Associates bitch when partners won’t share the wealth, but nobody says a peep when legal support staff get shafted. The very concept of staff bonuses has gotten lost in the recession shuffle, despite the fact that the support staff who remain are being stretched so thin.
Well, it looks like Vinson & Elkins remembers that staff are people too. Today multiple tipsters report that legal support staff at V&E will be receiving a bonus. Our sources didn’t know how much they’re getting, but they’ll be getting something.
UPDATE: Reports a Vinson & Elkins source, “As a matter of clarification, the staff bonus that [was just announced] by V&E is an EXTRA bonus being paid by Management. V&E staff already received their normal staff bonuses in December. Viva la V&E!!”
Compare this to Jones Day. In November, the firm broke its legendary code of silence about compensation just to say that their staff would not be getting bonuses. That’s not nice. That’s like a recovering paraplegic going through years of physical therapy to get to the point where he can give his doctor the finger.
So really Vinson does deserve quite a bit of credit here. Good job by them.
And oh yeah, the firm also told associates that they would be getting bonuses this year… and suggested that the bonuses would be better than the Cravath scale….
We’ve devoted extensive coverage to associate bonuses. But what about bonuses for those lawyers who are neither associates nor partners (nor staff attoneys), referred to by most large law firms as “counsel”? How much are they getting in bonuses this time around?
Many Biglaw bonus memos contain language stating that counsel bonuses are determined separately from associate bonuses and on an individual basis. As a result, the bonus market for counsel — or “special counsel,” or “of counsel,” or “senior attorneys,” or whatever your firm might call these folks — isn’t very transparent.
We want to hear about your firm’s bonus news, even if it’s old. If we haven’t reported on it yet, we want to know about it. (Use our site search box in the upper-right-hand corner, or scroll through our Associate Bonus Watch archives, to see which announcements we’ve already covered.)
Here’s some old bonus news (literally “last year’s” news). A few weeks ago, Shearman & Sterling announced its bonuses. They essentially matched the Cravath scale, but with the caveat (also issued last year) that they are at least partly “merit-based” — i.e., adjusted up or down based on performance. The S&S bonuses are being paid out on January 14.
Some Shearman associates might be upset by the lack of upward movement on bonuses. But at least one of them probably doesn’t care that much, since he enjoyed other income in 2010.
I’ll take “Lawyers Who Have Appeared on Jeopardy” for $1000, Alex….
Even though the holidays may be behind us, bonus news is not. Much of the big bonus news tends to come down in November and December, but announcements (and payments) continue into January, February, and beyond. So stay tuned for the latest updates.
Yesterday we posted an open thread for discussion of firms that have paid bonuses greater than the Cravath / Sullivan & Cromwell scales. We’ve received some good intelligence in response to that post, which we’ll be reporting out as we obtain sufficient corroboration. So please keep the tips and memos coming, by email or by text.
Today we have a new firm to add to the list of firms paying more than Cravath and S&C (at least to associates who made their hours): Patterson Belknap, the well-regarded, New York-based, litigation-focused firm.
Over the holiday break, Irell & Manella announced its associate bonuses. Multiple sources are telling us that the Irell bonuses doubled the bonuses offered by Cravath, Sullivan & Cromwell, or their followers.
That’s great news, but Irell associates are not particularly impressed. Irell doubled the small bonuses of Cravath and S&C last year, too. And since Cravath et al. paid essentially the same bonus as last year, Irell associates ended up with the same bonus as last year, notwithstanding any increase in profit the firm may have achieved in 2010 over 2009.
Still, Irell is following a proven strategy to get noticed. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Cravath was the most prestigious firm (according to the Vault rankings). But then Wachtell started consistently blowing Cravath away in terms of compensation, and now the Cravath’s and S&C’s of the world seem to be just playing for second place. The same thing could be happening to Irell: the firm shot up from #50 to #37 in the most recent Vault rankings, and I’d imagine that another year of paying double the market will help Irell continue its rise.
Actually, does Cravath really even constitute the “market” for top-end Biglaw associate compensation anymore? In 2008, Skadden doubledCravath’s bonuses. In 2009, Cravath took advantage of a cratering economy to push bonuses to new lows, but there were still firms like Irell that found a way to beat the Cravath bonuses. And during the 2010 bonus season, it feels like the only firms even pretending that Cravath pays top associate compensation are the huge ones that really want to keep the associate compensation market as depressed as possible.
Let’s make a list of the firms that can see the Cravath bonuses in their rearview mirrors. We’ll get you started, and hopefully you can fill us in on anybody we’ve missed….
It’s hard to understand why some firms choose secrecy over transparency when it comes to associate bonuses. I understand not wanting to tell Above the Law about them. We often find out eventually, but if you want to make us jump through a couple of extra hoops, that’s fine. (To help us jump through the hoops, please email us about your firm’s news.)
But even if you don’t want ATL to know about your firm’s bonuses, I don’t see how fear of a blog is justification for keeping information from your own people about how they are compensated. If you are transparent about how bonuses are calculated and awarded, most of the people will accept that they knew what was expected of them and either met those expectations or fell short. Sure, there will be some disgruntled people, but at least everybody gets to know why they are being paid what they are being paid.
But if you roll out there with secret formulas and unspecified hours requirements, nearly everybody feels disgruntled because they have no idea why they received (or didn’t receive) whatever they got. It’s like, if a girl tells you she won’t put out until after at least four dates, you know what you’re up against. But if she says nothing and you find yourself standing outside her apartment after a successful third date and she’s not inviting you up for “coffee,” you’re super-pissed (and hoping that the slutty chick who was checking you out earlier is still at the bar and relatively disease-free).
And that’s where Arnold & Porter associates find themselves when it comes to their bonuses. Standing outside of some chick’s apartment, wondering what the hell just happened.
Oh A&P announced its bonuses. But the eligibility for these bonuses is really anyone’s guess…
Last week, Hogan Lovells announced its associate bonuses. It’s the first bonus season for the firm since the merger of Hogan & Hartson and Lovells. Unfortunately for some associates, the transatlantic deal apparently did not pay off for them at bonus time.
The memos are individualized, but the associates who have reached out to Above the Law are not happy. Here’s one tipster’s report:
Most people with whom I’ve spoken received $2500-$5000 less than the Cravath-model for billing around 2150 (our hours requirement is 1950). This is true no matter the class year.
A number of associates left the office as soon as the memos came out because they were so disgusted. I predict a mass exodus of associates leaving HoLove this coming year, because a lot of people have been pissed about the hours anyway and these bonuses are just insulting.
But according to a Hogan Lovells spokesperson, the HoLove bonuses matched the market. So why are associates upset?
(Please note that we’ve added some UPDATES after the jump.)
While some firms ran away from their merit-based compensation plans almost as soon as the economy began to turn around, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe stuck with it. Depending on your performance reviews, you might make less at Orrick than your peers at competitive firms, but you also might make a whole lot more. Click here for our prior coverage of Orrick’s compensation system.
Merit-based compensation makes bonus time particularly complicated. The firm uses the bonus to cover up any gaps between your base salary under its multi-tiered associate structure versus base salary at lockstep firms, and it uses its bonuses to pay out, well, associate bonuses. AND it uses the bonuses to pay out that “extra” compensation top performers at the firm deserve.
If Orrick had a culture of secrecy like some of the Biglaw firms we cover (ahem, Jones Day, ahem), then all that would happen would be a general feeling among every associate that somehow they were getting screwed. But Orrick has fought against distrust and misinformation by being amazingly transparent when it comes to its bonus structure. Last February, Orrick put together a wonderful chart that fully explained to its own associates (and potential new recruits and lateral hires) how the firm determined its 2009 bonus structure. We’ve been told that the firm will put one together again for the 2010 bonus cycle. (In February. Which is unfortunately months away.)
So while we wait for the full story, right now we only know what the Orrick associates know. And that is that their bonus will be using the Cravath scale as a benchmark in its calculation of market compensation…
Bonus news is out at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle. Basically the firm matched the Cravath scale. “Totally expected and acceptable,” said a contented Curtis associate, “since hours aren’t terrible and people (generally) don’t hate their lives.”
It was “basically” a Cravath match, because even Curtis — which only has around 200 lawyers, and which “tends to round out the bottom of the Am Law 200,” in the words of a Curtis source — was slightly more generous than Cravath and all the CSM followers, at least to certain top performers….
Interesting. Leading litigation firm Paul Weiss just announced its associate bonuses, and it’s using the scale of Sullivan & Cromwell — not the substantially similar but slightly cheaper scale of Cravath.
Some Paul Weiss sources had hoped for better, noting that the firm scored a huge contingency fee in 2010. Last week, one of them wrote to us (before all the other shoes dropped): “I know S&C and STB are the best hopes, but do you really not want to mention PW, litigation powerhouse with $91 MM contingency fee this year? PW has been quiet, while lit-heavy K&E, QE, Cahill, and Sidley have topped market.”
(Oh, and add lit-heavy Boies Schiller to that, as we reported earlier this morning.)
Alas, it was not to be. Paul Weiss has fallen in line behind Sullivan & Cromwell, which (more or less) fell in line behind Cravath.
But let’s look on the bright side. The S&C scale offers slightly better payouts to the most senior classes of associates. Will any of the lockstep New York firms that originally followed Cravath go back and give their most senior people S&C bonuses?
Or is it not worth the hassle? The Sullivan & Cromwell scale is very close to the Cravath scale. Let’s put them side by side — and learn about a SPECIAL GIFT that Paul Weiss gave to its associates, to take the sting off the bonus news….
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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