Associate Bonus Watch 2012

Perhaps they were just waiting around for Sullivan & Cromwell. Not long after S&C announced bonuses, on Thursday afternoon of last week, Davis Polk announced bonuses, on Friday.

They matched the Cravath scale. Shocking, we know.

What about Morrison & Foerster? They just announced bonuses too, for associates in their New York office….

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Now that Sullivan & Cromwell has weighed in on bonuses, there’s not much suspense left regarding associate bonuses at the major New York lockstep firms. Attention will now turn to top firms with individualized bonuses, like Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins.

Most of the big New York-based firms have matched the Cravath scale. But at least one — besides Boies Schiller, home of the whopper (aka a $250,000 bonus) — is going above and beyond Cravath.

At Kaye Scholer, high billers get something extra stuffed in their stockings. How much are we talking about?

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Last year, I complained that the complicated compensation system at Vinson & Elkins was giving me a headache. What’s wrong with a Cravath-style system of lockstep salaries and bonuses? Or a Kirkland- or Latham-style system of lockstep salaries and individualized bonuses? Is it really necessary, for purposes of paying associates, to utilize a system involving deferred compensation?

Luckily for me and my limited quantitative-reasoning ability, V&E has decided to streamline their system. Let’s learn about what they’re doing, which they revealed in the course of announcing their bonuses.

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The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived. The extremely prestigious and profitable Sullivan & Cromwell, which we recently described as “one of the few firms with the wherewithal and the gumption to best Cravath’s already healthy bonuses,” just announced its scale.

Are we about to write a new chapter in Associate Bonus Watch 2012? Or have we reached the end of this tale?

Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.

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We recently reported that Weil Gotshal will be paying associate bonuses for 2012 in January 2013. This was a return to the firm’s historical practice, after two years of trying out December as the payment month, but some readers attributed ulterior tax motives to the firm.

The firm just issued its bonus memo for this year, announcing its latest position on the timing of bonus payments. And Weil diverges from the Cravath 2012 bonus scale, actually….

Please note the UPDATE added after the jump.

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David Boies

Today brings news that David Boies, one of the finest trial lawyers of our time, is working for $50 an hour. Who says you can’t afford affordable, high-quality legal representation in this country?

Fortunately, the associates who work for him are taking home quite a bit more. As we alluded to earlier today, Boies Schiller & Flexner just announced — and paid out — some pretty amazing associate bonuses.

Let’s get some numbers and reactions. We also have comments from David Boies himself, who spoke with us this morning about a wide range of subjects — associate bonuses, of course; his firm’s overall performance in 2012, its best year ever; and what the U.S. Supreme Court might do in Hollingsworth v. Perry (aka the Proposition 8 case), which he has been litigating alongside Ted Olson, his opposing counsel from the Bush v. Gore days….

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Year-end bonus news continues to roll in from the major law firms, with one notable exception: Sullivan & Cromwell. The silence makes me think S&C is cooking up something. It’s one of the few firms with the wherewithal and the gumption to best Cravath’s already healthy bonuses.

We’re limiting our discussion here, of course, to the big lockstep firms. Outside that world, some firms beat Cravath every year — likes Boies Schiller & Flexner, founded by Cravath’s most famous former partner, David Boies. We’ll have a report on the Boies bonuses later today; if you’re at BSF and care to share your reaction, email us or text us (646-820-8477).

In the meantime, let’s check out the bonus news of Shearman & Sterling. It’s a bit different from the announcements we’ve reported on thus far….

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To be honest, I don’t know if this is a Formula 1 car or an Indy car. Now ask me if I care.

* Judicial benchslap catfight over administrative orders. Man, I didn’t think I could make the word “catfight” sound so unsexy, but there you go. [The Chief Jester]

* Is it a federal crime to read Above the Law at work? If so, download the app. [Workplace Law Prof Blog]

* Speaking of apps, te “App from Hell” would be more interesting if it were actually an app. But hiring Professor Dan Solove to teach your colleagues about privacy is still a good idea. [Teach Privacy]

* A dean of the University of Ottawa Law School wrote an op-ed defending Canadian law schools (which aren’t even as bad as U.S. law schools). Remember when deans didn’t have to defend law schools because there were “jobs” for “new attorneys”? [Canadian Lawyer]

* Here’s an article about Formula 1 racing that you don’t need Google translator to read. [Dealbook]

* Bonus podcast! I mean, Lat did a podcast with the ABA Journal about bonuses, not that there’s a podcast you can listen to in order to get a bonus. [ABA Journal]

* Bonus Lat! I mean, here’s a story about David Lat and the changing coverage of law firms and the legal profession. [Details]

Last year, Milbank Tweed diverged from the Cravath bonus scale, but in a nice way. Milbank paid a pro-rated $7,500 to first-year associates who had been at the firm for just a few months (so-called “stub” first-years). Cravath didn’t pay any bonuses to stub first-year associates last year, so in a sense, Milbank “beat” the Cravath scale.

This year, though, Cravath adopted the Milbank maneuver. Cravath paid a pro-rated $10,000 to members of the class of 2012, making this part of the standard bonus scale.

So what did Milbank do this year to distinguish itself from Cravath in terms of bonuses?

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The dominoes continue to fall. This morning brings word of two additional firms matching the pleasant (but not spectacular) Cravath bonus scale. The firms in question: Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and Debevoise & Plimpton.

The bonus numbers aren’t a surprise, but we can make a few comments about the timing (of the announcements and of the payments), share some tipster reactions, and show you the memos.

Let’s take a look….

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