Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

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leavingfirm

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Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby leavingfirm » Wed Feb 06, 2019 11:09 pm

I'd welcome any thought on the following situation from other biglaw people.

I work at a Vault 50 firm. I was gypped on my bonus this year, which would have been market rate. I'm a midlevel.

I had 1600 billables and just over 400 non-billables in a very large firm investment project. To get me to take on the project, I was told that 300 of my hours on the project would count toward my billables. Otherwise I would never have been able to do it. I did not anticipate that the non-billable work would take me as long as it did, but, and though I'm being vague here, it absolutely required me to bill at least 400 hours. No padding.

That left me with 1900 billable hours for the year--even though my total hours was in excess of 2000. I bill every hour honestly (others do not). I know many of the top firms will pay out a bonus regardless of hours billed, but mine requires 2000 billables, so I did not receive any bonus at all. I guess it's all or nothing. I also asked for more work nearing the end of the year as I saw that I may not hit 2000 but didn't get enough.

I busted my ass and my total hours was over 2000 (and I worked even more). This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My firm is always bragging about PPP and how great they are doing. I'm starting to talk to recruiters about switching firms.

Am I right to be miffed? Am I just a sucker?

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Kikero

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Kikero » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:04 am

If you want to switch to a firm that doesn't require hitting 2,000 hours to get your bonus, go for it. That will take some stress off in the future. But at the end of the day it doesn't sound like your current firm did anything wrong in my opinion. They told you that 300 hours would count, not that all hours on the project would count. It sucks that you spent 100 hours on nonbillable work on this project, but lots of associates spend that much time on business development, training, recruiting, etc. that doesn't count towards a bonus target.

TL;DR: All or nothing bonuses with an hours requirement suck but there's nothing particularly egregious about your situation.

jarofsoup

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby jarofsoup » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:09 am

They fucked you. Welcome to firm life. Lateral and you will just be a different type of fucked over. Your bonus will be pro-rated. Unless you can get a signing bonus to make up for your loss. . . . Which is not common.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Elston Gunn » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:14 am

That really sucks, but honestly 100 hours that don’t count toward your bonus target is pretty normal. It just sucks being at a place that requires 2K for bonus as it’s very easy to miss that while still working very hard.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:05 pm

That's terrible, OP. If it makes you feel any better, many other associates at biglaw firms get their bonuses gypped and are treated like shit. Trying to lateral out is the obvious option. I worked my ass off in 2018 - I billed 100~300 hours more than some of my peers. When I was struggling through those late nights in the office even during holidays, on most of the occasions, none of my colleagues in the same class year were not logged on. Those others that billed less than me got full bonuses whereas I didn't. I did have a clash with a senior associate and that may have been the reason why. I have no idea.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:07 pm

Elston Gunn wrote:That really sucks, but honestly 100 hours that don’t count toward your bonus target is pretty normal. It just sucks being at a place that requires 2K for bonus as it’s very easy to miss that while still working very hard.


From my own experience, being at a firm that doesn't have any clear target could be a lot worse.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:15 pm

Yeah OP that really sucks, and some firms will BS about considering "intangibles" and "non-billable" when determining bonus.

But, I honestly like being at firm that generally has straightforward clear targets and if you hit them you get the bonus, if you don't you don't.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:36 pm

Echoing others here, I sympathize with your frustration, but the firm's policy was pretty clear -- it's not like they baited-and-switched you. At any firm you'll go to, you'll have a ton of non-billables (recruiting, biz dev, CLE, trainings, mentoring, networking; at some firms, even pro bono doesn't count), so you end up working way more than the billable-hours minimum.

2000 billables is on the high end of firms, but lots of peer firms are comparable. It is true that some firms have no requirement at all. But you also may have to work way more at some of those firms regardless. So, maybe the grass is always greener?

If you want to switch firms, switch firms. But I don't know that you're going to find a dramatically different situation at most other biglaw firms.

shock259

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby shock259 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:37 pm

Sorry to hear this, OP. It really does suck to come close and get nothing. I assume you've talked to the partners you trust in your group, right? Were they not able to go to bat for you? They may not be able to do anything but there's a chance they can find some other money or something else for you.

The sucking part aside, I don't think many firms would treat you differently in this situation. They have a clear billable requirement and you didn't make it (notwithstanding the quirky 300 versus 400 hours thing). Some folks prefer the more subjective bonus standard, but I think most attorneys like the clearer line of (a) you make hours and get your full bonus or (b) you don't make hours and get nothing. It's at least clear.

For what it's worth, I've heard of people missing by 20 hours and getting nothing at my prior firm. It's horrible, but you've got to draw the line somewhere, as unfair as it seems.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Elston Gunn » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Elston Gunn wrote:That really sucks, but honestly 100 hours that don’t count toward your bonus target is pretty normal. It just sucks being at a place that requires 2K for bonus as it’s very easy to miss that while still working very hard.


From my own experience, being at a firm that doesn't have any clear target could be a lot worse.

Yeah, I can imagine. There are firms (mostly in NY) where ~everyone gets the full bonus as long as their hours aren’t very low though.

2K is also just a pretty high (if common) target. Some firms have bonus targets as low as 1800, others have 1950 etc.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:56 pm

Elston Gunn wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Elston Gunn wrote:That really sucks, but honestly 100 hours that don’t count toward your bonus target is pretty normal. It just sucks being at a place that requires 2K for bonus as it’s very easy to miss that while still working very hard.


From my own experience, being at a firm that doesn't have any clear target could be a lot worse.

Yeah, I can imagine. There are firms (mostly in NY) where ~everyone gets the full bonus as long as their hours aren’t very low though.

2K is also just a pretty high (if common) target. Some firms have bonus targets as low as 1800, others have 1950 etc.


The "everyone gets the full bonus as long as their hours aren’t very low" system is only at the very top NYC firms (S&C, DPW, STB, etc). For the NYC firms that are not at the top, not in the same tier as firms like S&C, DPW, STB, etc, the lack of a clear bonus target is actually quite misleading. The system at such firms that are struggling but like to appear to be in the same tier as the very top firms is actually "we will give you a full bonus if we like you or if the firm's performance is such that we can give bonuses to everyone." Those firms have the ability to (often exercise this ability) not give out full bonuses to high-billing associates because they emphasize that the bonuses are discretionary. Unless I am at a top tier NYC firm, I would much prefer a clear target.

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Guchster

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Guchster » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:46 pm

leavingfirm wrote:I'd welcome any thought on the following situation from other biglaw people.

I work at a Vault 50 firm. I was gypped on my bonus this year, which would have been market rate. I'm a midlevel.

I had 1600 billables and just over 400 non-billables in a very large firm investment project. To get me to take on the project, I was told that 300 of my hours on the project would count toward my billables. Otherwise I would never have been able to do it. I did not anticipate that the non-billable work would take me as long as it did, but, and though I'm being vague here, it absolutely required me to bill at least 400 hours. No padding.

That left me with 1900 billable hours for the year--even though my total hours was in excess of 2000. I bill every hour honestly (others do not). I know many of the top firms will pay out a bonus regardless of hours billed, but mine requires 2000 billables, so I did not receive any bonus at all. I guess it's all or nothing. I also asked for more work nearing the end of the year as I saw that I may not hit 2000 but didn't get enough.

I busted my ass and my total hours was over 2000 (and I worked even more). This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My firm is always bragging about PPP and how great they are doing. I'm starting to talk to recruiters about switching firms.

Am I right to be miffed? Am I just a sucker?


I think it's justified you feel pissed, but not sure leaving to another firm is the right answer (unless there's other stuff going on). This is par for the course for law firm behavior so I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happened at a new firm (or worse--i.e., they take back the 300 non-billable counting toward billable requirements after the fact). Looking back, it probably would've made sense once you hit 300 hours to negotiate the additional 100 counting toward billables before agreeing to continue working on the investment project (as that took away billable hours time). If the firm gave you crap about that, that's a slightly different conversation.

Moving forward, I don't know the politics of your firm, but I would speak with the person/liaison at your office in charge of bonus distribution. A friend at another firm didn't get a bonus because of a bizarre proration issue related to her maternity leave (she missed her cut off by like a dozen or so hours because they excluded certain holidays from her maternity leave time and weekends or some bullcrap, even though she hit her hours if you just prorated based on the math of days out). She talked about it with her retention committee rep and got some money (although not the full bonus).

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:45 pm

I know people in a similar situation and yes it is bullshit and you should leave (or at least actively look). There's enough firms out there that will treat you much better than that.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:16 pm

Suggestion.

I once had a [somewhat] similar situation. I dropped by Payroll, made my case and they quickly fixed it.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby objctnyrhnr » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:29 pm

I think the ideal situation would be to avoid the partners on this. I mean in theory, they don’t really care if you did the work. If you can convince the administrative end (billing, or whatever), you get what you want and don’t burn capital. Worth a shot.

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Monochromatic Oeuvre

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Monochromatic Oeuvre » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:22 am

If you're already too busy and working on projects beyond what you know they're going to give you hours credit for, that's a mistake.

If you know you're going to be near a bonus plateau and you're not doing everything in your power to hit it, that's a mistake.

Bonus thresholds of 2000+ really suck, considering the inevitability that not everyone's going to hit that. But you either need to be (1) getting the fuck out of there or (2) playing the hand you're dealt.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby cavalier1138 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:I know people in a similar situation and yes it is bullshit and you should leave (or at least actively look). There's enough firms out there that will treat you much better than that.


Where are they?

To echo what others have said, this sucks for OP, but getting denied a bonus for missing the cutoff by 100 hours isn't some outlier practice.

leavingfirm

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby leavingfirm » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:45 pm

To those saying there was a clear line in the sand that I missed: correct, but I did not bill just 1900 hours which clearly would be insufficient. I billed over 2000 hours, and given the wealth of the firm and the commitment I made to a large project that not everyone would have taken on, and that the firm benefited from this work, I expected to not have to grovel for my bonus.

By the way, I am not counting other non-billable work like recruiting and summer associate program in this total as some are suggesting. Thats probably another 30 to 40.

I need to decide soon whether to take my foot off the gas pedal here.

Maybe I should out the firm. Some others here have bad experiences with them.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby KirkwoodGAO » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:26 pm

Keep in mind that the phrase "gypped" has seriously racist connotations because it is derived from the notion that gypsies or Roma are dishonest swindlers. You might not want to go about in law or business remarking that someone "gypped" you or "Jewed you down" on something, unless you feel that members of those groups are deserving of their historically discriminatory stereotypes.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch ... -hurts-you

Also, you missed the bonus threshold by 100 hours. The firm is not being unfair to you.

leavingfirm

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby leavingfirm » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:31 pm

KirkwoodGAO wrote:Keep in mind that the phrase "gypped" has seriously racist connotations because it is derived from the notion that gypsies or Roma are dishonest swindlers. You might not want to go about in law or business remarking that someone "gypped" you or "Jewed you down" on something, unless you feel that members of those groups are deserving of their historically discriminatory stereotypes.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch ... -hurts-you

Also, you missed the bonus threshold by 100 hours. The firm is not being unfair to you.


I say gypped all the time. Never had a problem. Thanks for the lecture.

Regarding your advice about the bonus, are you speaking from biglaw experience as the thread requested?

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:40 pm

You sound a little entitled. You did not "bill" over 2000 hours; you recorded over 2000 hours, but only 1900 were billable. The firm told you upfront how many actual billable hours you needed, and you didn't get there. A lot of firms, including mine, give no credit whatsoever for BD work. It is just expected on top of the billable requirement, and if you don't meet the billables, you aren't eligible for either a bonus or a raise. Last year, I presented at over 20 CLEs, drafted the presentations by myself, worked on multiple pitches, drafted a couple nonbillable memos, and got precisely zero credit for all that work. Does it suck? Yes. Are there some firms that would give me credit for that work? Yes. Are there firms that aren't as draconian about what happens if you don't meet requirements? Yes. Was I treated "unfairly" or "gypped?" Not really. That's the policy, and I knew that going in.

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby KirkwoodGAO » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:54 pm

leavingfirm wrote:
KirkwoodGAO wrote:Keep in mind that the phrase "gypped" has seriously racist connotations because it is derived from the notion that gypsies or Roma are dishonest swindlers. You might not want to go about in law or business remarking that someone "gypped" you or "Jewed you down" on something, unless you feel that members of those groups are deserving of their historically discriminatory stereotypes.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch ... -hurts-you

Also, you missed the bonus threshold by 100 hours. The firm is not being unfair to you.


I say gypped all the time. Never had a problem. Thanks for the lecture.

Regarding your advice about the bonus, are you speaking from biglaw experience as the thread requested?


A limited number of historically prestigious biglaw firms have no bonus requirements. If you're at one of such firms come bonus time, you get a bonus (unless they stealth you prior to handing out bonuses, which I assume has happened during big recessions). It sounds like you were not at one of these firms.

Most other less historically prestigious and profitable biglaw firms have specific billable hours requirements for bonuses, which typically include formulas that specify what, if any, nonbillable work counts towards the bonus threshold (e.g., pro bono hours, recruiting hours, client development hours, firm committee hours, etc.) and in what amounts (e.g., perhaps 50, 100, or 250 hours of nonbillable work in particular categories counts). At most of these firms if you miss by even 0.1, you get no bonus. I would imagine that some entirely discretionary exceptions are made in close cases where people miss by only a few hours. Missing by 100 hours is not close; it's missing by a mile.

leavingfirm

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby leavingfirm » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You sound a little entitled. You did not "bill" over 2000 hours; you recorded over 2000 hours, but only 1900 were billable. The firm told you upfront how many actual billable hours you needed, and you didn't get there. A lot of firms, including mine, give no credit whatsoever for BD work. It is just expected on top of the billable requirement, and if you don't meet the billables, you aren't eligible for either a bonus or a raise. Last year, I presented at over 20 CLEs, drafted the presentations by myself, worked on multiple pitches, drafted a couple nonbillable memos, and got precisely zero credit for all that work. Does it suck? Yes. Are there some firms that would give me credit for that work? Yes. Are there firms that aren't as draconian about what happens if you don't meet requirements? Yes. Was I treated "unfairly" or "gypped?" Not really. That's the policy, and I knew that going in.


Thanks for the perspective. What vault rank is your biglaw firm?

leavingfirm

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby leavingfirm » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:04 pm

KirkwoodGAO wrote:
leavingfirm wrote:
KirkwoodGAO wrote:Keep in mind that the phrase "gypped" has seriously racist connotations because it is derived from the notion that gypsies or Roma are dishonest swindlers. You might not want to go about in law or business remarking that someone "gypped" you or "Jewed you down" on something, unless you feel that members of those groups are deserving of their historically discriminatory stereotypes.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch ... -hurts-you

Also, you missed the bonus threshold by 100 hours. The firm is not being unfair to you.


I say gypped all the time. Never had a problem. Thanks for the lecture.

Regarding your advice about the bonus, are you speaking from biglaw experience as the thread requested?


A limited number of historically prestigious biglaw firms have no bonus requirements. If you're at one of such firms come bonus time, you get a bonus (unless they stealth you prior to handing out bonuses, which I assume has happened during big recessions). It sounds like you were not at one of these firms.

Most other less historically prestigious and profitable biglaw firms have specific billable hours requirements for bonuses, which typically include formulas that specify what, if any, nonbillable work counts towards the bonus threshold (e.g., pro bono hours, recruiting hours, client development hours, firm committee hours, etc.) and in what amounts (e.g., perhaps 50, 100, or 250 hours of nonbillable work in particular categories counts). At most of these firms if you miss by even 0.1, you get no bonus. I would imagine that some entirely discretionary exceptions are made in close cases where people miss by only a few hours. Missing by 100 hours is not close; it's missing by a mile.


Based on your profile you are not in biglaw. Are you even a graduate? I am seeking the advice of people who have spent at least one day working in a biglaw firm. Why do you feel qualified to opine about this?

By the way, your assertion that many biglaw firms will wihthold an entire bonus for coming up 6 billable minutes short is laughable.

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Guchster

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Re: Considering leaving my firm after bad experience.

Postby Guchster » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:10 pm

leavingfirm wrote:To those saying there was a clear line in the sand that I missed: correct, but I did not bill just 1900 hours which clearly would be insufficient. I billed over 2000 hours, and given the wealth of the firm and the commitment I made to a large project that not everyone would have taken on, and that the firm benefited from this work, I expected to not have to grovel for my bonus.

By the way, I am not counting other non-billable work like recruiting and summer associate program in this total as some are suggesting. Thats probably another 30 to 40.

I need to decide soon whether to take my foot off the gas pedal here.

Maybe I should out the firm. Some others here have bad experiences with them.


Did you already speak with HR or whoever your contact on the bonus/retention committee is and explain the situation?



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