Lawyer Pay

As more law firms announce bonuses, some pay extra for higher hours

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Updated: Several law firms are following the lead of Baker McKenzie and Cravath, Swaine & Moore in announcing year-end bonuses tracking their scales, but some are offering even more money for high-billing lawyers or exceptional work.

The typical bonus scale ranges from a prorated $15,000 to $20,000 for the newest associates to $115,000 for the most experienced, reports.

Above the Law is keeping track of bonuses paid at its “Associate Compensation Scorecard” and sending bonus alerts to those who sign up for them.

Firms announcing higher bonuses for exceptional performance include Baker Botts; Boies Schiller Flexner; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Dechert; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes; Hogan Lovells; McDermott Will & Emery; Mayer Brown; O’Melveny & Myers; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton; Sidley Austin; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Vinson & Elkins, according to, Above the Law and previous coverage.

Kate Reder Sheikh, a recruiter and partner in recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group, told that few associates will be eligible for the extra bonus money.

“The firms that are doing the premiums for really high hours are well aware that there aren’t that many people who are going to meet the bar, based on the fact that hours across the board have been so much lower this year,” Sheikh said.

The year-end bonuses are on the same scale as last year—but firms aren’t paying additional special bonuses as they did last year. Special bonuses at the end of last year ranged from $4,000 to $23,000, while spring and fall 2021 bonuses ranged from $12,000 to $64,000.

Legal recruiter Stephanie Biderman told Bloomberg Law that she expected year-end bonuses on a par with last year.

“Despite certain uncertainty right now, a lot of firms had a good year,” said Biderman, a partner with Major, Lindsey & Africa. “That’s why we expected the numbers to stay the same and not necessarily decrease or increase.”

Since last Friday afternoon, Above the Law has reported that these law firms announced bonuses:

    • Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft (paying more to high billers)

    • Clifford Chance

    • Dechert (paying more to high billers)

    • Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes (paying more for “extraordinary dedication and/or performance”)

    • Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

    • Mayer Brown (paying more to high billers outside New York)

    • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

    • O’Melveny & Myers (paying more to high billers)

    • Ross Aronstam & Moritz

    • Schulte Roth & Zabel (paying more to high billers)

    • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton (paying more to high billers)

    • Sidley Austin (paying more for high productivity or exceptional performance)

    • Simpson Thacher & Barlett

    • Vinson & Elkins (paying more for an exceptional year)

    • Weil, Gotshal & Manges

    • Wilkinson Stekloff

More than a dozen firms that announced bonuses between Baker McKenzier’s initial announcement and last Friday are here.

The bonus scales set by Baker and Cravath vary slightly in amounts paid to the newest and longest-employed associates. This is the scale:

    • Class of 2022: $15,000 (prorated, Cravath but not Baker)

    • Class of 2021: $20,000

    • Class of 2020: $30,000

    • Class of 2019: $57,500

    • Class of 2018: $75,000

    • Class of 2017: $90,000

    • Class of 2016: $105,000

    • Class of 2015 and beyond: $115,000 (Baker but not Cravath)

See also: “Boies Schiller deems its higher bonuses ‘extraordinary’ and ‘extra-extraordinary;’ top amount is $165K”

Updated Dec. 9 at 8:30 a.m. to add more firms to the bonus list.

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