BigLaw Bonuses: An Excuse to Keep Salaries Flat?

by Nicole Weber | June 17, 2015

  • My Vault

Law firms may have been much more generous with associate bonuses for 2014 than in recent years. But is increased discretionary compensation just a way to avoid raising base salaries, which have been the same for 8 years? If you ask the more cynical law firm associates, that is certainly the case. Especially if they live in NYC.

Here’s what one associate told us:

“The higher bonuses this year were wonderful. I'm very pleased that our firm and its peers are rewarding their associates' hard work. However, salaries have not increased in many, many years.  In that time, NYC housing costs have doubled and other living expenses have risen significantly. Increased salaries and the security they provide are overdue for New York attorneys.”

This sentiment represents what many other attorneys told us when they completed the 2015 Vault survey. (Results will be released on a rolling basis this summer, starting next week with the release of the 2016 Top 100 list).

And nothing really beats the experience of two partners saying right in front of you how much you DON’T deserve a pay increase:

“Year-end bonuses were generous. The salary scale not changing since 2007? Not as generous.  When bonuses were announced, I was in a meeting with a partner. Another partner popped his head in and the two shook their heads and said 'ridiculous' right in front of me. To openly say that we are undeserving of increased compensation despite record profits and revenues per lawyer is pretty insulting.”

OUCH! This associate may have had the last laugh this year, but it’s true that until base salaries go up, “market” compensation next year will be anybody’s guess.

FOLLOW VAULT ON TWITTER @VAULTLAW, INSTAGRAM @VaultCareers and FACEBOOK  

Read More:
Be Thankful: BigLaw Bonuses to Increase for 2014
Will Law Firms Increase Salaries in 2015?

Filed Under: Law

Tags: BigLaw | Bonuses | Law firms | Lawyers | Salary

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.