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It’s associate bonus season for many D.C. law firms, and the numbers are trickling in. As bonus data have accrued, we’ve been compiling the information for the D.C. offices of several firms. The list is not complete: Some firms wouldn’t disclose or haven’t yet announced bonuses. But the picture is certainly becoming clearer. At a few firms, D.C. associates may be getting an extra check that will top $100,000. Nevertheless, firms may be moving cautiously on the bonus front because of economic uncertainty — and that may extend to end-of-year bonuses in 2008, as well. For 2007, “I would expect bonuses to be fairly healthy,” says John Childers, a legal consultant at Hildebrandt International. But he adds, “We are hearing from our clients that this year isn’t going to be as good as the last six years.” Ward Bower, a consultant with Altman Weil in the Newtown Square, Pa., office, thinks it’s too soon to tell if the 2008 bonuses will be on the slim side. However, he says, “I think it’s a much more subdued, less optimistic, more cautious approach going into 2008, rather than the beginning of last year, when everyone went gangbusters.” Some of the associates interviewed for this article agreed that while they certainly enjoyed the additional cash at the end of the year, they won’t be surprised if next year’s bonus pool is smaller. And though some were disappointed in their bonus for 2007, many agreed that the health of their firm was perhaps more important than a fatter wallet. “I think associates enjoy a very, very nice gig,” says an associate at Arnold & Porter. “Let’s nurture our resources.” Here’s how firms are stacking up: • Arent Fox: Bonuses went out at the end of the year. Hours-based bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $35,000. But firm Chairman Marc Fleischaker notes that the firm also gives out an additional performance bonus tied to business generation and excellence that could bump up the total bonus to more than $100,000. • Dickstein Shapiro: Firm management would not comment on 2007 bonuses. However, associates at Dickstein say that after the firm moved to the $160,000 base salary last year, it stopped giving guaranteed, hours-based bonuses and replaced them with a system based on a combination of hours and merit. For 2006, Dickstein first- and second-year associates made $30,000 for billing 2,400 hours, but some associates say that overall bonuses for 2007 have been individualized and, for many, reduced. • Hogan & Hartson: Associates can make anywhere from $15,000 to $95,000, based on factors such as productivity, seniority, and contributions to the firm. Associates in the D.C. office received a 60 percent bump in bonuses for 2007, says the firm’s chairman, J. Warren Gorrell Jr. “Last year was a year of strong productivity for our partners and our associates, and that’s why our bonuses went up,” he says. • Howrey: As a general rule, the firm does not announce bonuses until the end of February or the beginning of March. However, Robert Ruyak, the firm’s managing partner, says they will be similar to or a little more than the previous year’s amounts. The firm’s bonuses for 2006 topped out at $70,000 to $80,000. The firm looks at both hours and merit, and Ruyak says there are two important goals in handing out bonuses: “One is that associates feel that they’ve been treated fairly vis-�-vis each other, and secondly, we really want to incentivize people who put in extraordinary effort.” • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius: Associates are receiving performance-based bonuses. According to the firm, 2007 bonuses for the D.C. office generally ranged from $20,000 to $65,000. • Patton Boggs: The firm has two bonuses, one that rewards hours and another for merit. The firm says the combined bonuses for last year range from $10,000 to $70,000. “We all try to put together a package that appeals to the high-quality associates that we’re recruiting, that we have, and that we want to keep,” says Stuart Pape, Patton Boggs’ managing partner. But there is one caveat. If associates fail to make their 100-hour-a-year pro bono requirement for two years in a row, they get no bonus. • Sidley Austin: First-years in the D.C. office will get $20,000 across the board for a minimum of 2,000 billable hours, according to an associate at the firm. • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom: The D.C. office gave out bonuses ranging from $35,000 to $115,000. • Wiley Rein: The firm would not report a range on its 2007 bonuses. However, Richard Wiley, the managing partner, says the firm awards bonuses on an individual basis, in which some associates will make more than $20,000 and some less. • Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr: The firm, which announced its bonuses last week, is paying second-year associates $35,000 for 2,000 billable hours, and the scale goes up to $45,000 for a second-year billing 2,400 hours. Among the other firms that haven’t announced or aren’t yet publicly revealing their bonuses are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (the firm says it will announce at the end of this month for associates outside New York), Covington & Burling (an announcement is expected in March), Venable, McDermott Will & Emery, Steptoe & Johnson, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, and Arnold & Porter. Latham & Watkins also hasn’t announced bonuses yet, but the firm’s associate committee — half partners and half associates — should decide by the end of the month, according to Eric Bernthal, the managing partner of Latham’s D.C. office. Bernthal says that though he was somewhat surprised by the rise in associate salaries over the past year, when it comes to compensation, “firms like Latham are going to do what they need to do to attract the best talent in the marketplace.” But there’s one locale where D.C. firms are singing the same tune: the Big Apple. The market standard in New York is an end-of-year cash bonus of $35,000 for first-years, plus a $10,000 special bonus for the 2006 associate class. Senior associates receive $100,000 to $115,000. The New York offices of Arnold & Porter, Hogan & Hartson, Akin Gump, Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin have all matched.
Attila Berry can be contacted at [email protected].

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