Bonus Season Has Started, But Where Are The Bonuses?


Money QuestionBaker McKenzie decided to kick off the 2020 bonus season late last week before Above the Law first publicized it yesterday, announcing the same $20K to $115K scale it employed last year (though without any statement of the bonus premiums it offered to high billers in 2021). Thus far, the firm’s announcement has been more or less … ignored.

Before you start wondering what the other firms could possibly be waiting for before making their matches, you should know that we’ve seen this before.

Back in 2020, when Baker McKenzie made the first move when it came to announcing year-end bonuses, and for almost two weeks, partners on Biglaw executive committees sat twiddling their thumbs until Cravath came forward to announce that it was matching the Baker McKenzie bonus scale. Only then did matches occur — and at a rapid pace, at that. The same thing happened in 2019, when Milbank was the first firm to announce bonuses. That announcement was also met with five days of silence until Cravath made its own announcement, matching the Milbank scale. Other firms quickly fell in line to match, but only after Cravath gave its thumbs-up.

Based on past precedent, Cravath’s seal of approval is what’s needed here, but let’s face it: we’re dealing with an industry-wide slowdown in business and there are already different tiers of compensation across Biglaw. Some firms may take longer to match this year, and some may even tie bonuses to office attendance, thus fragmenting the compensation market even more.

It looks like we’re going to have to wait impatiently for Cravath to make its move on bonuses, but for the time being, at least associates know what the bottom of the 2022 bonus market looks like. It’s just a matter of when your firm will match — or beat! — it.

Remember everyone, we depend on your tips to stay on top of this stuff. So when your firm matches, please text us (646-820-8477) or email us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Matches”). Please include the memo if available. You can take a photo of the memo and send it via text or email if you don’t want to forward the original PDF or Word file.

And if you’d like to sign up for ATL’s Bonus Alerts (which is the alert list we’ll also use for salary announcements), please scroll down and enter your email address in the box below this post. If you previously signed up for the bonus alerts, you don’t need to do anything. You’ll receive an email notification within minutes of each bonus announcement that we publish.


Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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