Mid-Year Bonuses

To quote a recent headline, Midyear Bonus Bonanza Unlikely In 2014. We’d agree with that, at least as a general matter. Midyear bonuses are so “unlikely,” in fact, that we haven’t received any emails from anxious associates asking us about the possibility of midyear bonuses.[1]

But there are exceptions to every rule. Which highly profitable, finance-focused law firm just announced bonuses for both lawyers and staff?

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No change to spare for Quinn Emanuel associates.

Earlier this month, when we wrote about Cahill Gordon’s summer bonuses, we floated a question about mid-year bonuses at other firms. Specifically, we wondered if Quinn Emanuel, a top-flight litigation shop that paid such bonuses last year, would do so again.

After hearing rumors of no mid-year bonuses at QE, we reached out to the firm for comment. Founding partner John Quinn confirmed the reports, correctly noting that the market has not paid spring or summer bonuses this year.

John Quinn also denied various other rumors about Quinn Emanuel, to which we now turn….

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The fable of the ant and the grasshopper may have lessons for the world of large law firms.

As regular readers of Above the Law well know, most major law firms — with a few notable exceptions — did not pay spring or mid-year bonuses in 2012. Our associate readers generally viewed this news with disappointment, while our partner readers had less of a problem with it.

But perhaps even associates should have been supportive of their firms’ decisions not to pay spring bonuses. Storm clouds are gathering over the law firm world. So says a recent report by Biglaw’s biggest bankers, over at Citigroup….

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In late December 2010, the elite California law firm of Irell & Manella announced 2010 year-end bonuses that reportedly doubled the benchmark Cravath scale. Although some felt the firm could have been even more generous, given its strong performance in 2010, most Irell associates were quite pleased.

Discontent grew, however, over the following months. Sullivan & Cromwell announced spring bonuses, Cravath announced better spring bonuses, and most top firms followed suit. But not Irell.

Spring turned into summer. Some at Irell feared that the firm was done doling out bonuses until December.

But that fear was misplaced. Yesterday the firm announced “mid-year” bonuses.

So, how much are we talking about?

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All right everybody, be cool, no need to break out the Drudge siren.

Yes, Cahill Gordon, which previously smashed the year-end associate bonus market back in December, has just announced “mid-year” bonuses. But this announcement is unlikely to start a trend. Remember, because Cahill’s bonuses were already so high, the firm did not announce spring bonuses. Spring bonuses really amounted to a bunch of other law firms trying to catch up with Cahill.

So today’s mid-year announcement is kind of just Cahill’s version of spring bonuses. And Cahill did mid-year bonuses last year. Am Law reports that associates will be getting between $5,000 and $25,000 bonus dollars from Cahill.

Wait a minute, what am I talking about? Of COURSE this is huge news! A bunch of associates just got a bonus from the partners for all their hard work… and right when the summer associates were around to see it. Somebody is making it rain up in here….

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