Legal Business Blogs

US bonus season: Boies Schiller, Cahill Gordon and Sidley among leading US firms to unveil numbers

Since New York elite firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore kicked off the US bonus season at the start of December with its decision to hold bonus rates at 2012 levels, firms including Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, Sidley Austin, as well as Kaye Scholer, Schulte Roth & Zabel and Ropes & Gray have unveiled how they measure up to the traditional market benchmarker.

Where Cravath’s associates are paid from $10,000 (the class of 2013) up to $60,000 (the class of 2005), Boies, Schiller is unusual in awarding significantly more, with the best-rewarded associates receiving $300,000 compared with a maximum bonus of $250,000 paid in 2012. The average young lawyer at the litigation-driven firm will take home a bonus of $85,000.

Cahill Gordon & Reindel held its year-end bonus at Cravath’s levels but topped the charts for the ‘special bonuses’ awarded in addition – reported by the American legal press to be between $10,000 to $25,000 – which for some came on top of a further windfall payment of $10,000 in the summer.

Elsewhere, Sidley Austin’s performance-based bonuses range from $10,000 up to $40,000 for associates that billed over 2,000 hours, while five-year qualified associates were awarded over $55,000 if more than 2,300 hours were billed.

Kaye Scholer, on the other hand, matched Cravath’s bonus rate of $10,000 to $60,000 for associates but is applying a second-tier performance-linked schedule for those who billed 2,200 hours or more. This begins at $20,000 for second-year associates and goes up to $80,000 for those that are eight years qualified.

Meanwhile Schulte Roth & Zabel is also paying the same level of bonuses as Cravath, but the firm is also awarding additional bonuses to associates who billed over the 2,300 hour mark. However, the financial services-heavyweight firm is awarding its bonuses in two stages, with the first around the end of December this year and the second at the end of the first quarter of 2014.

From a total of 21 firms that have revealed details of their bonus schemes so far, 14 have mirrored Cravath’s levels including Magic Circle firms Linklaters and Clifford Chance and US leaders like Sullivan & Cromwell, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.