Associate Bonus Watch

On Friday we noted that Gibson Dunn associates can read. Today it looks like management at Gibson Dunn finally acknowledged the writing on the wall. After a year of record-setting profits, Gibson Dunn finally decided to match the spring bonus market. The firm will be paying Cravath-level spring bonuses to eligible associates, on April 29.

Welcome to the club, Gibson Dunn. Just think, Sidley Austin, this is going to be you in a couple of weeks, when you finally realize that the cost of being viewed as a cheap firm that doesn’t pay market compensation to its associates far outweighs whatever profits you’re hoarding by hanging on to the extra money it would cost to award spring bonuses.

Obviously, our Gibson tipsters feel vindicated, now that GDC finally matched the market…

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The law firm of Wachtell Lipton is not the nation’s coolest firm, having been knocked out by Davis Polk in Above the Law March Madness. But the bonuses paid out by WLRK in 2010 were still plenty hot — about as sizzling as some DPW associates, one might say.

Should they have been even better, though? Not everyone at 51 West 52nd Street was thrilled about the 2010 payouts (even though Wachtell associate bonuses still exceed those at almost every other firm).

Let’s take a look at what WLRK doled out last year….

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Every day that major law firms do not announce spring bonuses makes them look like below-market, “non-peer” institutions. It has become very clear that firms claiming to pay market compensation need to be providing spring bonuses.

The latest firm to yield to market realities is Hogan Lovells. The relatively new Ho-Love, formed by the merger of Hogan & Hartson and Lovells, showed love to its hos on Friday. The firm matched the Cravath scale for spring bonuses.

You can read the full memo below. But you should also listen to how surprised and happy Ho-Love associates are about the bonuses. Hogan associates are like bizzaro Sidley associates….

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Well, Gibson Dunn, it’s come to this. You’ve made your associates so desperate and confused that they don’t know where the sun even rises anymore.

They want a spring bonus. They’ve read about spring bonuses at Latham and O’Melveny and think that they should be making as much as their colleagues at peer firms. Gibson Dunn may not like it, but their associates can read. They can read not just about the bonuses at peer firms, they can also read about Gibson Dunn’s record-setting profits for 2010.

And you know how it goes: “Record setting profits with below market bonuses makes Jack a dull boy.”

Well, now news is trickling out that Gibson will finally be getting into the spring bonus market. Except even if that’s true, it could be that GDC associates in California are left out in the cold. Some of our tipsters report that only New York associates will get a spring bonus.

I’ll pause so LAPD can go put on their riot gear…

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In its recent obituary for Warren Christopher, former U.S. Secretary of State and former senior partner at O’Melveny & Myers, the New York Times referred to O’Melveny as “the most traditional and prestigious of Los Angeles law firms.”

Well, if you want to be one of the “most prestigious” Los Angeles law firms — or national or global law firms, to the extent that O’Melveny has outgrown L.A. — then you need to pay your people appropriately. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that OMM has announced spring bonuses.

We received confirmation and details of the O’Melveny spring bonuses from multiple sources. Amusingly enough, about half of our sources on this story are anxious associates at Gibson Dunn….

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(While the associates are getting restless at Gibson Dunn….)

It’s nice when law firms listen. Last week we highlighted a few firms that had been slow to pull the spring bonus trigger. It would seem that these firms have received the message that their own people were paying attention to spring bonuses at peer firms.

On Friday, Latham & Watkins announced that it would be paying spring bonuses. Later in the day, Ropes & Gray followed suit.

Today, Kirkland & Ellis announced that it also will be making spring bonus payments. Welcome, K&E associates; there is pie and punch in the corner.

We’ll let you know if Quinn Emanuel comes to the party, but let’s first check out what Kirkland is rolling in with…

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Happy Friday! And happy is right — the spring bonus news continues to roll in.

The latest firm to share the wealth with its associates is Ropes & Gray. The spring bonus news is much cheerier than the Ropes news from earlier today (although note the updates appended to that post, highlighting comments skeptical of plaintiff Patricia Martone’s claims).

So, yes, the Ropes springtime bonuses. The scale being used has the Cravath numbers on it, but there are some caveats and qualifiers.

In terms of overall bonus compensation, some R&G associates will do better than their Cravath counterparts, and some will do worse….

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On Tuesday night, we gently tweaked a number of leading law firms, including Latham & Watkins, about their conspicuous silence on spring bonuses. This morning, in a post about Latham’s new Boston office, we reiterated the spring bonus tweaking.

Well, it seems that Latham got the message. The firm just announced spring bonuses, on the top-of-the-line Cravath scale.

What else do we know about the Latham spring bonuses? And which dominoes might fall next after Latham?

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Spring bonus stragglers: tick-tock, yo.

I’ve been trying to be nice. I’ve been trying to be positive. I’ve been trying to adopt a new, sunny, smoke-free attitude that assumes certain top firms will do the right thing by their associates and announce spring bonuses along the lines of Cravath, Sullivan & Cromwell, and a bunch of other top-tier firms.

Just last week, we reminded firms that it’s not too late to announce “spring” bonuses. Dewey & LeBoeuf announced spring bonuses that it will pay in the summer. And that’s okay, nobody is really complaining, associates just want their money. If top firms are paying out spring bonuses, associates who have been told they are working at a top firm want to see their cut.

But there are a number of firms that haven’t gotten the message. Did they think their own people wouldn’t notice that they are getting shortchanged compared to the market? Is this a way for those firms to force some attrition? Surprisingly, some of the firms that are being cheap with spring bonuses were lauded for being generous around Christmastime.

Those firms know how the internet works, don’t they? Information can be updated around these parts….

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This week, Seyfarth Shaw announced the arrival of two construction litigators from Howrey, David Mancini and James Newland Jr. The two partners have been on the Seyfarth website for a while, as we noted last week, but Seyfarth made it official on Monday with a press release.

The other big news this week at Seyfarth: payment of bonuses. Alas, this news isn’t being as warmly received as the Howrey partners.

“Very individualized and below market as usual,” said one source. “No mention of spring bonuses either.”

A second tipster was even more angry….

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