Associate Bonus Watch 2012

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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Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard some surprising rumblings of discontent from Boies Schiller. Why do we say “surprising”? Because the complaints have been about compensation, which is typically something that BSF lawyers never complain about.

Boies Schiller, the litigation powerhouse founded by the legendary David Boies, is an amazing firm. Its lawyers work on some of the biggest and most important cases of our time, and their compensation reflects that. In addition to paying above-market base salaries — the BSF scale starts at $174,000 — the firm pays bonuses that blow the NYC market out of the water.

In recent years, Boies has made two bonus payments to associates, one in December and one in April. But this year, April came and went, and many lawyers did not receive any payout. Of those who did receive payments, many were surprised at the small size.

So what happened? Did the relative cheapness of the disappointing spring bonuses at Sullivan & Cromwell trickle down (or up) to Boies Schiller? Let’s discuss….

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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….

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