Associate Bonus Watch 2011

At the start of this new year, what is the outlook like for legal employment? There’s certainly a fair amount of bad news out there, particularly for recent law school graduates.

But what about for denizens of Biglaw, the lawyers fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to work at the nation’s largest law firms? What does 2012 hold for them?

Earlier this month, my colleague Elie made some predictions for the legal profession. I will follow in his footsteps and venture some prophecies of my own for the year….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is the Legal Recession Finally Ending?”

We’re still catching up on bonus news that broke over the holidays. Remember, if we missed your firm, please let us know at tips@abovethelaw.com.

Just after Christmas, Dechert announced its 2011 end-of-year bonuses. I guess you’d call it a “match” of the Cleary Gottlieb scale. Dechert is paying a pro-rated bonus to first-year associates and has a top payment of $42,500 for very senior associates.

But Dechert isn’t a lockstep firm. You have to meet a requirement in order to get the bonus. That requirement looks very much like an hours requirement, but Dechert doesn’t want you (or its clients) to think that they have an hours requirement — so they have some kind of nebulous performance requirement that can most easily be defined with reference to hours.

Oh, and they’ll dock you if you didn’t input your time, on time, throughout the year….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Dechert’s Bonus Is Contingent On Something That Sure Sounds Like Billable Hours”

As we recently mentioned, our view is “better late than never” when it comes to bonus news. With this in mind, we are pleased to bring you the bonus announcement of Willkie Farr — which came out in December.

Given Willkie Farr’s status as a top New York law firm, you can probably guess what they did in terms of bonuses….

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The pace of announcements may have slowed down a bit, but make no mistake: we’re still in associate bonus season. If you have bonus news that we haven’t covered, even announcements dating back to last month, please email us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Bonus Memo”). We’re trying to keep as accurate a record as we can of Biglaw bonuses, but we can’t do it without your help. Please don’t assume that someone else will send in the memo; that’s not always the case.

Now, on to today’s bonus news, which comes to us from Kasowitz Benson. The litigation powerhouse, which describes itself as “a national law firm primarily focusing on complex and sophisticated commercial litigation, numbering 375 lawyers,” announced its bonuses last Thursday, January 5.

So how much is Uncle Marc paying to the superior legal minds who work for him?

UPDATE (3:20 PM): Speaking of Gregory Berry, Justice Eileen Bransten of New York State Supreme Court just dismissed Berry’s $77 million lawsuit against Kasowitz.

UPDATE (1/10/12): Read all about the dismissal here.

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As we’ve been saying, it’s not that hard to give your associates a better bonus than what they’re doling out at Cravath. At the elite California firm of Irell & Manella, they do it every year.

Once again, Irell has issued bonuses that put Cravath’s to shame. No muss, no fuss — multiple sources tell us the the bonuses were much bigger than the Cravath bonuses.

So how much bigger are we talking about?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Irell Whacks Cravath, Again”

As we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, it’s pretty obvious that bonus season has gotten a little bit ragged. This is what happens when the overdog, Cravath, fails to set bonuses at reasonable levels: firms get confused and try to do things to make it look like they’re clearing the ridiculously low bar Cravath has set. There are so many firms now with some kind of performance or hours mark that will allow at least one of their associates to say, “I made more this year than if I was working at Cravath.”

And that’s just the firms that have announced already. Other firms seem to be waiting to make their “year-end” bonus announcement because they don’t want to have to go back and dole out more money once somebody gets around to announcing spring bonuses. While it might be fun for Cravath and Sullivan & Cromwell to play chicken over who will announce spring bonuses first, there are a whole bunch of firms that are just sitting around waiting to find out how much they are going to have to pay.

And there are a bunch of associates who are starting to wonder if they’ll be getting any kind of bonus at all.

So who did we miss? Who still owes you a bonus announcement?

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In our recent post on the top 10 most generous large law firms — based on analysis by ATL’s new director of research, Brian Dalton — the firm of Hogan Lovells placed second. Under the rankings, this meant that Hogan partners are taking the second-biggest hit to their own bottom lines in order to keep their associates happy and well-compensated.

But is this still the case today? Based on what we’re hearing about the most recent Hogan bonuses, announced shortly before Christmas, one wonders whether the Ho-Love partners have turned from Santas into Scrooges….

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Matt Kluger

Here’s a Fried Frank bonus for you: Matthew Kluger, the former Fried Frank associate who sued the firm for alleged discrimination, is going to prison. As you may recall, Kluger — who also worked as an associate at other top law firms, including Cravath, Skadden, and Wilson Sonsini — was charged in a massive insider trading case this past spring. A week ago, he pleaded guilty to all four counts against him. He’ll be sentenced in April 2012.

Now, on to the matter at hand: associate bonuses in the New York office of Fried Frank. How were they this year?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Fried Frank Announces Bonuses ‘Up to $52,500′”

Earlier this week, Kirkland & Ellis associates started receiving phone calls about their bonuses. Many associates are reporting that their bonuses “shattered the market.” In the words of one K&E source, “It is mad money. Huge year for everyone here.”

It’s important to note that Kirkland has a “black box” bonus structure, in which the payouts are highly individualized and based on performance and hours. Every year, there are some winners and losers.

Right now we’re hearing a lot of chatter from K&E winners. Many are reporting bonuses that are significantly higher than Cravath — which really isn’t hard to do, given how terribly low the Cravath bonuses are this year (so low that partners at other firms are thanking their Cravath counterparts). More to the point, we’ve got K&E people saying they made more than they would have at Quinn Emanuel (which is impressive!).

But, there’s a catch. While some firms like Sullivan & Cromwell anticipate paying spring bonuses, some of our Kirkland friends are telling us that this bonus is inclusive of a spring payout. So K&E might not pay a spring bonus, even if other firms do…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: A Nice Bonus At Kirkland & Ellis, Assuming Cravath Remains Cheap”

In the world of Biglaw, the subject of bonuses is a hot-button issue. People will disagree, often vehemently, on whether the bonuses paid by a particular firm are generous or cheap. To paraphrase an old joke, if you ask two people about bonuses, you’ll get three opinions.

Given these frequent differences of opinion, whenever we publish an Associate Bonus Watch post, we’re eager to get opinions and additional information from you, our readers. As you can see from looking back at our prior bonus coverage, we often update our bonus posts to add new information or another point of view. You can send us reactions to your firm’s bonuses — or news of bonuses we have not yet covered — by email or by text message (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).

Some of our recent bonus posts have generated salient updates and dissenting opinions. After the jump, we bring you postscripts regarding bonuses at several major law firms, including Cravath, Kaye Scholer, Quinn Emanuel, Sidley Austin, and Weil Gotshal….

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