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 fewnotableexceptions — 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….
It’s getting hot in herre [sic] — and not just due to the scorching temperatures we’re experiencing here in New York City. Today we’re experiencing a flare up of Biglaw bonus news. And maybe some partners are starting to sweat, thinking about whether they might have to cough up some extra cash to keep their associates happy.
Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. The notion of widespread midyear bonuses, comparable to the spring bonuses we saw in 2011, remains laughable an outside possibility. But it’s a little less crazy than it might have seemed a few weeks ago, now that multiple firms have plunged into the summer bonus pool.
The mere fact that it’s paying mid-year bonuses puts Quinn in the top tier of Biglaw. How many other major firms are paying such bonuses this year? The only other one that springs to mind for me is Sullivan & Cromwell (and this year’s S&C spring bonuses were nothing to write home about; but hey, at least S&C paid something).
UPDATE (11:01 AM): We’re just now receiving word of the Cahill summer bonuses. We’ll be covering them in more detail in a forthcoming post. If you have info or opinions to share — by the way, we don’t have the full scale yet — please email us or text us (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).
So how much are we talking about for the Quinn summer bonuses? And how are QE associates reacting to the news?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard some surprising rumblings of discontent from Boies Schiller. Why do we say “surprising”? Because the complaints have been about compensation, which is typically something that BSF lawyers never complain about.
Boies Schiller, the litigation powerhouse founded by the legendary David Boies, is an amazing firm. Its lawyers work on some of the biggest and most important cases of our time, and their compensation reflects that. In addition to paying above-market base salaries — the BSF scale starts at $174,000 — the firm pays bonuses that blow the NYC market out of the water.
In recent years, Boies has made two bonus payments to associates, one in December and one in April. But this year, April came and went, and many lawyers did not receive any payout. Of those who did receive payments, many were surprised at the small size.
Don’t look now, but there is a spring bonus war brewing. I’m serious. Don’t be fooled with the way most Biglaw firms are trying to pretend that spring bonuses don’t exist. Two of the most profitable firms have entered into the spring bonus fight. And they are not in lockstep with each other.
Lat here. In late March, I wrote a story with this title: “Sullivan & Cromwell Will Pay Spring Bonuses — But Will They Be Too Small To Be Worth Matching?”
I’m sad to report that my prediction has come to pass. Sullivan & Cromwell has announced spring bonuses, but they’re nothing to write home about. They are probably too modest for other firms to bother matching. The spring bonuses of Quinn Emanuel will surely exceed the S&C amounts.
In case you haven’t heard (and you probably haven’t), today is apparently International Be Kind to Lawyers Day. So what are people supposed to do on this high holy day for lawyers? Scream “I’m ga-ga over my attorney!” out their windows? Work the phrase “I object!” into everyday conversations (as suggested by the creator of this event)?
Well, we’ve got an idea that we think our audience will really appreciate. Because the best way to be kind to lawyers in Biglaw is to show them the money. On that note, where are the spring bonuses?
Today brings additional intelligence about spring bonuses at Sullivan & Cromwell (on the heels of yesterday’s report). This information has broad relevance within Biglaw because it’s clear that spring bonuses won’t happen on a large scale unless S&C moves. Four managing partners have already made clear to Am Law Daily that they won’t pay out unless they’re forced to do so. Any such forcing would presumably be done by S&C, which was the first mover behind last year’s spring bonus trend.
From the perspective of associates, there’s good news coming out of S&C, and there’s bad news. Which do you want to hear first?
Yesterday I got to chat with H. Rodgin Cohen, one of the nation’s leading corporate lawyers. Cohen has been accurately described by the New York Times as “the dean of Wall Street lawyers” as well as the “trauma surgeon of Wall Street” (for his heroic work rescuing the nation’s financial system during the 2008 financial crisis).
When he’s not working on bank mega-mergers, Cohen plays a major role in running the venerable firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, where he has spent his entire legal career (except for two years as an Army lawyer). He served as chairman of the firm from 2000 until 2010, when he passed his crown to Joseph Shenker, but Cohen continues to serve in the role of “senior chairman.”
So of course I asked Rodge Cohen about a very hot topic: spring bonuses. What did he have to say?
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: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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