Young lawyers banking on big bonuses this year better think again — at least those who work at the New York-based firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

According to an internal memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, junior attorneys at Cravath will receive $10,000 bonuses, and those juniors with the most experience will get $60,000, the WSJ reported.

Senior-level attorneys will receive bonuses based on individual performance, the Dec. 2 memo explained.

“As always, while receipt of the bonus for each individual attorney is dependent on suitable performance at that attorney’s experience level, virtually all our associates will receive the full bonus,” the memo states. “Bonuses for senior attorneys, specialist attorneys, discovery specialist attorneys and foreign associate attorneys will be determined on an individual basis.”

While the $10,000 bonuses are nothing to scoff at, they are a far cry from the hay day of 2007, when Cravath’s junior attorneys were awarded $35,000 bonuses.

Considering that Cravath is a leader in the legal industry, it is reasonable to expect that other law firms will be paying bonuses based on a similar scale this year.

While jobs may be at a premium in the legal field, starting salaries for positions in the U.S. are anticipated to rise 2.7 percent, on average, in the coming year, according to a recent study by Robert Half Legal. Mid- and senior-level associates are sought by law firms looking to expand lucrative practice groups or invest in new service offerings.

According to Robert Half Legal research, average starting salaries for lawyers at law firms are expected to increase 3.1 percent in 2014. First-year associates at small-to-midsize law firms will earn between $61,000 and $86,250, a 3 percent increase from 2013 projections.

Lawyers with four to nine years’ experience at a midsize law firm (35 to 75 lawyers) will see the greatest gains in compensation. Starting salaries for this position are expected to increase 4.8 percent, to the average range of $124,750 to $187,500 annually.


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