Lawyer Pay

These 3 law firms are paying summer bonuses; will BigLaw follow?

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Is the summer-bonus bandwagon for associates getting revved up? Law firms in California, Texas and New York have announced summer bonuses collectively ranging from $2,500 to $30,000. (Image from Shutterstock)

Is the summer-bonus bandwagon for associates getting revved up?

The California boutique law firm Hueston Hennigan announced in an internal email June 11 that it will pay summer bonuses ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 to associates and counsel meeting minimum billing requirements.

Bloomberg Law had the exclusive story, followed by a report at Above the Law.

The minimum billing requirements are 2,000 hours for a $10,000 bonus, 2,400 hours for a $20,000 bonus and 2,700 hours for a $25,000 bonus.

Following that announcement, Texas-based McKool Smith said in a June 20 memo that it will pay summer bonuses ranging from $2,500 to $30,000 to principals, associates and senior counsel, report and Above the Law.

The bonuses are $2,500 for fewer than 1,900 billable hours, $7,500 for 1,900 to 2,199 hours, $10,000 for 2,200 to 2,299 hours, $15,000 for 2,300 to 2,399 hours, $20,000 for 2,400 to 2,599 hours and $30,000 for at least 2,600 hours.

Four lawyers will be eligible for the top bonus of $30,000, David Sochia, chair at McKool Smith, told in an interview.

But one firm announced summer bonuses in February, Above the Law reported June 24. New York-based litigation boutique firm Desmarais announced “appreciation” bonuses to be paid at the end of June.

First-year through third-year associates will receive $15,000, fourth-year through sixth-year associates will get $20,000, and seventh-year-plus associates will get $25,000.

Desmarais also announced that it was raising pay by $20,000 above market for first-year and second-year associates, amounting to a $245,000 salary, and $10,000 above market for third-year associates, amounting to a $270,000 salary.

“Would more firms have hopped on the summer/midyear bonus bandwagon sooner if this Desmarais memo had materialized before now?” Above the Law asks. “Who knows, but now that other firms are in on the bonus plan, it’s time for even more to join in.”

Michelle Fivel, a recruiter and a co-founder of Hatch Henderson Fivel, wasn’t betting on the possibility.

“My thought is that the big firms are not going to wholesale jump into this trend,” she told in a separate story.

Usually, midyear bonuses are reserved for “watershed years,” Fivel said.

Winston & Strawn, meanwhile, doesn’t have current plans to pay midyear bonuses, said Bill O’Neil, the office managing partner in Chicago, in an interview with

“Firms are busy,” O’Neil told, “but not that desperate for talent where they feel they’ll be compelled to pay ‘stay’ bonuses, which is how I’d describe it. My prediction is they will not become ubiquitous in the market.”

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