Big Law & Boutique Law Firm Bonuses Boost Law Pay

Big Law & Boutique Law Firm Bonuses Boost Law Pay 2

The Big Law firms have been kicking off their bonuses with some using tailored bonuses to associates rather than the usual ‘bonus-for-all’ situation.

And some firms are paying above the market rate, including boutique law firms who will occasionally focus on particular practice areas.  Irell & Manella, for instance, has had a number of departures recently and has lubricated its top end litigation staffers with bonuses.

Kirkland & Ellis, paying above the market rate bonuses, and Perkins Coie, are paying individualized bonuses while Baker McKenzie started the bonus season payoffs in November with distributions of from $15,000 to $100,000 according to the class year, as it did last year.

As we reported earlier, there have been COVID bonuses when Davis Polk followed Mayer Brown and Squire Patton Boggs by paying special bonuses to high performers during the COVID pandemic.

Cooley started offering associates their special pandemic bonuses of between $2,500 and $7,500 and then Davis Polk started their special ‘thank you’ bonuses at $7,500 going right up to $40,000.

Some firms are paying special bonuses for special performance.  Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, is paying an extra $5,000 to $25,000 for extraordinary performance. Another is Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which is paying what it describes as “overmarket” bonuses of up to $25,000 for outstanding associates.

Cravath Swaine & Moore, which tends to set the gold standard for bonus payments has adopted a bonus range ranging from $7,500 to $40,000, a scale already set by other law firms.

Boutique Payments

Among the boutique law firms paying top or over-the-top rates are Selendy & Gay ($28,013 to $174,650) Susman Godfrey; Roche Cyrulnik Freedman; and Wilkinson Stekloff, according to the American Lawyer.

Law firms are still making their bonus announcements. These law firms have announced bonuses since Dec. 11, the last time the ABA Journal covered bonuses:

• Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, paying market-rate year-end bonuses with an hourly requirement, along with bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for extraordinary performance. The firm also paid fall bonuses at the special bonus scale. (Above the LawLaw.comLaw360)

• Cahill Gordon & Reindel, paying year-end bonuses at market rate, and special bonuses of up to $100,000. (Above the

• Covington & Burling, are paying special bonuses at market rate and with an hourly requirement, according to Above the Law.

• Hogan Lovells are paying discretionary year-end bonuses at the market rate, with an hourly requirement.

• Irell & Manella, paying above-market year-end bonuses of $25,000 to $120,000, fall bonuses at the special bonus market rate, and supplemental bonuses in May that are based partly on profit sharing.

• Mayer Brown are paying year-end bonuses that can vary based on hours and office, using the same calculation method as last year. Special bonuses will be at market rate. (See:, Mayer Brown memo).

• Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, paying year-end merit bonuses with an hourly requirement that equal market-rate year-end and special bonuses combined. Outstanding associates are also eligible for “overmarket” bonuses of up to $25,000. Those who fall short of the hourly requirement within 100 hours are eligible for lesser merit bonuses of up to $15,000. (Above the, the Orrick memo)


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