Kaye Scholer joined the bonus fray Friday, announcing to its associates that they, too, will receive extra year-end compensation based on the scale established by Cravath, Swaine & Moore—with those who rack up at least 2,200 billable hours for the year getting a bonus on top of their bonus.
Associates who pass the 2,200-hour threshold will receive added payments starting at $10,000 (for first-years) and topping out at $20,000 (for eighth-years and those with more seniority), which will be tacked on to the standard $10,000–$60,000 bonus scale set by Cravath. High-billing third-year associates, for instance, will receive $35,000 apiece, compared to the so-called Cravath scale’s $20,000, while fifth-years will get $49,000 each rather than $34,000.
In a statement, Kaye Scholer managing partner Michael Solow explained why the New York–based firm is employing a two-tiered bonus system for the third consecutive year.
“A law firm is only as strong as its people, and bonuses are designed to recognize those who not only meet, but regularly exceed expectations,” Solow said. “Every year there are some associates whose performance is truly outstanding, sacrificing from their personal lives to serve Kaye Scholer and our clients. We therefore only think it appropriate that those associates deserve a little extra at bonus time.”
A Kaye Scholer spokeswoman declined to comment on how many of the firm’s 200 associates are likely to put in more than 2,200 billable hours this year. That figure is well above the 2,035 hours third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates at large law firms billed on average in 2011, according to The American Lawyer‘s most recent Midlevel Associates Survey.
Kaye Scholer’s announcement follows those of several other firms—including Shearman & Sterling; Sullivan & Cromwell; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges—that informed associates this week they will receive year-end bonuses in line with the Cravath scale.
As it does every year, litigation firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner outpaced its Am Law 100 peers by announcing bonuses based on performance rather than seniority that range from $25,000 at the low end of the first-year associate pool to $250,000 for the firm’s highest-performing senior associates.
So far, bonuses announcements have been limited to New York–based firms. Those based elsewhere often award bonuses later in December or after the new year begins, and not all are likely to match the Cravath scale.
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