Lawyer Pay

As more law firms match Cravath bonuses, some surpass them; top associates at this firm get $225K

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More than two dozen law firms have announced they are matching year-end bonuses set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore last month. A few are going beyond its scale of $15,000 to $100,000, and one law firm is going way beyond.

That firm, Susman Godfrey, is offering associate bonuses that start at a median of $110,000 for its lowest-level associates—which is above Cravath’s top bonus. Susman Godfrey’s median bonus for its most experienced associates is $225,000. The firm’s announcement is here, while Above the Law and the Texas Lawyer have coverage here and here.

Susman Godfrey’s bonuses are based on partnership class within the firm rather than graduation year. All associates must have completed a federal judicial clerkship, and they are on a six-year partnership track, with exceptions for former U.S. Supreme Court clerks.

The median 2018 bonuses for each partnership class are:

• Partnership class of 2018: $225,000

• Partnership class of 2019: $210,000

• Partnership class of 2020: $170,000

• Partnership class of 2021: $150,000

• Partnership class of 2022: $130,000

• Partnership class of 2023: $110,000

Above the Law has been tracking associate bonuses, releasing a bonus scorecard for the first few weeks of bonus season. Firms that exceeded the Cravath scale were boutiques, Above the Law pointed out in an analysis. Associates at Boies Schiller also reported large bonuses; a tipster reported that one associate had received $280,000, Above the Law reported here.

Above the Law noted that its two-week count of bonus announcements was lagging behind the count in the first two weeks of bonus season in 2017. “So what’s going on?” the blog asked. “Are firms gun-shy after a round of summer salary increases and bonuses? Have we finally hit the breakpoint—long whispered about—where the Am Law 50 is going to break away from the Am Law 51-200, with the latter simply unable to match what the top tier is paying?”

Above the Law also acknowledged that law firms may have been caught off guard by Cravath’s announcement, which was made earlier this year than last year.

Above the Law compiled a list of several large U.S. law firms that have not yet announced bonuses. Fifty firms remained on the list as of Dec. 10.

Associates at Greenberg Traurig had their bonus hopes raised last week when the law firm held a video conference for all associates, with the promise of some major news. The news, it turned out, was that the law firm was bringing back associate retreats, Above the Law reported.

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