Tony Carbone

Billable-hour requirements are generally like the price of gas: they just keep going up. A law professor might compare it to a one-way ratchet. As law firms try to increase their profitability — by doing more work with less manpower, thanks to recessionary layoffs that haven’t been completely reversed — they ask more and more of their lawyers. Right?

Well, not necessarily. One Biglaw firm recently lowered its hours requirement — and instituted some other perks worth noting.

Might other firms follow suit? Perhaps yours?

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Congratulations to Bingham McCutchen, which recently earned a spot on Fortune’s best companies to work for — for the eighth year in a row. And congratulations to Bingham’s nine new partners. It’s a very international group: these seven men and two women work out of London (3), New York (3), Hong Kong (1), Boston (1), and Hartford (1).

And congratulations to high-billing associates at Bingham. They were rewarded with “extraordinary” bonuses, as set forth in the firm’s bonus memo….

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Over the past few weeks, as springtime bonus news trickled in, we heard from a few associates at Bingham McCutchen. The exact wording varied, but their messages all sounded the same theme: Shouldn’t one of the best places to work offer one of the best pay packages? Or at least a pay package consistent with Biglaw market rates?

One reader had this suggestion: “Can you guys keep a running list of firms that paid spring bonuses and firms that haven’t? Preferably alphabetical, so Bingham is near the top of the no-pay list.”

Well, happily, no such shame sanctions will be necessary. Bingham has jumped into the spring bonus pool. Let’s see what they’re offering….

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There’s a fair amount of happy news at Bingham McCutchen right now. The firm is enjoying record profits and bringing in new talent. It once again made Fortune magazine’s list of best companies to work for (along with three other law firms).

And here’s some additional good news. Last year, Bingham experimented with a somewhat complex “merit-lockstep” hybrid approach to associate compensation. This year, Bingham is moving back to a simpler system.

Let’s take a look at what they’re doing….

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