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?
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….
The week’s almost over, but we’ve got more bonus news for you. While Sullivan & Cromwell, by matching Cravath, might have dashed your hopes of the bonus market climbing higher, there’s still a chance — probably a one-in-a-million chance — that another very special firm could do it.
In fact, every time an associate says, “I don’t believe in higher bonuses,” there’s a would-be Boies-level bonus someplace that falls down dead.
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.)
Associate bonuses at market-leading Cravath and all of Cravath’s followers are staying the same this year. As I’ve stated in these pages, and on CNBC and Bloomberg, this is a good thing. In times of uncertainty and instability for Biglaw, treading water is a victory.
But just because this year’s bonuses are good news doesn’t mean there isn’t better news out there. Today the better news comes from the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner, where the average bonus was $85,000 and the top bonus was $300,000 — even higher than last year’s $250,000.
Even if you bill like a maniac — and BSF’s compensation system does reward the industrious — how on earth do you get to a $300,000 bonus? We spoke with legendary litigator David Boies, founding partner and chairman of the firm, to find out….
Back in 2007, Simpson Thacher led the charge to $160,000. Not Cravath, not Skadden, not Sullivan & Cromwell — it was STB that was first out of the gate with associate salary raises. Simpson Thacher is one of the most respected law firms in the country, and it used to be a compensation leader.
But those days appear to be long gone. Now, the firm is just a follower. Its theories about associate compensation seem to have nothing to do with the health of the firm, and everything to do with doing whatever Cravath tells it to do.
Associates are the firm seem quite disappointed by that….
Last week, we joked about the glacial pace of the 2013 Biglaw bonus season. After all, Cravath made its announcement on December 9, and in that time, we’ve only heard from as many firms as days have passed since that time — seven.
Well, maybe things are finally heating up. Yesterday afternoon, two more firms sent out word of their associate bonuses by class.
Well, the bonus scale has been set. Cravath led — by copying their bonus payments from last year — and now everybody is following. I’m on record saying that these bonuses are underwhelming and disappointing.
Gone are the days where the first-year bonus represented a significant chunk of your law school debt. Sure, you can pay down some interest with your bonuses, or you can prudently save it, or maybe even invest it. But you can also blow it. I mean, it’s a “bonus,” right? In this depressed market, your bonuses look less like deferred compensation and more like “found money.” Instead of making a fiscally sound decision, using your bonuses for profligate, discretionary spending might make you feel better. (Disclosure: Elie Mystal is not a registered financial adviser and is too… stupid to follow a budget.)
Bonuses range from $10,000 for first-year associates to $60,000 for senior people. Professor Paul Caron of Tax Prof Blog tells me that associates can expect to take home about 60% percent of that, depending on where they live and how many dependents they have.
What can a young lawyer buy with that? In addition to what’s in the ATL holiday gift guide, here are 10 things…
Happy Monday, everyone! What better way to start a new week than to bring you more bonus news?
As it turns out, Willkie Farr and Shearman & Sterling weren’t the only firms to participate in the Friday afternoon bonus dump. Two more firms broke word of their bonus intentions before the weekend, and now the question on everyone’s minds is whether they bucked the system and beat Cravath.
We’ve got the announcements from Cadwalader and Proskauer Rose for your viewing pleasure. Did either firm have the guts to top Cravath’s market rate?
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.