Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, a Silicon Valley-based firm with strong ties to the tech and startup world, has announced summer bonuses for associates, following a strong start financially in the first half of 2019.
“One of the key factors in our success is the critical contributions [of] our associates,” said founding partner Robert Gunderson Jr. The bonus “is a recognition that things are going really well, and the partners aren’t the only party who is responsible. We felt this was the appropriate step to take.”
The firm announced the bonuses Friday, which was likely welcome news for Gunderson Dettmer’s roughly 185 associates. Above the Law first reported on them.
Each class was given a range for their bonus, with the amount for each class member depending on the number of hours they are on track to bill for the year—the lower amount for those projected to bill 1,900 hours, and the higher amount for those on track for 2,100 or more hours this year.
- Class of 2018: $5,000 to $6,500
- Class of 2017: $7,500 to $10,000
- Class of 2016: $10,000 to $13,000
- Class of 2015: $15,000 to $20,000
- Class of 2014: $20,000 to $26,000
- Class of 2013: $25,000 to $32,500
- Class of 2012: $25,000 to $32,500
- Class of 2011 and earlier: $25,000 to $35,000
Gunderson said part of the firm’s mission is to create an environment where younger lawyers can thrive and prosper.
Being among the leading firms for attorney compensation is not new for Gunderson Dettmer, which was the first firm to raise first-year associate salaries to $125,000 back in the dot-com era.
In subsequent industrywide associate salary raises, Gunderson Dettmer has followed suit, including last summer, when it matched the new standard of $190,000 for first-year lawyers.
Gunderson Dettmer also gave associates a summer bonus last year, the firm said. So did a number of firms in the middle of a very strong year for demand industrywide.
Milbank made the first move on salaries last year, raising first-year pay to $190,000, and several firms immediately followed. But Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the first mover in the preceding wave of raises in 2016, upped the ante by giving a greater boost to its most senior associates, and adding a special summer bonus. Several firms then matched that.
This year, however, there has been little news about summer associate bonuses. According to Above the Law, Perkins Coie announced a bonus earlier this month, but said that was “catch-up” after not giving bonuses in addition to raises last year.
A study by the National Association for Law Placement, released last week, found that 29.3% of law firms did raise their first-year salaries to $190,000 last year, but most chose not to meet that industry benchmark.
Industrywide, NALP found the median first-year associate salary for law firms in 2018 was $180,000. Firms with between 251 and 700 lawyers reported a median salary of $160,000; those with between 51 and 250 lawyers reported a median salary of $115,000; and firms with under 50 attorneys reported salaries of $98,750.
With about 240 lawyers, Gunderson Dettmer pays well above the median for firms its size.
While Gunderson said his firm has done well so far this year, it seems other California-based firms have had a lackluster start. A recent report by Citi Private Bank found that law firms in California experienced below-average growth in the first quarter of 2019, as they saw their collections cycles lengthen.