Lawyer Pay

First-Year Associates Bear the Brunt of Lower Bonuses; Some See Cuts of 71%

Bonuses have dropped by up to 71 percent for first-year associates at some top law firms while holding steady for those with more experience.

Law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser told Bloomberg why more experienced associates are being spared. “It’s harder to replace those people,” he said. “They are fully trained, and they are viewed as keepers.”

Among the firms that cut bonuses for the most junior associates are Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; and Sullivan & Cromwell, according to Bloomberg. The seniority-based bonuses at these firms dropped from $17,500 to $5,000 for the most junior associates.

More experienced associates will get $30,000 or $35,000.

Another legal consultant, Bruce MacEwen, says the move to cut compensation for junior associates is “reflecting, frankly, the low value clients place on junior associates.”

“It’s a philosophical reaction to the fact that clients are more demanding,” he added.

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