Legal Business Blogs

Cravath kicks off bonus season with associates in line for up to $100,000

Cravath Swaine & Moore has set the benchmark for US associate bonuses becoming the first major law firm to announce its end-of-year awards.

The Wall Street leader revealed this week that it will stick to 2014’s bonus levels ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.

In December last year, Cravath increased amounts for certain classes to match Davis Polk & Wardwell’s bonus scheme, after it first announced bonus levels in November that came in significantly lower than other peer group firms.

The level of bonuses is typically viewed as a barometer of strength for the world’s largest legal market.

This year, however, Cravath has stayed at 2014 levels. Lawyers who joined Cravath in September 2015 and 2014 will receive a $15,000 bonus on 18 December while those that joined in 2013 will receive $25,000.

Those that joined the 440-lawyer firm in 2012 will take home $50,000 and those from the 2010 class will receive $80,000, while senior associates will continue to receive $100,000 in bonuses.

In line with the most prestigious Manhattan firms, Cravath ‘locksteps’ its bonuses, paying them on strict seniority rather than individual assessment.

While Cravath often sets the market bonus rate for other top Wall Street firms, last year Simpson Thacher & Bartlett put down an early marker. At that time, Cravath followed suit and matched Simpson Thacher’s bonus scales for each associate level before subsequently raising their rates.

Cravath has historically been one of the most profitable law firms in the US, with profits per equity partner of $3.36m for the 2014 financial year, while revenues were up 6% annually to $648m.

Cravath bonus scale 2015:

Class of 2015 — $15,000 (pro-rated)

Class of 2014 — $15,000

Class of 2013 — $25,000

Class of 2012 — $50,000

Class of 2011 — $65,000

Class of 2010 — $80,000

Class of 2009 — $90,000

Class of 2008 — $100,000

Class of 2007 — $100,000

For more on Cravath and its key New York rivals, see ‘The Conservation Game‘ (£)