There was no rational foundation to do [the spring bonuses]. It was not as if suddenly all the law firms in The Am Law 100 were minting money.
This week brought annual reviews and individual bonus news for associates at Morgan Lewis & Bockius. Today (Friday) is payday, so everyone at MLB should know their bonus by now (or fairly soon).
Back in November, firm chairman Francis M. Milone stated that 2010 bonuses would be “substantially larger” than last year. So that set expectations fairly high.
Did the MLB bonuses live up to the hype?
Even though the holidays may be behind us, bonus news is not. Much of the big bonus news tends to come down in November and December, but announcements (and payments) continue into January, February, and beyond. So stay tuned for the latest updates.
Yesterday we posted an open thread for discussion of firms that have paid bonuses greater than the Cravath / Sullivan & Cromwell scales. We’ve received some good intelligence in response to that post, which we’ll be reporting out as we obtain sufficient corroboration. So please keep the tips and memos coming, by email or by text.
Today we have a new firm to add to the list of firms paying more than Cravath and S&C (at least to associates who made their hours): Patterson Belknap, the well-regarded, New York-based, litigation-focused firm.
So how much is Patterson paying out?
Over the holiday break, Irell & Manella announced its associate bonuses. Multiple sources are telling us that the Irell bonuses doubled the bonuses offered by Cravath, Sullivan & Cromwell, or their followers.
That’s great news, but Irell associates are not particularly impressed. Irell doubled the small bonuses of Cravath and S&C last year, too. And since Cravath et al. paid essentially the same bonus as last year, Irell associates ended up with the same bonus as last year, notwithstanding any increase in profit the firm may have achieved in 2010 over 2009.
Still, Irell is following a proven strategy to get noticed. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Cravath was the most prestigious firm (according to the Vault rankings). But then Wachtell started consistently blowing Cravath away in terms of compensation, and now the Cravath’s and S&C’s of the world seem to be just playing for second place. The same thing could be happening to Irell: the firm shot up from #50 to #37 in the most recent Vault rankings, and I’d imagine that another year of paying double the market will help Irell continue its rise.
Actually, does Cravath really even constitute the “market” for top-end Biglaw associate compensation anymore? In 2008, Skadden doubled Cravath’s bonuses. In 2009, Cravath took advantage of a cratering economy to push bonuses to new lows, but there were still firms like Irell that found a way to beat the Cravath bonuses. And during the 2010 bonus season, it feels like the only firms even pretending that Cravath pays top associate compensation are the huge ones that really want to keep the associate compensation market as depressed as possible.
Let’s make a list of the firms that can see the Cravath bonuses in their rearview mirrors. We’ll get you started, and hopefully you can fill us in on anybody we’ve missed….
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Out of nowhere, Cahill Gordon & Reindel has decided to give out a mid-year bonus. Not Cravath, not S&C, but Cahill Gordon. The same Cahill Gordon that is one of the few firms to have significant layoffs in 2010. This is the firm that could push the market towards mid-year bonuses?
Apparently so. A tipster reported the bonus scale to Above the Law. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s something….
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:
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.