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High profits per partner may put stars in the eyes of a firm’s highest paid lawyers, but sometimes that glow fails to trickle down to a firm’s staff. That’s apparently the case at Pillsbury Winthrop, where the firm confirmed that this year’s staff bonus pool is $500,000 less than the two previous years. The firm says there’s a good reason for that: Bonuses in the two previous years were artificially inflated to make up for a salary freeze in effect in previous years. But the difference was enough to prompt calls to The Recorder from four people saying they were secretaries and paralegals at the firm but who wouldn’t reveal their names. “They cut our bonuses by half,” said one caller. “That makes me really upset.” The staffers, who also complained about this year’s salary increase, said they were particularly annoyed given that the firm’s profits have been steadily increasing. One caller to The Recorder said, “The bonuses and increases this year were really lousy.” Not everybody is complaining. LaVern Lipinski, a legal secretary in the firm’s San Francisco office for 27 years, said that although some people wished they had gotten more, she had no gripes with the firm. “I’m happy with [my bonus],” she said. “I think the firm has been fair throughout the years — and with business conditions and the merger [with Shaw Pittman] coming up.” A senior legal analyst in S.F. said she was also satisfied with her bonus and salary increase this year. “I had some concerns, and they listened and they gave me what I was hoping to get,” she said. The firm’s bonuses and increases are merit-based, said Pillsbury Chief Human Resource Officer Deborah Johnson. “Bonuses are awarded to retain the very top performers,” she said. “If somebody is exceptional, their bonus reflects that; if average, the bonus reflects that; and if below average, they might not get a bonus.” This year, Johnson said, merit raises were 3 percent and merit bonuses were 3.5 percent. Last year, she said, merit raises were 3 percent and merit bonuses were about 4 percent. The bonus pool extends to all staff, including executives and the marketing department. Johnson said partners also kicked in an additional $1 million this year to help subsidize employees’ increasing health care premiums.

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