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Where Are the Spring Bonuses? 21 Law Firms Won’t Comment

Posted Mar 21, 2012 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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More than 40 large law firms doled out spring bonuses to associates last year, some of them as high as $20,000. This year, though, the largesse has dried up. Not a single top 200 firm has announced bonuses.

The Am Law Daily called 21 firms that had awarded bonuses by this time last year to ask about their plans in 2012. They either declined to comment on the record or did not reply. Among them is Sullivan & Cromwell, which said in a December memo announcing year-end bonuses that it also expected to give out bonuses in the spring.

Above the Law noted S&C’s spring silence. “Did they think everybody would forget?” the blog asks. “Or do they just think that breaking their word is no big deal?”

Four managing partners who spoke to the Am Law Daily on the condition of anonymity said spring bonuses are unlikely this year. One said he won’t consider awarding bonuses unless another firm goes first.

Law firms may not be getting much bang for their bonus bucks, according to an American Lawyer survey of midlevel associates last year. It found that spring bonuses have minimal impact on associates’ morale or their willingness to stay at a firm.

One of the managing partners who talked to the Am Law Daily said there was a realization that no one got much advantage from spring bonuses. Two mentioned the poor economy and its effect on the legal industry.

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