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San Francisco-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cooley Godward have put an end to the nail-biting among their ranks, announcing they would pay bonuses to top-performing associates. Orrick announced Monday a range of bonuses, from $10,000 to $75,000; Cooley told associates last week they would earn an additional $10,000 to $60,000; and Heller Ehrman also said last week it would pay first-year associates $13,000 to $45,000. For Orrick’s 360 associates, this week’s bonus awards are the first to come under new minimum billable targets the firm set during the summer. To qualify for a bonus, associates had to bill 2,000 hours last year, an increase of 50 hours from the previous year. Additional hours-based bonuses kick in at 2,100 and 2,200 hours. The minimum hours required for a top bonus were cut from 2,400 hours to 2,300 hours. “We wanted to send a message to our associates that we wanted them to work hard but not kill themselves,” said John MacKerron, Orrick’s managing director for offices. Orrick associates contacted Monday said they were pleased, and the higher billable requirement for most bonuses wasn’t an issue. “I don’t think it affects you that much,” a third-year associate in the firm’s Silicon Valley office said of the 50-hour difference for a minimum bonus. “I don’t know of anyone who is really disappointed.” All together, associates pulled down about 10 percent more in bonuses for 2002 than they did the prior year, which is similar to the firm’s increases in revenues and profits, MacKerron said. Orrick partners had the highest profits per partner among the Bay Area’s largest firms, according to The Recorder‘s annual report on revenues and profits. Orrick’s per-partner profits last year were $875,000, a 14 percent increase. The firm grossed $400 million, a 9 percent increase over 2001 revenues. In addition to the bonuses, the firms announced they would allow each of their associate classes to advance to the next pay step. Last year, several firms — including Cooley — froze salaries. “Our approach last year was holding salaries where they were,” said Mark Pitchford, Cooley’s chief operating officer. But the numbers for this year enabled partners to pay more, Pitchford said. Reporter Brenda Sandburg contributed to this story.

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