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Last January, most firms in The Am Law 100 thought that they had closed the books on their annual associate bonus decisions when Sullivan & Cromwell suddenly upped the ante. On a Friday afternoon, chairman Joseph Shenker announced in a firmwide memo that Sullivan would award class-based spring bonuses, ranging from $2,500 to $20,000, in addition to the firm’s previously announced year-end awards. (Sullivan’s year-end bonuses ranged from $7,500 to $42,500.) The firm had had a great 2010, with profits per partner up 9 percent, to $3.25 million, and associate activity up significantly. “It was the fair thing to do,” says Shenker, noting that Sullivan had paid spring bonuses in two prior years, 2008 and 2009. “We weren’t looking to make waves,” he adds.

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