amount of bonus reduction back, if he or she remains in good standing and complies fully with our time-recording policy in 2008.”
Check out the full memo, after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to get to the bottom of the bonus situation at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. We’ve heard all sorts of conflicting rumors, but we think we’ve finally figured things out — to the extent that they can be figured out. This post supersedes all prior coverage of CWT bonuses.
In Litigation, we think that bonuses were fairly straightforward. This is our understanding, on very good authority:

1. 1900 hours and above = full, market-level, year-end and special bonus.

2. Between 1850 and 1900 = 75 percent of the regular year-end bonus, but NO special bonus.

3. Below 1850 = nothing, nada, zilch. Unless you were a first-year from the class of 2006 (first full year at CWT), in which case you got 50 percent of a year-end bonus.

4. For purposes of calculating hours, only client billable, pro bono, and “pre-approved” marketing hours counted. Other marketing hours, and recruiting hours, were NOT counted.

Read more — including a dramatic epic narrative from a CWT associate, describing how the firm epically mishandled the bonus situation — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Getting to the Bottom of the Cadwalader Mystery”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgToday brings us bonus and salary news from DLA Piper, the biggest of all Biglaws. Back in November, the firm was crowned by the National Law Journal as the nation’s largest law firm (with a whopping 3,623 attorneys).
DLA Piper may be the biggest — but not when it comes to bonuses. From a disgruntled tipster:

It’s official: no special bonuses for DLA Piper’s New York office. But first year associates in our secondary offices got raise to a $160,000 start. I attach the chart. [Ed. note: It's after the jump.]

The firm did it in a very slimy way with no official announcement, just individual notices of bonuses. Pretty funny after last year’s heralded promises to stay with the New York market… I guess Frank and Lee thought: “never mind.”

So was DLA Piper managing expectations when it issued a somewhat gloomy email earlier in the month? From a few weeks ago (around January 8):

I’m an associate at DLA Piper and we got a firmwide email discussing the firm’s 2007 finances and applauding us all on a job well done. They exceeded expectations and last year’s totals. However, the email closes with this paragraph:

“While we are pleased with the results for 2007, we approach 2008 with caution, given the uncertain economic outlook. We intend to be conservative in both our budgeting for 2008 and in our financial management.”

It may be nothing… but I feel like they are bracing us for something, whether it’s crappy bonuses or no pay increase. Good times!

Today’s bonus and salary memo, plus the firm-wide salary chart, after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgA little follow-up on Kaye Scholer, whose bonus memo we posted back in November. From a source at the firm:

Just found out that despite the memo sent to associates last year, Kaye Scholer has decided to tie the special bonus to hours. Requiring 2200 hours to receive the special bonus.

There was no mention of this hours requirement in the original memo. Of course, it was designed to appear that Kaye Scholer was paying market when they had no intention of doing so.

But in fairness to the firm, they did leave themselves with some wiggle room, stating that special bonuses would be paid on a “discretionary” basis. It just seems that 2200 was the magic number required to trigger the exercise of said discretion.
Some associates aren’t happy about how that requirement was communicated (or not communicated, as the case may be). One associate claims that managing partner Barry Wilner, at a meeting held last year to discuss the bonus situation, did not disclose that 2200 hours would be the cutoff. As a result, “[a]ll the associates had to go on were rumors, which caused many associates to scramble at the last minute to achieve what they thought would be a sufficient amount of hours…. I’m not so much concerned about the amounts involved as much as I am concerned about the lack of information that floats through this firm.”
Two other bizarre bits of news about Kaye Scholer — involving “a giant Care Bear” and a roller derby queen named “She Raw,” which would seem to take the firm to Venable-level heights of weirdness — after the jump.

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(And Other Random Tidbits About the Firm)”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgHere are a few quick updates on the associate bonus front:
1. Wilson Sonsini: On Monday night, the firm issued a long and complicated memo, which we’ve posted in all its glory after the jump. Since we haven’t taken math since high school calculus, it went a bit over our head.
General reaction to the WSGR bonus news was less than positive. From one tipster: “My friends there are pretty pissed in light of Latham’s bonuses.” From another:

“Some constituent groups (those with low hours) are happy. Other groups (people who work for a living) are less happy. All associates outside of New York are upset that New York special bonuses were paid without a minimum hours requirement.”

Under the WSGR bonus system, in certain class years, a lawyer in New York who billed 500 hours less than her counterpart outside New York could wind up with a bigger bonus.
2. Akin Gump (Washington, DC): On rather short notice — the email went out at around 1 p.m., announcing a meeting at 5 p.m. — a meeting to talk about bonuses was held on Monday in the D.C. office of Akin Gump. Here’s the bottom line:

[T]he gist was that bonuses “ranged from $1,000 to 75,000,” which basically means that if you are a first year (or any associate who started in the fall) you got $1,000, and the most senior associates who are most valued got $75,000. Associates were also told that the average was $25,000. This was not broken down by class year, hours, or any other details that may tell you whether you’ll be compensated well or terribly.

Lovely. Guess they think transparency is overrated
3. Quinn Emanuel: At Quinn Emanuel, in contrast, management is fairly transparent, and communication is relatively open (at least by Biglaw standards). How many senior partners of major law firms write open letters to ATL, as John Quinn did recently?
Anyway, two pieces of news. First, yesterday QE gave supplemental bonuses today to laterals, recalculating how they pro-rated (a subject of prior controversy). Second, they provided some information — albeit not terribly specific information — about billable hours and 2008 bonuses. Memo after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgBefore the New Year, associates in the New York office of Morrison & Foerster received their bonus news. Now it’s time for their colleagues outside of NYC to collect their cash.
In addition to the firm’s “standard productivity bonuses under the published 2007 compensation program,” MoFo is paying out (1) “a one-time bonus” (it sounds “special” to us), ranging from $10,000 – $20,000, to associates and certain of counsel who met or exceeded their hours requirements, and (2) merit bonuses, for “exemplary lawyering and exceptional teamwork,” ranging from $15,000 – $30,000.
Full memo, after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe don’t really have any major bonus news to pass along. Here are a few items following up on previously reported developments:
1. Latham & Watkins: On Friday we reported on the LW bonuses, which were well-received by associates. We now have more detailed information, which appears after the jump.
2. McDermott Will & Emery: We wrote here about their decision to issue supplemental bonuses. Those bonuses have now been paid, and people are happy. More details after the jump.
3. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft: As previously reported, the bonus situation over there is rather vague. An addendum, also after the jump.

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