Last year, Cravath kicked off the bonus season with a bonus schedule that represented huge cuts from previous years. Most firms followed behind, although some firms took the Sullivan & Cromwell model instead, which differed only in that the most senior associates got an extra $5,000.
We can only hope that Cravath isn’t as influential at setting the market rate this year. Cravath will be paying bonuses that look identical to Sullivan’s 2009 scale – that is to say, no different from their own 2009 bonuses unless you are a 7th year associate. First year associates will receive $7,500, senior associates will get $35,000 and everyone else falls somewhere in between. AM Law has the full bonus scale and a copy of the firm’s memo here.
Obviously 2009 was a difficult year for the legal industry, as it was for the rest of the economy, but most signs indicate that 2010 was a vast improvement. We had hoped to see that reflected in bonuses for the year. It’s possible that other firms will buck the Cravath scale, even though very few did last year, but according my magic 8-ball the outcome is doubtful. Skadden has already followed with an identical bonus schedule.