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US bonus season: Skadden ups the ante with bonus as Simpson Thacher, Paul Weiss and others match Cravath associate pay

Wall Street’s top firms have announced their bonuses for associates, with many matching the levels of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which became the first US firm to set the benchmark for US associate bonuses this year.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which in a rare move last year kick-started the process by announcing its bonuses ahead of Cravath has this year again matched Cravath’s levels, ranging from $15,000 to $100,000, and will reward its associates on 30 December.

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.

Other firms to follow suit so far are Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

Meanwhile, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom announced it would match Cravath’s bonuses, but also said it was awarding its high-performing senior associates an extra 10% above the $100,000 bonus.

Cravath’s bonuses stayed at their 2014 levels, after the firm increased amounts for certain classes to match Davis Polk & Wardwell’s bonus scheme. Cravath had announced bonus levels in November last year that came in significantly lower than other peer group firms.

Also this week Texas firm Vinson & Elkins (V&E) has increased all of its London-based associate salary levels and boosted its newly qualified salaries to £100,000 – a 25% rise.

Second-year associates will receive an overall pay increase of 22% to £110,000, while third-year wages will grow 20% to £120,000. All of the salary increases are effective 1 January 2016.

The new London associate compensation structure follows V&E’s move, in September this year, to increase salary levels to £45,000 for first-year trainees, and £47,500 for second-year trainees.