The US bonus season has kick-started with elite New York firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore setting the tone by revealing it will pay its associates the same end-of-year bonuses as 2012, ranging from $10,000 to $60,000.
Lawyers who joined Cravath in September this year will receive a $10,000 bonus on Friday 20 December, identical to last year’s sum. First-year associates will also receive $10,000 while the most senior associates will receive $60,000.
The decision to keep bonuses static reflects the firm’s cautiousness following modest revenue growth among the US big law firms over the past year. Cravath is regarded as the market leader in terms of setting a benchmark for how other major US law firms will reward their junior lawyers, with US commentator David Lat commenting in his Above the Law blog late on Monday (2 December): ‘My take on the Cravath bonus numbers: this is good news. Biglaw’s performance has been rather weak in 2013 to date, but the Cravath partners are basically absorbing any downside risk themselves and keeping their associates whole.’
Last year, the 450-lawyer firm boosted its associate bonus levels, showing some signs of confidence after the economic slowdown. Meanwhile in 2011, bonuses were largely held, with first-year associates awarded $7,500, while seventh-year associates received $37,500.
The top 60 Legal Business Global 100 firm reported a 6% increase in revenues to $603m this year, while its profit per equity partner was also up 14% to $3,435,000.
The firm declined to comment.
The bonuses in full:
Class of 2013 — $10,000 (pro-rated)
Class of 2012 — $10,000
Class of 2011 — $14,000
Class of 2010 — $20,000
Class of 2009 — $27,000
Class of 2008 — $34,000
Class of 2007 — $40,000
Class of 2006 — $50,000
Class of 2005 — $60,000