The firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has been a leader in instituting a merit-based compensation system. Two aspects of their system make Orrick’s commitment to merit-based seem genuine:
1. Partners put in significant time so that merit evaluations are more than just hours cut-offs.
2. Orrick is transparent about how many people get paid.
You can’t run a merit-based system with a Jones Day-like approach to transparency without everybody feeling like they are secretly getting screwed. If you do it out in the open, at least the low-hanging fruit will know that other, better work paid off for others in their class.
So let’s look at the memo. While Orrick generally does a good job of looking at associate productivity instead of mere man-hours, make no mistake, the firm still wants you to bill, and in a timely fashion….
The conceit of this entire bonus season has been that the ridiculously low bonuses bar set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore was just an opening figure. People really didn’t expect that Cravath would halve bonuses. I mean, it’s CSM. They can count. Their profits went up. Why would they pay out 50% less than last year?
Well, I guess the answer “because they can” is going to have to be enough for Biglaw associates everywhere….
Today everyone’s talking tech, thanks to Facebook’s upcoming IPO. In light of how Silicon Valley is dominating the news cycle, it seems fitting to discuss the recent bonus and salary news from Wilson Sonsini — one of SV’s top firms, and counsel over the years to many startup companies turned tech giants.
I was getting a little worried yesterday about the state of Biglaw bonuses. But a new day brings a new hope. Yesterday, Law360 (subscription req.) reported that Finnegan broke off a huge bonus payment that once again highlights how cheap Cravath and other Biglaw firms following Cravath have been this season.
Don’t get me wrong, Finnegan is a smallish “boutique” firm. And their bonuses are merit based as opposed to lockstep. It’s exactly the kind of place where they can post an eye-popping top number for the highest performing associates, while the rank and file aren’t doing all that well.
But even if Finnegan’s bonuses aren’t quite as magnificent as the firm would like you to believe, they still look impressive when compared to the low numbers Cravath and other lockstep followers have been dishing out. Eventually, you have to think that some of Cravath’s top talent will leave and try their hand someplace where their talents and hard work will be rewarded with cash….
In case you were wondering, it’s pretty much time to panic about the lack of spring bonuses. Believe it or not, Biglaw could actually allow bonuses to go down despite soaring profits. But that’s a post for another day.
The bad news today is that after a trend of firms easily topping the low bonuses set by the former “market leaders” at Cravath, we’re now looking at a firm that claims it is top tier, but is paying demonstrably less than the already sad CSM bonus amount.
Well, check that, if you bill upwards of 2400 hours at the firm, you might make a little more than your counterparts at Cravath. And hell, if you bill upwards of 2800 hours, you might really do well for yourself (which should help with the alimony payments after your spouse divorces you). But if you are just a standard, 2000 hour biller, the firm didn’t even match Cravath.
I don’t know, maybe making a pathetic bonus payment isn’t so much of an issue in Washington, D.C.?
Well, spring bonuses are officially late. Last year, Sullivan & Cromwell announced spring bonuses on January 21. Here we are on January 23rd, and we’re still waiting.
It’s too early to worry. Cravath essentially check-raised S&C with spring bonuses last year. There’s a good chance S&C is just trying to figure out how to avoid having that happen again.
I still think spring bonuses will be coming. There are just too many firms paying out more than Cravath in terms of bonus. Cravath partners might be getting high fives from partners around Biglaw for helping to keep bonuses low. But there are so many firms blowing past Cravath (and Cravath followers) that, eventually, the very smart people Cravath hires will wake up and realize they can make more money elsewhere.
The latest firm to make Cravath bonuses look small is Latham & Watkins. Their median bonus is especially more generous than CSM’s as people become midlevel or senior associates….
We’re still catching up on bonus news that broke over the holidays. Remember, if we missed your firm, please let us know at email@example.com.
Just after Christmas, Dechert announced its 2011 end-of-year bonuses. I guess you’d call it a “match” of the Cleary Gottlieb scale. Dechert is paying a pro-rated bonus to first-year associates and has a top payment of $42,500 for very senior associates.
But Dechert isn’t a lockstep firm. You have to meet a requirement in order to get the bonus. That requirement looks very much like an hours requirement, but Dechert doesn’t want you (or its clients) to think that they have an hours requirement — so they have some kind of nebulous performance requirement that can most easily be defined with reference to hours.
Oh, and they’ll dock you if you didn’t input your time, on time, throughout the year….
As we recently mentioned, our view is “better late than never” when it comes to bonus news. With this in mind, we are pleased to bring you the bonus announcement of Willkie Farr — which came out in December.
Given Willkie Farr’s status as a top New York law firm, you can probably guess what they did in terms of bonuses….
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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