Aluyah Imoisili, Greenberg Gross
Aluyah Imoisili, Greenberg Gross ()

Greenberg Gross, a 17-lawyer firm launched in 2013, has announced it will pay its associates bonuses in excess of the level set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

The news comes amid a number of other announcements at the firm, including the planned opening of a Los Angeles office next month that will serve as the firm’s new headquarters and the hire of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy associate Aluyah Imoisili as a partner in the new Los Angeles location.

The bonus structure could impact as many as nine associates. Cravath’s bonus model started at $15,000 for first-years and went up to $100,000 for those who graduated in 2008 or earlier.

“Greenberg Gross associates in good standing will receive at least $5,000 more than the amount they would receive at Cravath,” Alan Greenberg said in a memo to associates. “Associates who have performed above and beyond our high expectations will receive even more than that.”

The bonuses will be paid Dec. 23, according to the memo.

Greenberg Gross has been based in Costa Mesa since its founding in 2013 by Greenberg and Wayne Gross. It bills itself as a firm that specializes in high-stakes business litigation, representing public and private companies, law firms and nonprofits, among others. The firm intends to open its new Los Angeles office in January, with that office serving as the firm’s headquarters. It will be run by Howard Privette, a trial lawyer and chair of the firm’s class actions practice.

Privette will be joined in the new location by ex-Milbank associate Imoisili, who focuses his practice on representing Fortune 500 companies, large financial institutions, hedge funds, private-equity firms, insurance and reinsurance companies and executives in high-stakes litigation and arbitration. Imoisili will lead Greenberg Gross’ recruiting and hiring in Los Angeles.

Imoisili said in a statement that he was grateful to Milbank for giving him the opportunity to learn a traditional way of practicing law but that it was time for him to join a litigation-only firm that is on the cutting edge in terms of how it trains and uses attorneys.

“Big firms have not succeeded in recruiting or promoting top minorities and females, which is to the great detriment of not just members of those groups but the business communities we serve,” Imoisili said in the statement. “Greenberg Gross will seek members of those underrepresented groups while recruiting the country’s top legal talent to ensure that we are providing our increasingly diverse business community with the finest and most representative lawyers in the country.”

Susan Hershman, who recently left the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles after more than 20 years focusing on False Claims Act cases and other matters, will join the Los Angeles office as senior counsel.

Existing Greenberg Gross counsel Bret Hembd, who joined the firm in 2014 from Irell & Manella, will relocate to the Los Angeles office along with associate Jaya Gupta.

Greenberg Gross said a number of multimillion-dollar trial wins in its first few years, such as a $50 million win against a nonprofit investment fund, has led to a growing appellate practice that began as a complement to the firm’s trial work and expanded to its own practice. Greenberg Gross counts among its clients American Insurance Group Inc., Frontline Corporate Services and Amphastar Pharmaceuticals. Imoisili has also represented SpaceX in a trade secrets suit recently.

Greenberg Gross is a firm built on a number of Big Law transplants, such as Privette who joined from Paul Hastings. Greenberg, the firm’s managing partner, said the goal is not to be the largest firm by head count, but it does want to attract the best talent, which is why it has always paid associates at what he described as top of market.

“This year, to reward our associates for their tremendous contributions to the success of the firm and its clients, and to continue to attract the best talent to the firm, we have decided to provide year-end bonuses that exceed the scale established by Cravath,” Greenberg said in a statement.

Topping Cravath’s bonus scale isn’t the first time the boutique has looked to compete with the Wall Street firm on compensation. When Cravath announced in June that it was increasing first-year associate pay to $180,000, Greenberg Gross quickly matched. In the memo to associates, reported on by Above the Law, the firm said it would pay the class of 2010 $280,000, indicating that is the most senior associate level the firm has.

Greenberg and Gross will each split their time between the Costa Mesa and Los Angeles offices. The firm has leased the 30th floor of the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles. The firm will use temporary space on another floor while its permanent space is being renovated.