Bonuses

‘Why are we all still at these firms?’

For the past seven years, the National Association of Women Lawyers has tracked women’s progress at the 200 largest firms in the nation by comparing their careers and compensation with similarly situated men. And for the past seven years, reading NAWL’s report has been like drinking a fifth of gin, and then watching Requiem For A Dream: it’s really freaking depressing.

For every two steps forward the legal industry takes, female attorneys seem to move two steps back. Despite Biglaw firms’ purported support for gender equity, women just aren’t achieving the same success as their male peers, either economically or in terms of attaining leadership roles. From associates to partners, women are always left holding the bag.

With that backdrop, let’s check out the excruciatingly discouraging news for women in Biglaw….

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Tracking associate bonuses at Cahill Gordon gets confusing. It seems that the firm is announcing or paying out associate bonuses every other month.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. But let’s look at the record. The firm paid summer bonuses back in July. It paid Cravath-scale bonuses back in January. And it paid “special bonuses” back in December.

Now we’re hearing more news about Cahill bonuses. Could this bode well for Biglaw bonuses generally?

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* Bank of America agreed to pay $2.43 billion, one of the biggest securities class-action settlements in history, to put the Merrill Lynch mess behind it. According to Professors Peter Henning and Steven Davidoff, B of A “is probably quite happy with the settlement given that it could have potentially faced billions of dollars more in liability in the case.” [DealBook / New York Times]

* “Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting.” Here is Robert Barnes’s take on the SCOTUS Term that starts today. [Washington Post]

* And here is Professor Garrett Epps’s review of Jeffrey Toobin’s new book on the Supreme Court, The Oath (affiliate link). [New York Times]

* How Dewey justify paying a big bonus to a member of the management team “when it has been widely pointed out that excessive compensation to the firm’s upper management significantly contributed to the firm’s collapse in the first place?” [Bankruptcy Beat via WSJ Law Blog]

* A high-profile Vatican trial raises these questions: “‘Did the butler do it?’ Or rather, ‘was it only the butler who did it?'” [Christian Science Monitor]

* Ben Ogden, an Allen & Overy associate who was killed in a Nepalese plane crash, R.I.P. [Am Law Daily]


The last time we covered the lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks who head to law firms after their time at the Court, the bonuses were flirting with $280,000. We say “flirting with” because, at the time, only certain firms were offering $280K. That princely sum was not yet the market rate for talent emerging from One First Street.

A little over a year later, we can report some change on this front. Even though regular associate bonuses and partner profits might be flat this year, the price for Supreme Court clerks is going up, up, up….

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Fair is fair: I wrote last week about “what drives partners nuts.” Having armed associates with the ammunition needed to drive partners crazy, it’s only right that I arm partners with ways to drive associates nuts. (I realize that many partners are quite good at this even without my help, but I figure a stray few could use some guidance.)

Come on, partners, how can you drive associates nuts?

First: Give associates disembodied projects!

If you wanted someone actually to be interested in a project, you’d tell that person what the project was about. You’d explain what the transaction entails, what the client needs, and the critical issues likely to arise. In litigation matters, you’d explain who’s suing whom for what, the path the case is taking, the client’s main concerns, and the likely endgame. That would put a person’s brain in gear, and the person might actually care about his or her work.

So don’t do it!

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The mid-year bonuses recently announced at Cahill Gordon and Quinn Emanuel did not come as a huge surprise. Both firms are thriving, and both firms have paid summer bonuses in the past.

But how would you react to news of bonuses at Dewey & LeBoeuf, the once-powerful law firm that declared bankruptcy over Memorial Day weekend? Such news would be more surprising, wouldn’t it?

Dewey pull your leg? No, we’re quite serious….

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It’s getting hot in herre [sic] — and not just due to the scorching temperatures we’re experiencing here in New York City. Today we’re experiencing a flare up of Biglaw bonus news. And maybe some partners are starting to sweat, thinking about whether they might have to cough up some extra cash to keep their associates happy.

Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. The notion of widespread midyear bonuses, comparable to the spring bonuses we saw in 2011, remains laughable an outside possibility. But it’s a little less crazy than it might have seemed a few weeks ago, now that multiple firms have plunged into the summer bonus pool.

This morning we wrote about June bonuses at Quinn Emanuel. Around the same time, we started receiving preliminary reports of July bonuses at Cahill Gordon.

The reports are accurate. Let’s learn about the amounts, as well as Cahill compensation more generally….

UPDATE (11:55 PM): Please note the correction below regarding amounts paid to junior associates.

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CHECK YOU PAYCHECK — at least if you work at Quinn Emanuel. As promised, the thriving litigation firm paid out supplemental bonuses in late June.

The mere fact that it’s paying mid-year bonuses puts Quinn in the top tier of Biglaw. How many other major firms are paying such bonuses this year? The only other one that springs to mind for me is Sullivan & Cromwell (and this year’s S&C spring bonuses were nothing to write home about; but hey, at least S&C paid something).

(Perhaps Cahill Gordon is paying mid-year bonuses? They’ve paid June bonuses in the past.)

UPDATE (11:01 AM): We’re just now receiving word of the Cahill summer bonuses. We’ll be covering them in more detail in a forthcoming post. If you have info or opinions to share — by the way, we don’t have the full scale yet — please email us or text us (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).

So how much are we talking about for the Quinn summer bonuses? And how are QE associates reacting to the news?

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(And news from Cahill Gordon too.)

* Chief Justice John Roberts might “enjoy that he’s being criticized,” but that’s probably because he’ll get the chance to show his true conservative colors this fall when issues like affirmative action and same-sex marriage are before SCOTUS. [Reuters]

* Dewey know why this failed firm thinks a bankruptcy judge is going to allow it to hand out $700K in “morale” bonuses? You better believe that Judge Martin Glenn is going to tell D&L where it can (indicate). [Bankruptcy Beat / Wall Street Journal]

* It seems like attorneys at Freshfields may actually need to get some sleep, because it was the sole Magic Circle firm to report a decline in in revenue and profitability in its latest financial disclosure statements. [Financial Times (reg. req.)]

* Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. didn’t do George Zimmerman any favors when he set his bond at $1M. Watch how quickly the defense fund Zimmerman concealed from the court disappears as he struggles to post bail. [CNN]

* Whatever it takes (to count you as employed): 76% of law schools report that they’ve now changed their curriculum to include more practical skills courses in light of the dismal job market. [National Law Journal]

* Texas Christian University is expanding its graduate programs, but a law school isn’t necessarily in the works, because TCU is only interested in “programs that promote employability.” Well, sh*t, y’all. [TCU 360]

I think we can say that the notion of spring bonuses is officially dead. It’s already June, and the summer solstice is right around the corner. The lockstep Biglaw firms are just not going to be paying spring bonuses this year.

But spring/summer tips are still alive and well. When Sullivan & Cromwell announced its spring bonuses, I wrote, “This isn’t a bonus, it’s a tip.” S&C paid its associates between $1,000 and $5,000 this spring, a sum that is really a tip when you are a Biglaw Manhattan attorney.

Now Skadden is getting into the tip-giving game. The partners there are digging deep into their pockets and coming up with some loose change to dispense to their associates. If you work really hard at Skadden, you might just get a gift card! (Hey, it’s more than what Cravath is doing.)

So how much are we talking about?

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