Law Firms

As a slew of BigLaw firms match bonuses, some boutique firms join the pack

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Some boutique law firms are matching or even surpassing BigLaw’s year-end associate bonus scale of up to $115,000 for the most senior associates.

Among the boutique firms that are matching or exceeding BigLaw bonuses are litigation and white-collar defense firm Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes; insurance firm Cohen Ziffer Frenchman & McKenna; litigation firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg; ligation firm Wilkinson Stekloff; litigation firm Hueston Hennigan; real estate firm Duval & Stachenfel; and litigation firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, report and Above the Law’s bonus tracker.

Most boutique law firms, however, don’t match BigLaw bonuses, according to Stephanie Biderman, a recruiter with legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsay & Africa, who spoke with She said boutiques are attractive to lawyers, even when they don’t pay high bonuses, because they provide more responsibility or a chance to go to trial.

Boutiques that do pay high bonuses want to be seen as successful, according to Peter Zeughauser, name partner of the Zeughauser Group, a legal consulting firm.

“It is a statement that they want to attract the same level of talent [as the larger firms], and they will compensate accordingly or even better,” he told

Cravath, Swaine & Moore was the first to announce year-end bonuses when it told associates Nov. 22 that it would pay $15,000 (prorated) for the class of 2021 to $115,000 for the class of 2014. Then on Dec. 6, Davis Polk & Wardwell said it was matching the Cravath scale and adding special bonuses of 20% for all but the class of 2021.

After the Davis Polk announcement, Cravath matched the special bonuses.

As of Dec. 8, more than 40 mostly BigLaw firms had announced bonuses, and most were including the special bonuses being paid by Davis Polk, according to Above the Law’s bonus tracker. Some were offering even more money for high billers.

Here are the Cravath year-end bonuses:

• Class of 2021: $15,000 (prorated)

• Class of 2020: $20,000

• Class of 2019: $30,000

• Class of 2018: $57,500

• Class of 2017: $75,000

• Class of 2016: $90,000

• Class of 2015: $105,000

• Class of 2014: $115,000

Here are the Davis Polk one-time special bonuses:

• Class of 2020: $4,000

• Class of 2019: $6,000

• Class of 2018: $11,500

• Class of 2017: $15,000

• Class of 2016: $18,000

• Class of 2015: $21,000

• Class of 2014 and senior: $23,000

See also: “Why is BigLaw delaying bonus announcements?”

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