Bonuses

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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Congratulations to the new partners at Cleary Gottlieb and Proskauer Rose. Cleary elected eight new partners and Proskauer elected three new partners, both good-sized classes.

And congratulations to the associates at Cleary and Proskauer. They just learned that their firms will be matching the robust bonuses announced by Cravath earlier this week.

Let’s get the details — including the early payment date at Cleary, and the lovely memo from Proskauer….

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When it comes to its associates, Paul Weiss has a few “crazy ones.” But when it comes to its associate bonuses, the firm is extremely rational.

Last night, around the time the Skadden bonuses came in, Paul Weiss also announced its 2012 bonus scale. Just as it did last year, the firm matched Cravath. PW will pay bonuses on December 21, the same date as Cravath and Skadden.

Was there ever any doubt that Paul Weiss would match?

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Stick a fork in it, because it’s almost done. There’s a high likelihood that the 2012 associate bonus season is complete, at least for all practical purposes, and if so, it will look a lot like past bonus seasons: Cravath leads, and everyone else follows.

“High likelihood,” but not yet a certainty. There’s one major wild card that’s still out: Sullivan & Cromwell, which sometimes takes the lead on associate compensation. Remember, of course, that the 2011 spring bonuses were brought to you by S&C. One could certainly see a scenario in which Sullivan & Cromwell trumps Cravath, in order to get Cravath back for how CSM showed up S&C on spring bonuses.

Unless and until Sullivan & Cromwell beats Cravath, though, we’re playing the usual game of follow Cravath. Let’s check out the latest firm to fall in line….

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