Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

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Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:23 pm

Hello All. Anon for obvious reasons. When our firm announced salary cuts firm wide in May, they also announced a retroactive cap on pro bono hours being considered billable equivalent for our yearly bonus. The pro bono hours considered billable equivalent was previously unlimited and then in May they retroactively applied a 50 hour pro bono cap considered billable equivalent for October 2019-September 2020 (and many associates had already passed 50 pro bono hours prior to the announcement) . Have other firms been doing this as well?

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:43 pm

I guess it’s annoying they moved the goalposts, but it was charitable of them to count unlimited pro bono toward billables in the first place. My firm and many others I know cap pro bono at 50-250 except in extraordinary cases

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:43 pm
I guess it’s annoying they moved the goalposts, but it was charitable of them to count unlimited pro bono toward billables in the first place. My firm and many others I know cap pro bono at 50-250 except in extraordinary cases
I mean sure it was "unlimited" in the sake there was no formal cap before but I guarantee if an associate was billing over 250 to pro bono they would get talked to by a partner. The difference between 50 and 200 though is quite a lot. Here is a Chambers link with firms (a lot of which are unlimited) for pro bono billable credit: https://www.chambers-associate.com/law- ... bono-hours

The difference too with your post is you knew your cap was at 50-250 starting the billing year. Ours got cut deeply halfway through the year.

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beepboopbeep

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by beepboopbeep » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:31 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:43 pm
I guess it’s annoying they moved the goalposts, but it was charitable of them to count unlimited pro bono toward billables in the first place. My firm and many others I know cap pro bono at 50-250 except in extraordinary cases
I mean sure it was "unlimited" in the sake there was no formal cap before but I guarantee if an associate was billing over 250 to pro bono they would get talked to by a partner. The difference between 50 and 200 though is quite a lot. Here is a Chambers link with firms (a lot of which are unlimited) for pro bono billable credit: https://www.chambers-associate.com/law- ... bono-hours

The difference too with your post is you knew your cap was at 50-250 starting the billing year. Ours got cut deeply halfway through the year.
I was previously at an unlimited pro bono firm, and billed ~500 pro bono hours in a year without getting any kind of "talk." The circumstances were a little unique and several associates were in the 500-1000 range that year. It likely helped that my billables were very close to being over the bonus threshold anyway (i.e.: I would've hit it even if pro bono hours had been limited to, like, 100).

I'm honestly not sure how people do any kind of meaningful pro bono limited to 50 hours per year. I suppose the answer is probably that they mostly don't outside of one-off arguments, like repping DV survivors, credible fear reviews, etc. My case really needed several hundred hours of work.

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by hdr » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:45 pm

I have not heard of this. I suspect that bonuses are going to be substantially below the previous lockstep scale -- especially at firms that have cut salaries -- so I wouldn't think too much of it.

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RaceJudicata

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by RaceJudicata » Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:03 pm

hdr wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:45 pm
I have not heard of this. I suspect that bonuses are going to be substantially below the previous lockstep scale -- especially at firms that have cut salaries -- so I wouldn't think too much of it.
This. Won’t matter much, I think bonuses are going to be negligible, especially at cut firms.

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by ChickenSalad » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:31 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:43 pm
I guess it’s annoying they moved the goalposts, but it was charitable of them to count unlimited pro bono toward billables in the first place. My firm and many others I know cap pro bono at 50-250 except in extraordinary cases
The difference too with your post is you knew your cap was at 50-250 starting the billing year. Ours got cut deeply halfway through the year.
I sympathize that it sucks but the firm is obviously cutting billable hour credits because times are tight and they can’t afford to pay bonuses of 50k+ to everyone who doesn’t have work and is sitting at home doing pro bono for 4 months.

It’s presumably one of several cost cutting measures to avoid furloughs or layoffs. And unlike firm wide salary cuts, it only affects those without the billable work to begin with (so you don’t have busy restructuring associates getting pay cuts like corporate guys who aren’t billing).

If you knew that you’d get a talk if you did 250+ pro bono, then a cap shouldn’t be that surprising.

Edit: and I disagree with others that say bonuses are getting slashed. At firms that aren’t cutting pay or furloughing attorneys, I expect market bonuses. There just won’t be nearly the same number of bonus eligible associates so the cost to the firm will be reduced significantly (and high billing associates won’t lateral to another firm offering to pay their lockstep bonus)

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nealric

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by nealric » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:31 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:43 pm
I guess it’s annoying they moved the goalposts, but it was charitable of them to count unlimited pro bono toward billables in the first place. My firm and many others I know cap pro bono at 50-250 except in extraordinary cases
I mean sure it was "unlimited" in the sake there was no formal cap before but I guarantee if an associate was billing over 250 to pro bono they would get talked to by a partner. The difference between 50 and 200 though is quite a lot. Here is a Chambers link with firms (a lot of which are unlimited) for pro bono billable credit: https://www.chambers-associate.com/law- ... bono-hours

The difference too with your post is you knew your cap was at 50-250 starting the billing year. Ours got cut deeply halfway through the year.
I can see that coming from the very same partner that assigned all that pro bono in the first place. Most associates I've been familiar with try to run screaming from pro bono (which is often just some partner's pet project rather than an actual charitable endeavor). If you actually want to take on a charitable case, be prepared to bill 500+ because you will be doing a heap of BS pro bono on top of whatever case you take on.

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by gregfootball2001 » Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:15 pm

ChickenSalad wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:07 pm
Edit: and I disagree with others that say bonuses are getting slashed. At firms that aren’t cutting pay or furloughing attorneys, I expect market bonuses. There just won’t be nearly the same number of bonus eligible associates so the cost to the firm will be reduced significantly (and high billing associates won’t lateral to another firm offering to pay their lockstep bonus)
Not to derail this into a bonus thread, but I completely agree with this. I don't see bonuses being slashed, I see fewer associates getting bonuses due to hours requirements.

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hdr

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by hdr » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:49 am

Bonuses were cut by more than two-thirds in 2008/09. Most firms are facing huge declines in revenue and I wouldn't expect associates meeting their hours to emerge unscathed.

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Re: Retroactive Cap on Pro Bono Eligible for Bonus

Post by jigiwo1898jupiter » Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:53 am

hdr wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:49 am
Bonuses were cut by more than two-thirds in 2008/09. Most firms are facing huge declines in revenue and I wouldn't expect associates meeting their hours to emerge unscathed.
Ugh a sad reality--nothing cooler than being an associate: you share in the downside, but not in the up.

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