Law firm bonus season got off to a early start this year as Cravath, Swaine & Moore on Monday announced both one-time special bonuses and year-end bonuses for associates.
The firm said it would pay special bonuses ranging from $10,000 for first-years to $50,000 for senior associates, with year-end bonuses running from $35,000 to $60,000.
The two bonuses come on top of salaries starting at $160,000.
The news, first reported Monday afternoon on legal gossip blog Above the Law, comes much earlier than in years past, when year-end bonuses were typically announced after Thanksgiving. "We just sort of backed into it," Cravath presiding partner Evan Chesler said Monday about the early announcement. He said the firm had wanted to pay a special bonus in light of its good economic results for the year and had wanted to pay it in time for associates to use the money during the holiday season.
But the timing of the special bonus raised the question of what to do about the year-end bonus, so the firm decided to take care of it all at once, he said. The range for the year-end bonuses is the same as Cravathpaid last year.
Rival firm Sullivan & Cromwell announced last month it was launching an ongoing program to pay supplemental bonuses to senior associates based on firm performance, but Chesler emphasized that his firm's special bonus was tied to this year's results and might not be repeated.
Indeed, Cravath's announcement comes against a backdrop of disappointing results and layoffs at Wall Street investment banks. "We've said to people quite explicitly that the business environment is uncertain," said Chesler.
Cravath is often regarded as a market leader in associate compensation, and other firms can be expected to either match or possibly increase the firm's total compensation.