Lawyer Pay

Former bonus leader Cravath isn't paying special bonuses; it's reportedly 3rd BigLaw firm to say no

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Several large law firms are paying special bonuses to associates this fall, but Cravath, Swaine & Moore won’t be among them.

According to a Sept. 29 memo obtained by Above the Law, Cravath informed associates that 2020 bonuses will be determined “in the fourth quarter in accordance with our customary timing.”

The announcement appeared to surprise Above the Law, which described Cravath as “the perennial bonus leader.”

Cravath is following the lead of Kirkland & Ellis, which announced earlier this month that it won’t pay a fall bonus. Kirkland’s announcement said, however, that its year-end bonuses will take into account the fall bonuses being paid by some law firms “to ensure we remain a compensation leader.”

Another large law firm, O’Melveny & Myers, also decided against fall bonuses, tipsters told Above the Law.

But O’Melveny reportedly promised to pay “enhanced” bonuses to select associates and counsels in February 2021—the month that it usually pays bonuses, the tipsters said.

Cravath’s announcement didn’t mention whether its later bonuses would take into consideration the special bonuses paid by other firms.

Nearly a dozen law firms announced in September that they are paying special bonuses. The first to announce was Cooley, which decided to pay “appreciation bonuses” ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 for associates, of counsels and special counsels.

Davis Polk & Wardwell quickly followed and set a new standard, announcing special bonuses ranging from $7,500 to $40,000. Here is Davis Polk’s bonus schedule:

• Class of 2019: $7,500

• Class of 2018: $10,000

• Class of 2017: $20,000

• Class of 2016: $27,500

• Class of 2015: $32,500

• Class of 2014: $37,000

• Class of 2013: $40,000

Other law firms that announced special bonuses fell into line with the Davis Polk standard, except for Weil Gotshal & Manges. Its bonuses are tied to hours worked, rather than class year, and the top amount is $50,000.

Above the Law has created a tracker for BigLaw special fall bonuses. According to the tracker, these law firms are paying special bonuses:

• Cooley

• Davis Polk & Wardwell

• Debevoise & Plimpton

• Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

• Hueston Hennigan

• Irell & Manella

• Milbank

• Shearman & Sterling

• Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

• Sullivan & Cromwell

• Weil Gotshal & Manges

See also: “Cravath announces associate bonuses; did the firm top Milbank?”

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