Winding up its best year ever, Houston-based trial firm Susman Godfrey has once again bested an industry standard, this time shattering the associate bonus pay scale set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Susman Godfrey said Monday it will pay out median associate bonuses ranging from $110,000 to $225,000. That is more than double the associate bonus amounts announced in mid-November by Cravath, which set a year-end bonus scale ranging from $15,000 for first-year associates and up to $100,000 for senior associates.
The Texas-based firm said its extraordinary associate bonuses recognize the “superb and tireless work” of its associates on behalf of the firm’s clients in a year when the firm’s gross revenue and profits will be the highest in the firm’s history.
The 19 associates who just joined the firm this fall are not included in that scale and will receive smaller bonuses, said Neal Manne, a managing partner of the 127-lawyer firm.
A number of Big Law firms have followed Cravath and matched that bonus scale, while some boutiques announced higher bonus scales, such as New York’s Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which announced a scale of $25,000 to $130,000, and Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz of Washington, D.C., which will pay 150 percent of the Cravath scale, which puts the top of the scale at $150,000.
Manne said the 43 Susman Godfrey associates who will receive the bonuses for their work during 2018 will receive the money this month. He said the amounts listed are median bonuses, so some associates will receive a little more and some a little less than the amount designated for their partnership year.
Nevertheless, he said, “information about the median has made our associates very excited.”
Susman Godfrey has made a name for itself in the industry as it consistently tops the industry standard in many areas—not just in associate pay. This past summer, it announced a first-year starting salary of $195,000, which topped the Cravath market rate that was matched by many firms in Big Law. A year ago, Susman Godfrey announced associates bonuses far exceeding the 2017 Cravath scale: Susman’s median associate bonuses then ranted up to a median of $170,00, with two associates receiving $220,000 for extraordinary work.
The firm also made news in recent months when the 127-lawyer firm adopted a mandatory retirement age that requires partners to retire at the age of 100. It also expanded its parental leave policy for associates, providing unlimited paid parental leave to all new parents, regardless of gender or whether they gave birth or are a caregiver.
In another move, Susman Godfrey this fall expanded the definition of its unlimited paid vacation policy to include the new concept of “pawternity” leave, which is time off to train or care for a pet.
Manne said Susman Godfrey’s record-setting ways are not an attempt to send a message to other firms, but rather to let its associates know they are valued.
“We are able to do it because of our extraordinary success as a law firm, and choose to do it because we want our associates from the moment that they arrive at our firm to feel like they are future partners and vested in our enterprise,” he said. “It’s our way of putting our money where our mouth is.”
The only message the firm is trying to send, Manne said, is to tell associates “we love them and appreciate them and want to share in the firm’s success.”
In addition to approving the bonus scale, Susman Godfrey partners this weekend elected all five associates in the partnership class of 2018 to partner. They are Davida Brook of Los Angeles, Cory Buland and Mark Hatch-Miller, both of New York, Adam Carlis of Houston, and Andres Healy of Seattle.
Manne said it is not unusual for Susman Godfrey to promote an entire partnership class to partner.
“It’s extremely rare that someone goes through the partnership ranks and does not make partner,” he said.
Susman Godfrey’s Median Bonus Scale:
- Partnership class of 2018: $225,000
- Partnership class of 2019: $210,000
- Partnership class of 2020: $170,000
- Partnership class of 2021: $150,000
- Partnership class of 2022: $130,000
- Partnership class of 2023: $110,000