Bonuses

Last week, Hogan Lovells announced its associate bonuses. It’s the first bonus season for the firm since the merger of Hogan & Hartson and Lovells. Unfortunately for some associates, the transatlantic deal apparently did not pay off for them at bonus time.

The memos are individualized, but the associates who have reached out to Above the Law are not happy. Here’s one tipster’s report:

Most people with whom I’ve spoken received $2500-$5000 less than the Cravath-model for billing around 2150 (our hours requirement is 1950). This is true no matter the class year.

A number of associates left the office as soon as the memos came out because they were so disgusted. I predict a mass exodus of associates leaving HoLove this coming year, because a lot of people have been pissed about the hours anyway and these bonuses are just insulting.

But according to a Hogan Lovells spokesperson, the HoLove bonuses matched the market. So why are associates upset?

(Please note that we’ve added some UPDATES after the jump.)

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* Still pissed about your bonus? Don’t blame partners. Sure they’re making more money this year while forcing you to work harder for the same pay, but… umm… look, just don’t blame them for anything, ever. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you commuted into work today, you don’t know how to accept a gift. [Village Voice]

* Reading your wife’s email is a crime now? Fine, so long as it is now also a crime for your wife to rifle through your pockets or even look at your BlackBerry. [Fox]

* I’d vote for Sarah Silverman for a number of positions. [What About Clients?]

* Californians: make sure to get your holiday raves in now, because they might be illegal in 2011. [Johnny California]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

This just in: Corporations have matched the Cravath bonus scale!

Correction: The preceding sentence is not just false, but unintelligible.

Several folks have told me that a good way to juice readership of this column would be to publish a salacious post about bonuses paid to in-house corporate counsel, so readers could complain about how one corporation is stingy and another generous, or how corporations pay bigger or smaller bonuses than law firms. But I can’t write that post.

Why not?

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While some firms ran away from their merit-based compensation plans almost as soon as the economy began to turn around, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe stuck with it. Depending on your performance reviews, you might make less at Orrick than your peers at competitive firms, but you also might make a whole lot more. Click here for our prior coverage of Orrick’s compensation system.

Merit-based compensation makes bonus time particularly complicated. The firm uses the bonus to cover up any gaps between your base salary under its multi-tiered associate structure versus base salary at lockstep firms, and it uses its bonuses to pay out, well, associate bonuses. AND it uses the bonuses to pay out that “extra” compensation top performers at the firm deserve.

If Orrick had a culture of secrecy like some of the Biglaw firms we cover (ahem, Jones Day, ahem), then all that would happen would be a general feeling among every associate that somehow they were getting screwed. But Orrick has fought against distrust and misinformation by being amazingly transparent when it comes to its bonus structure. Last February, Orrick put together a wonderful chart that fully explained to its own associates (and potential new recruits and lateral hires) how the firm determined its 2009 bonus structure. We’ve been told that the firm will put one together again for the 2010 bonus cycle. (In February. Which is unfortunately months away.)

So while we wait for the full story, right now we only know what the Orrick associates know. And that is that their bonus will be using the Cravath scale as a benchmark in its calculation of market compensation…

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Bonus news is out at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle. Basically the firm matched the Cravath scale. “Totally expected and acceptable,” said a contented Curtis associate, “since hours aren’t terrible and people (generally) don’t hate their lives.”

It was “basically” a Cravath match, because even Curtis — which only has around 200 lawyers, and which “tends to round out the bottom of the Am Law 200,” in the words of a Curtis source — was slightly more generous than Cravath and all the CSM followers, at least to certain top performers….

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Interesting. Leading litigation firm Paul Weiss just announced its associate bonuses, and it’s using the scale of Sullivan & Cromwell — not the substantially similar but slightly cheaper scale of Cravath.

Some Paul Weiss sources had hoped for better, noting that the firm scored a huge contingency fee in 2010. Last week, one of them wrote to us (before all the other shoes dropped): “I know S&C and STB are the best hopes, but do you really not want to mention PW, litigation powerhouse with $91 MM contingency fee this year? PW has been quiet, while lit-heavy K&E, QE, Cahill, and Sidley have topped market.”

(Oh, and add lit-heavy Boies Schiller to that, as we reported earlier this morning.)

Alas, it was not to be. Paul Weiss has fallen in line behind Sullivan & Cromwell, which (more or less) fell in line behind Cravath.

But let’s look on the bright side. The S&C scale offers slightly better payouts to the most senior classes of associates. Will any of the lockstep New York firms that originally followed Cravath go back and give their most senior people S&C bonuses?

Or is it not worth the hassle? The Sullivan & Cromwell scale is very close to the Cravath scale. Let’s put them side by side — and learn about a SPECIAL GIFT that Paul Weiss gave to its associates, to take the sting off the bonus news….

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The Boies bonuses make our use of this photo appropriate.

Earlier this month, we heard that Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the legendary litigation firm founded by the celebrated David Boies, wasn’t holding its lavish annual firm retreat in Jamaica (to which spouses and families have been invited in the past, all on the firm’s dime). This made us wonder: Despite its extensive involvement in headline-making cases throughout 2010, did BSF somehow not have a good year? [FN1]

Umm, no — at least not based on the Boies bonuses. Boies Schiller announced its associate bonuses on Tuesday, and they were “generous as usual,” according to one source.

Actually, that’s an understatement — a huge one. Almost as huge as the Boies Schiller bonuses. We believe them to be the biggest and best of the bonus season so far.

We reached out to the firm, which provided us with some hard numbers about its eye-popping bonuses….

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Here’s some very belated bonus news. Earlier this month, the New York office of Linklaters announced bonuses that matched the Cravath scale.

As usual at Linklaters, there was no hours requirement. The news was communicated via individual memo.

A Cravath match, especially in a bonus season when some firms are paying significantly more, kinda sucks isn’t that exciting. A Cravath bonus won’t get a Linklaters associate a pad as palatial as that of Linklaters partner Michael Bassett. Heck, $35K — the top of the Cravath scale — probably won’t even cover the cost of Bassett’s wallpaper.

But we’ll point out two nice things about Linklaters, both relating to tax issues….

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(But at least it has the gay gross-up.)”

This is just coming into the ATL inbox, but it appears that Sullivan & Cromwell has announced bonuses that will essentially match the Cravath bonus scale.

“Essentially,” because there are a few interesting caveats: people in the class of 2003 will get $37,500 — i.e., $2,500 more than the Cravath class of 2003 — and our tipsters say there is language in the memo suggesting that S&C might pay a spring bonus next year. (You’ll remember that S&C did not pay out spring bonuses this year.)

UPDATE (1:07 PM): In addition, people in the class of 2002 will get $42,500. The spring bonuses will depend on the firm’s performance.

UPDATE (1/21/11): Read about the S&C spring 2011 bonuses over here.

If you have more information (or the memo), please send us an email at tips@abovethelaw.com, or a text message at 646-820-TIPS.

In the meantime, this news looks like a compromise between the conflicting SullCrom factions we reported on last week

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And another one bites the dust. Simpson Thacher just announced associate bonuses, and they’re using the Cravath scale.

Here is one source’s concise communication: “Simpson Thacher bonus memo just released — matching Cravath. A**holes.” Says a second: “I feel like I got punched in the gut.” From a third: “People here are livid. Can’t believe they announced a month later than normal and matched. What BS.”

Another top firm matching Cravath? Honestly, it doesn’t sound shocking.

But the Simpson match might be slightly more newsworthy than the recent Cravath matches by Davis Polk, Cleary, and Debevoise. Here’s why….

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