Law Firms

More law firms are announcing bonuses, and some are giving above-market money to top performers

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Law firms are continuing to roll out their bonus announcements with some differentiation emerging.

Baker McKenzie kicked off BigLaw bonus season in November, when it announced plans to pay bonuses to its U.S. associates ranging from $15,000 to $100,000, based on class year. That is the same bonus scale as last year.

Some law firms quickly announced the same scale, including Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which is known for setting the market rate for associate bonuses. Cravath also adopted a special bonus ranging from $7,500 to $40,000, a scale already set by other law firms.

But not all firms are paying those amounts, and not all of them are paying special bonuses. Some law firms, such as Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie, are paying individualized bonuses, Above the Law reports here and here.

Some are paying above-the-market rate, including boutique law firms such as Selendy & Gay; Susman Godfrey; Roche Cyrulnik Freedman; and Wilkinson Stekloff, the American Lawyer reports. Another firm paying higher bonuses is Irell & Manella, which changed its focus to high-end litigation after a string of departures.

Some law firms are paying the market-rate bonuses and offering extra cash for exceptional performance or hours. An example is Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which is paying an extra $5,000 to $25,000 for extraordinary performance. Another is Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which is paying “overmarket” bonuses of up to $25,000 for outstanding associates.

Law firms are still making their bonus announcements. These law firms have announced bonuses since Dec. 11, the last time the ABA Journal covered bonuses:

• Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, paying market-rate year-end bonuses with an hourly requirement, along with bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for extraordinary performance. The firm also paid fall bonuses at the special bonus scale. (Above the Law, Law.com, Law360)

• Cahill Gordon & Reindel, paying year-end bonuses at market rate, and special bonuses of up to $100,000. (Above the Law, Law.com)

• Covington & Burling, paying year-end and special bonuses at market rate, reportedly with an hourly requirement. (Above the Law)

• Hogan Lovells, paying discretionary year-end bonuses at the market rate, with an hourly requirement. Special bonuses are at market rate for first- and second-year associates, but they vary for later class years based on billable hours. (Above the Law, Law.com, Law360)

• Irell & Manella, paying above-market year-end bonuses of $25,000 to $120,000, fall bonuses at the special bonus market rate, and supplemental bonuses in May that are based partly on profit sharing. (Above the Law, Irell & Manella memo)

• Kirkland & Ellis, paying individualized year-end bonuses said to be above the market rate. (Above the Law)

• Mayer Brown, paying year-end bonuses that can vary based on hours and office, using the same calculation method as last year. Special bonuses will be at market rate. (Above the Law, Law.com, Mayer Brown memo)

• Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, paying year-end merit bonuses with an hourly requirement that equal market-rate year-end and special bonuses combined. Outstanding associates are also eligible for “overmarket” bonuses of up to $25,000. Those who fall short of the hourly requirement within 100 hours are eligible for lesser merit bonuses of up to $15,000. (Above the Law, Law.com, the Orrick memo)

• Roche Cyrulnik Freedman, the Boies Schiller Flexner litigation spinoff, announced bonuses between $25,000 and $130,000 for the class of 2014. (Above the Law, the American Lawyer)

• Selendy & Gay, paying median year-end bonuses ranging from $28,013 to $174,650. (Above the Law, the American Lawyer, Thomson Reuters Legal)

• Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, paying bonuses based on hourly tiers that can top out at $120,000. (Above the Law, Law.com, Law360)

• Stoel Rives, paying discretionary year-end bonuses, a special bonus that will increase bonuses by 25%, and an extra bonus of $1,000. (Above the Law)

• Susman Godfrey, paying median year-end bonuses ranging from $80,000 to $170,000. (Above the Law, the Texas Lawyer)

• Wilkinson Stekloff, paying year-end bonuses ranging from $22,500 to $150,000 and a special bonus of $10,000 for all class years. (Law.com, Above the Law)

• Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, paying year-end and special bonuses at the usual scale, with an hourly requirement for full special bonuses. (Above the Law, Law360)

• Winston & Strawn, generally paying year-end bonuses at the market rate to associates meeting firm requirements and special bonuses at the market rate for those who meet hourly requirements. Associates who fall short of hourly goals are eligible for lesser special bonuses. Those who substantially exceed productivity goals are eligible for additional bonuses. (Above the Law, Winston & Strawn memo)

The typical year-end scale is:

• Class of 2020: $15,000 (prorated)

• Class of 2019: $15,000

• Class of 2018: $25,000

• Class of 2017: $50,000

• Class of 2016: $65,000

• Class of 2015: $80,000

• Class of 2014: $90,000

• Class of 2013: $100,000

The typical special bonus scale is:

• Class of 2020: $7,500 (prorated)

• 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

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Law firms mostly fall in line with associate bonus scale; Boies Schiller offers 2 options”

ABAJournal.com: “After getting attorney feedback, Goldberg Segalla revamps installment-payment bonus program”

Updated on Jan. 4 to add Roche Cyrulnik Freedman’s information and on Jan. 5 to add link.

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