Very big (and bigger than yours). We can’t give up specific numbers for specific classes, because that might get our sources in trouble (and WLRK is a pretty small firm).
But we’ll just make these general observations:
1. Wachtell Lipton pays base salaries that are at (or even slightly above) market.
2. Earlier this year, they paid out midyearbonuses ranging from $15,000, for the newest associates, to $50,000, for the most senior classes.
3. When you add the midyear bonuses to the year-end bonuses that were paid out earlier this week — on Tuesday, December 12 — every class at Wachtell received 2006 bonus compensation equal or slightly greater than 100 percent of base salary.
4. This year, the percentage of bonus as base varied a bit from class to class. Historically this hasn’t always been the case; when we were there, it was pretty much constant.
Executive summary: Take your base salary, double it, and that’s what your law school classmate who went to Wachtell earned in 2006, “all in” (base salary + mid-year bonus + year-end bonus).
A shameless plug for our former firm, based on the time that we spent there (2000 – 2003), after the jump.
This just in: Earlier this month, M&A powerhouse Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz bestowed generous “mid-year bonuses” upon its associates. The dough was distributed “without prejudice” to Wachtell Lipton’s legendary year-end bonuses, which in recent years have come in anywhere between 40 to 80 percent of an associate’s base salary. (WLRK’s base salaries are already at the top of the New York market.)
Your next question: How much? We hear that associates who graduated law school in the class of 2000 received a midyear bonus of $40,000, and associates who graduated in the class of 2002 received $30,000. So we’re guessing that the bonuses were distributed in $5K increments, with class of 2001 associates getting $35,000. (But perhaps the more senior people received bonuses reflecting bigger jumps; Wachtell, like many other top firms, likes to reward those who stick around.)
If you’re thinking that $40K doesn’t sound like that great a bonus for billing 3000 hours, please remember: This is just mid-year beneficence from Marty Lipton and Herb Wachtell. Year-end bonuses at Wachtell Lipton are expected to be better than ever, owing to the firm’s banner year on the corporate side. Back in the summer of 1998, believed to be the last time the firm doled out midyear bonuses (equal then to two months’ base salary), the end-of-year bonuses roughly equalled base salaries for associates. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, WLRK bonuses are lockstep based on seniority — they’re not tied to hours or to an assessment of the associate’s merit.)
What does Wachtell’s move mean for associates at other top New York firms? Well, probably not much — WLRK has always been in a class of its own in terms of compensation, paying bonuses that are more like investment banking bonuses than law firm bonuses.*
But Wachtell Lipton’s move could at least do this: It could prevent firms that raised base salaries earlier this year from “undoing” or “taking back” those raises, by reducing year-end bonuses by a commensurate amount. Now that Wachtell is taking in money so fast it’s GIVING it away — to its own associates — it would ill behoove Cravath and Sullivan to pull such a cheap trick on their associates. In the wake of Wachtell’s midyear bonuses, a top firm that raised associate salaries earlier this year, but then tried to keep total associate compensation unchanged by cutting year-end bonuses, would suffer a definite “shame sanction.”
Disclosure: Yes, we once worked at Wachtell Lipton, from 2000 to 2003 (i.e., we missed some of the fattest years). And yes, we are depressed this morning.
* Yes, obnoxious-lawyers-turned-obnoxious-bankers, we know: I-banking bonuses are often a multiple (x2, x3, etc.) of the banker’s base salary. Banker bonuses frequently run into the seven figures — unlike Wachtell bonuses, which at least have the decency to stay within six figures. And don’t get us started on the hedge fund people…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
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Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
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