Associate Bonus Watch

Congratulations to Northwestern University and Northwestern Law. The university just announced a $25 million gift, and $15 million of that will go to the law school.

The gift comes from Northwestern Law alum Neil Bluhm, who has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion. Although Bluhm made his fortune as a real estate and casino magnate, he took his first steps towards wealth in Biglaw. Bluhm worked as an associate and then a partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown.

Speaking of Mayer Brown, the firm’s New York office just announced bonuses. Could they be the first big bucks banked by budding billionaires?

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The white-shoe firm of Davis Polk might have been displaced by Paul Weiss as home of the hottest attorneys, but there’s still much to recommend DPW. As you can see from its ATL Career Center profile, it gets high grades both from the lawyers who work there and in terms of industry reputation.

You know what would make Davis Polk an even more appealing workplace? Above-market bonuses….

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Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the New York holiday party of Susman Godfrey, one of the nation’s most impressive — and most feared — litigation boutiques. The mood was celebratory (and not just because of the delicious food, provided by celebrated chef Daniel Boulud, and free-flowing drink).

The associates I spoke with — who all enjoy their own private offices, no small perk in the New York law firm world — exhibited a great esprit de corps. Unlike so many other associates I meet, they seemed genuinely glad to be at their firm and enthusiastic about their work.

The fact that bonuses were just around the corner surely helped. We’ve covered Susman Godfrey’s generous bonuses in the past, and they never disappoint.

I recently chatted with founding partner Stephen Susman about what he described as his firm’s “unique approach” to bonuses. Here’s what we discussed — including how big his firm’s bonuses are this year….

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The past few months have been good ones for Morrison & Foerster. The firm, which secured an impressive victory for longtime client Apple in the smartphone wars, could end up getting part of its $60 million in fees paid by the losing party, Samsung. MoFo has also been adding new talent at a good clip, including D.C. securities partners Martin Dunn and Scott Lesmes (formerly of O’Melveny & Myers), London restructuring partner Howard Morris (formerly of SNR Denton), and a slew of partners (formerly of Hogan Lovells) who opened MoFo’s new Berlin office.

So the news about lateral partners at Morrison & Foerster is exciting. Can the same be said about associate bonuses in the New York office, the first MoFo outpost to announce?

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These are interesting times for Sidley Austin. Lately the firm has had lots of good news, such as its big expansion in Texas, counterbalanced by a little bad news (for an individual partner).

That’s at the partner level. What’s going on among the associate ranks?

Bonuses — announced and paid last week. Among the firms that do individualized rather than lockstep bonuses, Sidley is one of the earliest movers.

So how are Sidley Austin associates feeling about their 2013 year-end bonuses?

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Just when we thought this day couldn’t get any better for law firm bonuses, we’ve got more good news from Cahill Gordon & Reindel, a firm that has consistently proven that it truly values all of its associates’ hard work.

Once again, the firm has announced “special” bonuses that will be paid this month, in advance of usual year-end bonuses in January. Keep in mind that these “special” bonuses are on top of the summer bonuses that were paid out in July. This firm doesn’t make it rain — it makes it pour.

So how much is Cahill paying out this month, in advance of Cravath-level bonuses in January?

Please note the UPDATE at the bottom of the post.

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It’s Friday the 13th, and many consider this day to be unlucky, especially if they’re at a lockstep firm in New York. There simply isn’t any suspense left to be had for these people. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t received your bonus yet because you know exactly what you’re going to get.

Cravath has spoken, and even Sullivan & Cromwell has fallen in line behind the king of bonus compensation. But some firms — like Boies (with a jaw-dropping $300K bonus), Ropes & Gray, and Schulte Roth & Zabel — are giving especially industrious associates some additional monetary awards for all of their hard work.

If you’re employed at a firm like Kaye Scholer and you worked your tail off in 2013, you must be jumping for joy right now. How high did their bonuses climb?

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In the wake of recent matches of the Cravath scale from Simpson Thacher and then Sullivan & Cromwell, it’s looking likely that associate bonus season is over. Sure, there will be outliers — like Boies Schiller and its $250,000 and even $300,000 bonuses — but most Biglaw firms will probably end up following Cravath.

Still, as Staci Zaretsky observed earlier today, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that some firm that hasn’t announced yet will beat Cravath. And if you’ve bought a ticket for Friday’s $400 million Mega Millions drawing, you believe in one-in-a-million — actually, one-in-259-million — chances.

Three firms just announced their year-end associate bonuses for 2013. Let’s scratch off these tickets and see what lies underneath….

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A major theme of the 2013 bonus season so far: WWSCD — What Will Sullivan & Cromwell Do? With a few exceptions — like Boies Schiller, land of the $300,000 bonuses — everyone has fallen in line behind Cravath.

But we (and many others) wondered whether S&C, Cravath’s arch-rival, might up the ante. As I wrote while discussing the Cleary Gottlieb bonuses, “When it comes to challenging the compensation dominance of Cravath, House Shenker (or should it still be House Rodge?) is the strongest contender. Recall that it was Sullivan & Cromwell’s generous 2011 spring bonuses that ignited a trend that spread throughout Biglaw.”

The other white shoe just dropped: S&C just announced. Did SullCrom beat Cravath? Or mention possible spring bonuses?

(Please note the UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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Another day, another round of Biglaw bonuses. Today is Hump Day, so why not pair our bonus news with some exciting lateral partner moves?

Earlier this week, Ropes & Gray announced its 2013 year-end bonus scale. It’s no Boies Schiller $300K bonus, that’s for sure, but it’s a tad more interesting than your run-of-the-mill Cravath match.

Keep reading for all of the details on the Ropes & Gray bonus, news on the firm’s latest partner class, and the announcement of a very recent lateral pick-up from a firm that’s bleeding partners….

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