Lat here. Going into the 2013 Biglaw bonus season, indicators were looking mixed.
Cravath, the supremely prestigious and profitable law firm that’s the traditional market leader on bonuses — as in the firm most widely followed by other firms, not necessarily the firm that pays the biggest bonuses — announced another large partner class. Last year, that boded well for bonuses.
On the other hand, Biglaw’s overall performance has been somewhat anemic this year. The stock market might be hitting new highs, but many law firms are running in place.
People have been waiting forever for Cravath to make its big announcement. Now the wait is over: at 4:45 p.m. today, Cravath announced its 2013 year-end bonuses.
How are they looking? What’s getting stuffed inside associate stockings this holiday season?
It’s Tuesday, November 26, past 5 p.m. Do you know where your bonus is?
When we surveyed our readership about 2013 law firm bonuses, 57 percent of respondents predicted that the first firm (traditionally Cravath) would announce during the week of Thanksgiving. That’s basically over. It’s theoretically possible we could get an announcement later tonight or sometime tomorrow, but it seems unlikely.
It’s nearly that time of year, when all the grueling hours that Biglaw associates have put in will pay off in the form of fat bonuses. Or don’t pay off, with miserly bonuses, or nothing at all. Or something in between? Point being, we have no idea how the 2013 bonus season will play out. Presumably, the answer is buried somewhere deep in Allen Parker’s unknowable heart.
The signs thus far are not especially encouraging, at least for those with a vested interest. (Admittedly, for most, this is all much ado about white-shoe people problems.)
Yes, Cravath might be doing well, at least if its large partner class is any indication. But on the subject of law firm 2013 profits in general, the Citi Bank Private Law Firm Group’s report on the first half of the year concluded:
Lat here. Earlier this month, I wondered: could the bumper crop of new partners at Cravath bode well for bonuses? Although firms like Cravath generally make partnership decisions with a focus on the longer term, as opposed to based on short-term financial performance, a class of five partners is one of the largest Cravath has had in years. It certainly seems to reflect a good degree of confidence about the firm’s future.
Now we have our answer as to the size of Cravath bonuses. The firm just announced its year-end bonuses for 2012, and they’re not simply a cut-and-paste of last year’s numbers. This year’s bonuses are more generous than last year’s, which is great news (at least for associates trying to pay off their law school loans; partners might be less enthused).
Sit up and take notes, since the Cravath bonus scale sets the bar for most other major law firms….
The law firm cafeteria is something of an anachronism. Having a large company mess hall where associates can grab a bite to eat without taking too much time to get lunch isn’t really necessary anymore. Nobody takes a “lunch hour” anymore. Associates can use Seamless and eat at their desks.
And we know partners aren’t eating in the firm cafeteria unless they are 80 years old and too busy to head to Peter Luger’s. No law firm cafeteria is nice enough to bring a client to; that’s why God created expense accounts.
But the cafeteria is still useful for secretaries and paralegals. At my old firm, the cafeteria was a great place to grab breakfast. At Debevoise, the cafeteria enjoys the best views of the block. We used to bring lawyers from Schulte Roth, which is housed on the lower floors at 919 Third Avenue, to show them our view (and to console them while they cried).
The point is, even as the Biglaw cafeteria has diminished relevance given our modern conveniences, you don’t want your firm perk to be disgusting. Last March, we learned that a number of Biglaw firms had received poor grades from the New York City Department of Health about the quality of their in-house cafeterias.
But it appears that Cravath’s food fortunes have significantly improved…
Apparently, there is news happening today that is not coming from the Supreme Court. No, I’m not talking about the impending contempt vote on Attorney General Eric Holder — which is going to look really partisan after what Roberts did today.
I’m talking about news from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. Evan Chesler, presiding partner of Cravath Swaine & Moore is at the end of his term. Chesler will now be “Chairman” of Cravath, and the firm has elected a new presiding partner.
Who will lead Cravath as it establishes the “new normal,” post-recession?
It took a little longer than most of you expected, but Cravath, Swaine & Moore just announced its 2011 associate bonuses (not long after announcing its new partners). Barring something very unforeseen, these bonuses are what many Biglaw firms, in New York and across the land, will pay out this year to their people. Historically Cravath has set the market with respect to year-end associate bonuses at major law firms.
The Cravath bonuses are what you might expect. They are in line with recent years, nothing crazy high or ridiculously low. Both Occupy Wall Street types and law firm associates can put away the pitchforks.
Let’s take a look at the official memorandum, and engage in some analysis….
Class of 2008 — $7,500
Class of 2007 — $10,000
Class of 2006 — $15,000
Class of 2005 — $20,000
Class of 2004 — $25,000
Class of 2003 — $30,000
Class of 2002 — $30,000
Cravath’s bonus announcement is always important because the market tends to follow Cravath — as it did last year. Skadden’s 2008 bonuses, at roughly twice Cravath’s levels, were ignored.
Could this year be different? Are the Cravath bonus levels low enough such that a firm of similar or even lower prestige will try to better CSM? Or will other Biglaw shops simply avail themselves of the political cover provided by Cravath — which is arguably what happened last year, when Skadden’s generous bonuses went unmatched (excluding Wachtell)?
So, readers, what do you think? Read the FULL MEMO, take a READER POLL, and COMMENT — after the jump.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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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