When you step into the killing lockstep zone, your bonus disappears into a black box. A while back, we reported that Bingham McCutchen adopted a lockstep-merit hybrid approach to associate compensation. Base salary would still be lockstep, but the bonus would be merit-based.
When we reported on the Bingham bonus, we noted that the firm intended to pay bonuses generally on the Cravath scale to its associates, based on a number of merit-based factors instead of hours.
But now our tipsters are telling us that some Bingham associates received much less than a Cravath-level payout:
A peek inside the black box, bonuses are generally well below the Cravath scale. The only associates receiving bonuses in the vicinity of the Cravath scale are those that exceeded the 2,100 hour minimum by a few hundred hours. Even bonuses in those instances were barely above the Cravath scale. Amazing considering JayZ just told the Boston Globe that the firm “had our best year ever.” Guess we know where all that money went. Morale is definitely at an all-time low. I would be shocked to see any associates making much of an effort to bill above the 2,100 hour minimum in 2010. I think “why bother” has become the most uttered phrase around the halls of Bingham over the last week.
Maybe Toyota should take a lesson from Bingham McCutchen: don’t try to cut corners when producing a hybrid.
Back in October, Bingham announced that it would be adopting a new “merit-lockstep” hybrid approach to associate compensation. The plan came with the stamp of approval from Bingham partners and associates. And a majority of Above the Law readers also approved of Bingham’s hybrid approach.
Today, Bingham rolled out its hybrid system. The firm is providing true-up, lockstep raises for people who hit 1900 hours. The double bump extends nationally, across all of Bingham’s offices. People who hit 1500 hours will only be getting a single class bump in salary. We understand that only a small percentage of Bingham associates were low enough on hours to be affected by this stratification.
At the low end, people who billed fewer than 1500 hours will have their salaries frozen again.
On the bright side, all of the people who are frozen will have their hours reevaluated in June. If they’re on pace, they’ll get their money.
The Bingham McCutchen lockstep base pay structure is clear and straightforward (see chart after the jump). For bonuses, welcome to the black box that is merit-based compensation.
We’re still catching up on associate bonus news. There have been some memos we’ve missed, including some from last month (technically, last year). If we haven’t reported on your firm’s bonus announcement, please email us. Don’t assume that one of your colleagues will submit the memo; that’s not necessarily the case.
Today we belatedly bring you bonus news from Kasowitz Benson. On December 31, the firm announced “benchmark” bonuses that appear to follow the Sullivan & Cromwell scale. But the memo notes that these are just “benchmark amounts, which are subject to adjustment to reflect individual performance and hours worked.” In the memo’s bonus table, the words “of up to” appear in between the words “Year-end bonus” and the dollar amount.
In addition, even some Kasowitz associates who received the full market amount aren’t happy. Find out why, and check out the full memo, after the jump.
Congratulations to the associates at Irell & Manella. The firm announced its 2009 bonuses last week, and they were good — very good.
Irell took the Sullivan & Cromwell bonus scale, which is effectively “market” for the top New York firms, and then DOUBLED IT. There was no memo — the information was communicated in an associate-wide meeting — but we have confirmed the following:
To associates who hit the billable hours target of 1900 hours, Irell paid bonuses that, in total, were double those paid by Sullivan & Cromwell and similar New York firms. Bonuses ranged from $15,000 for the class of 2008 to $70,000 for the class of 2002.
The bonuses were lockstep by seniority — i.e., not just paid to a handful of star performers or super-high billers. If you hit 1900 hours, you got the designated bonus for your class year.
The success of lockstep firms like Irell raises the question: Is lockstep the way to go? If you’ll be in Irell’s hometown of Los Angeles this Thursday, Elie and yours truly are doing two events, and one of them is a debate about lockstep. For information and RSVP details, see here.
The full Irell bonus table, plus additional information, after the jump.
Last year, associate bonuses at Wachtell Lipton dipped below 100 percent of base salary, for the first time since 2005. This year, they continued their downward slide.
But given the problems plaguing both the broader economy and the legal profession, bonuses didn’t go down by as much as many WLRK associates expected. The general reaction at 51 West 52nd Street was one of pleasant surprise: “Less than last year, but better than expected,” according to one source. The bonuses were announced last week, around the time of the Wachtell holiday party.
So how much are your friends and classmates at Wachtell taking home this year? Find out, after the jump.
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…
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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