Susman Godfrey Sets the Mark for Associate Sign-On Bonuses
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sign on bonus

Summary: Susman Godfrey is bringing back the sign-on bonuses in order to bring the best candidates to their team.

Susman Godfrey is already a unique law firm in that they generally only hire lawyers with federal clerkships under their belts. The boutique litigation firm is taking things even higher by setting a new mark for associate starting bonuses. The firm has announced their plan to set a new standard with a $25,000 sign-on bonus for attorneys that accept an offer of employment with the firm. They already lead the market in bonuses paid to Supreme Court law clerks, although it is an undisclosed amount.


Hiring partner and chair of the employment committee at Susman, Erica Harris said, “We want the best candidates. We want to stand out to the best candidates. And we thought this would be a differentiator. Sometimes to a young person starting out, this has more meaning than the long view.”

Susman Godfrey already provides incoming lawyers with an $80,000 bonus if they have completed a clerkship with one federal judge. If the incoming attorney has clerked with two federal judges, then they will receive a $100,000 bonus. These clerkship bonuses are in addition to the sign-on bonus of $25,000. This means an incoming associate with two federal clerkships will be receiving a $125,000 bonus.

The firm has nine former Supreme Court clerks amongst their ranks of 102 partners and associates. Firm founder Steve Susman explains, “Requiring our new lawyers to have completed a federal clerkship assures that they have unique insight into how judges work and are able to make smart decisions in deciding what cases to take on.”

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Co-Managing Partner Neal Manne added, “The new sign-on bonus reflects our continuing commitment to recruiting, hiring and retaining the best, brightest and most capable young lawyers.” The firm currently has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. They already boast a roster of 10 new associates, all of which were eligible for the bonus the moment they signed on. Some may have to postpone when then accept the bonus if they are still clerking due to rules governing outside compensation.

Since the financial crisis roughly ten years ago, sign-on bonuses have not been common. According to Lateral Lawyer Group principal and recruiter Adam Weiss, “This is the first I’m hearing about a sign-on bonus in a long time. This must reflect that there is a tight competition in the market for the best students coming out of law schools.”

Harris further explained that the firm does not consider what other firms do when calculating their signing bonuses. She said, “We didn’t make the decision based on what other firms are doing.” In reference to the amount of $25,000 that the firm decided on, she said, “There was no science to it. We felt that this amount was significant enough, it would be meaningful to someone trying to decide among offers.”

If this is a big enough enticement for you, you are in luck. The firm is still hiring. “I have confirmed that hiring is not closed for this fall for any office. We are continuously receiving great resumes and not going to ignore a fantastic candidate for any of our offices,” Harris noted.

Do you think we can expect to see some other law firms add the same sign-on bonus as a way of attracting the best candidates? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about bonuses, read these articles:



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