As it does every year, Boies, Schiller & Flexner has awarded associate bonuses significantly sweeter than those doled out by the rest of The Am Law 100, with the firm’s high end hitting $300,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, at least 10 other firms have now matched the $10,000-to-$60,000 range set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore earlier this month.
Associates at Boies Schiller, a Cravath spin-off, received extra payments of $85,000 apiece on average this year based on a combination of factors that included hours billed, seniority, origination credit, client responsibilities and success premiums, according to Jonathan Schiller, the firm’s cofounder and managing partner.
New associates who have been with the firm just a few weeks or months got bonuses of as little as $5,000 or $10,000, Schiller said, while others earned $300,000—substantially more than last year’s maximum of $250,000. The minimum amount awarded to associates with the firm for at least a year was the same as last year: $25,000.
“Fees are not just for partners,” Schiller said. “They’re for associates and for everyone who worked on a case.”
Schiller disagreed that his firm, with 133 associates, has a greater ability than a larger firm, such as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which employs more than 1,000 associates, to be generous with bonus money.
“Their hourly rates are no lower than ours,” Schiller says. “In fact, they’re higher than ours. You can be sure those associates are generating an enormous amount of revenue. How much of that do they get to share?”
Skadden is among nearly a dozen firms that have announced associate bonuses that match those distributed by Cravath. Other firms in that category include: Bracewell & Giuliani; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Proskauer Rose; Shearman & Sterling; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
Ropes & Gray announced bonuses in line with the Cravath scale for its junior associates, with those in the class of 2010 and more senior receiving individualized bonuses dependent on whether or not they billed 1,900 hours.
Fried Frank also strayed from the norm slightly; in a memo reviewed by The Am Law Daily, a Law Journal affiliate, Fried Frank cochairs Valerie Ford Jacob and David Greenwald said additional bonuses may be awarded “to associates who have shown exceptional performance based on activity levels and quality of hours worked, client service, pro bono activities and Firm contributions.”
Daniel Connolly, Bracewell’s New York managing partner, said his firm has matched the market rates in New York since opening its Manhattan office eight years ago. The firm notifies associates in its other offices—who are eligible for as much as, but possibly less than, their New York counterparts—about their bonuses in February.
According to the scale set by Cravath, associates who graduated from law school in 2012 will get $10,000 this year on top of their salary, with a prorated pay-out for those who started at the firm this fall. The figure jumps to $27,000 for the class of 2009, $40,000 for the class of 2007, and $60,000 for those in the class of 2005 and more senior associates.
Connolly said he doesn’t see bonus season as a game of follow-the-leader, even though his firm and many others wait until Cravath or, occasionally, another of the New York firms sets the scale. “Essentially it’s a marketplace,” he says. “The associates are the lifeblood of every law firm, big medium and small. Their value is essentially defined by the marketplace.”
Schiller said that in his view, the market bonuses paid at other firms “reflect how much money partners in law firms want to keep for themselves.” In contrast, he said, “ours reflect how hard associates have worked based on the formula compensation. …We treat our associates as people we have recruited with intensity and expect to excel here.”
@|Sara Randazzo is a reporter for AmLaw Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.