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Cravath Sets the Scale for This Year’s Bonus Season

Summary: Cravath announced its annual year-end associate bonus on Monday.

On Monday, Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP announced its year-end associate bonuses, and the numbers were in line with those given the past two years. Within hours, other law firms matched the Big Law firm, which famously set the recent scale for associate pay.

According to Law.com, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP followed Cravath’s lead and offered year-end bonuses to its associates that matched Cravath’s structure of $15,000 to $100,000. The amount will be paid in December, and the bonus structures are based on the associates’ entering class.

Cravath Bonus Structure

Class of 2017 — $15,000 (pro-rated)
Class of 2016 — $15,000
Class of 2015 — $25,000
Class of 2014 — $50,000
Class of 2013 — $65,000
Class of 2012 — $80,000
Class of 2011 — $90,000
Class of 2010 — $100,000
Class of 2009 — $100,000

Cravath is known in the legal industry as setting the standard in pay. In 2016, the firm announced that it was upping its associate scale, with first-year associates earning $180,000 a year, up from $160,000. Many firms quickly followed suit, although some in the industry such as Kelley Drye & Warren pushed back, stating that the raise did not match the market.

According to LawCrossing, New York-based Cravath was formed in 1819, and it has grown to a multi-office firm with almost 400 associates and almost 100 partners. The firm’s primary practice is corporate, litigation, tax, executive compensation and benefits and trusts and estates.

JD Journal reported that last year some law firms were generous with their associates, while others filled their stockings with lumps of coal.

For instance, Milbank and Paul Weiss matched Cravath’s scale in 2016 while Kirkland & Ellis reportedly paid out more than Cravath by almost 20 percent. Houston-based Susman Godfrey went the extra mile and doubled what Cravath was giving, offering a minimum year-end bonus of $40,000 to its first-year associates. In contrast, Morgan Lewis reportedly slashed bonus amounts that year.

In 2016, Cravath was also the leader in announcing its year-end bonuses, and in a short period of time, associates learned whether or not their firms matched, surpassed, or gave less than the nearly 200-year-old law firm.

What do you think of Cravath’s bonuses this year? Let us know in the comments below.

Teresa Lo :