Phil Korologos

Just to be clear, the people who think that Cravath is the “compensation leader” in terms of Biglaw firms are incorrect. Wachtell Lipton, for example, regularly pays more than the people at Worldwide Plaza. Cravath does not set the top of the market in terms of associate bonuses.

The first firm to make Cravath associates feel impoverished this season appears to be Boies Schiller. Yep, the house that David Boies built is once again paying money to its people like bonuses are a reward for hard work.

But some say the payouts don’t appear to be quite as generous as last year. Others disagree. But you really don’t have to try that hard to beat Cravath anymore…

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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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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGYear-end associate bonuses were recently announced by Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the litigation powerhouse founded by the renowned David Boies. And the Boies bonuses were good — very good.

For starters, unlike other top firms, Boies is paying bonuses to first-year associates from the class of 2009. According to Phil Korologos, a partner in the firm’s New York office:

First-year associates who started after September 1, 2009 will receive a $5,000 year-end bonus. First-year associates who started prior to September 1, 2009, will receive the greater of $5,000 or their performance-based bonus.

Performance-based bonuses at the firm can be quite high, depending on how hard you work and the types of cases you work on (contingency or non-contingency). As a result, bonuses at Boies are individualized, not lockstep; there’s no magic number for each class year. The firm provided Above the Law with the high end of its bonus ranges:

For associates after their first year, the amount of their bonus is based on performance. The performance based bonuses for rising second-year associates range as high as $70,000.

The performance based bonuses for associates beyond their second year range as high as $150,000.

Six-figure bonuses? Now we’re getting into Wachtell territory — or beyond (since we suspect Wachtell bonuses will be down quite a bit this year).

In addition, Boies Schiller pays above-market base salaries — just like Wachtell ($165,000) and Williams & Connolly ($180,000). First-year associates at BSF now start at $174,000.

Check out the complete Boies salary scale, plus learn more about how their bonuses are calculated, after the jump.

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Generous bonuses, above-market base salaries.