Bonuses

The law firm of Kirkland & Ellis has a colorable claim to being the nation’s best overall law firm. It’s so big, it’s so profitable, and it’s so strong across such a wide range of practice areas, from bankruptcy to products liability litigation to private equity to M&A.

(No, my holiday punch wasn’t spiked with Kirkland Kool-Aid; I think this is an objective assessment. I’m not saying K&E definitively is the best firm, just that it has a decent claim to the crown. And note the “overall” qualifier: different firms may beat Kirkland in different specific practices, but K&E has an impressively broad range of strengths.)

So Kirkland might be the best firm in the country. Does it pay the best bonuses?

In years past, you’d often hear the refrain that “Kirkland SHATTERS the market” on bonuses. But this year, according to our K&E sources, it seems like the firm is content to merely scratch the bonus ceiling….

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It looks like 2013 was another strong year for the litigation powerhouse of Quinn Emanuel. The firm continued to rack up victories for clients around the world. It opened offices in Sydney and Hong Kong. It landed a major mass-torts group from Skadden. And it named a whopping 13 new partners.

(One of those new partners is Jordan Goldstein, who makes a cameo in the recent New York Times obituary of noted pornography publisher Al Goldstein: “After his son, Jordan, disinvited him to his graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein’s third ex-wife, Gena.” Charming.)

Given the continued success of Quinn Emanuel, it seems that some associates were hoping for better bonuses. Let’s hear what they have to say….

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Congratulations to Northwestern University and Northwestern Law. The university just announced a $25 million gift, and $15 million of that will go to the law school.

The gift comes from Northwestern Law alum Neil Bluhm, who has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion. Although Bluhm made his fortune as a real estate and casino magnate, he took his first steps towards wealth in Biglaw. Bluhm worked as an associate and then a partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown.

Speaking of Mayer Brown, the firm’s New York office just announced bonuses. Could they be the first big bucks banked by budding billionaires?

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On Monday, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and vote on the finalists…

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The white-shoe firm of Davis Polk might have been displaced by Paul Weiss as home of the hottest attorneys, but there’s still much to recommend DPW. As you can see from its ATL Career Center profile, it gets high grades both from the lawyers who work there and in terms of industry reputation.

You know what would make Davis Polk an even more appealing workplace? Above-market bonuses….

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Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the New York holiday party of Susman Godfrey, one of the nation’s most impressive — and most feared — litigation boutiques. The mood was celebratory (and not just because of the delicious food, provided by celebrated chef Daniel Boulud, and free-flowing drink).

The associates I spoke with — who all enjoy their own private offices, no small perk in the New York law firm world — exhibited a great esprit de corps. Unlike so many other associates I meet, they seemed genuinely glad to be at their firm and enthusiastic about their work.

The fact that bonuses were just around the corner surely helped. We’ve covered Susman Godfrey’s generous bonuses in the past, and they never disappoint.

I recently chatted with founding partner Stephen Susman about what he described as his firm’s “unique approach” to bonuses. Here’s what we discussed — including how big his firm’s bonuses are this year….

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The past few months have been good ones for Morrison & Foerster. The firm, which secured an impressive victory for longtime client Apple in the smartphone wars, could end up getting part of its $60 million in fees paid by the losing party, Samsung. MoFo has also been adding new talent at a good clip, including D.C. securities partners Martin Dunn and Scott Lesmes (formerly of O’Melveny & Myers), London restructuring partner Howard Morris (formerly of SNR Denton), and a slew of partners (formerly of Hogan Lovells) who opened MoFo’s new Berlin office.

So the news about lateral partners at Morrison & Foerster is exciting. Can the same be said about associate bonuses in the New York office, the first MoFo outpost to announce?

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Bonus season is upon us, but some people aren’t satisfied with the extra wad of cash they’ve received. In the eyes of disgruntled associates, these are the same bonuses that were handed out last year — only this time around, they’re stale and being served cold.

The angry associates will trudge along to their Biglaw holiday parties, muttering under their breath about the five-figure sum the partners have low-balled them with this year. The name Cravath will be grunted with disdain and paired with an eye roll, and whispers of “Why didn’t I choose Boies Schiller during OCI?” will be followed by mournful sighs.

Cheer up, everyone. There’s a very obvious solution waiting for you just inside the doors of the party you didn’t want to attend….

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These are interesting times for Sidley Austin. Lately the firm has had lots of good news, such as its big expansion in Texas, counterbalanced by a little bad news (for an individual partner).

That’s at the partner level. What’s going on among the associate ranks?

Bonuses — announced and paid last week. Among the firms that do individualized rather than lockstep bonuses, Sidley is one of the earliest movers.

So how are Sidley Austin associates feeling about their 2013 year-end bonuses?

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Just when we thought this day couldn’t get any better for law firm bonuses, we’ve got more good news from Cahill Gordon & Reindel, a firm that has consistently proven that it truly values all of its associates’ hard work.

Once again, the firm has announced “special” bonuses that will be paid this month, in advance of usual year-end bonuses in January. Keep in mind that these “special” bonuses are on top of the summer bonuses that were paid out in July. This firm doesn’t make it rain — it makes it pour.

So how much is Cahill paying out this month, in advance of Cravath-level bonuses in January?

Please note the UPDATE at the bottom of the post.

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