Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it? Forum

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Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Nov 17, 2021 10:54 pm

For big law bonuses, how often do people actually hit and get those bonuses if they're in support departments (think L&E as opposed to corporate)? Specifically curious about firms like Sheppard and Perkins Coie, but also generally curious.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Barrred » Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:09 pm

I assume its a pretty high percentage in recent years, where there has been a lot of work to go around in all departments. But what the heck is a "support department"?

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:49 pm

I suspect based purely on anecdata that there are large swaths of people (especially in lit or restructuring, in recent years) that do not get it, bc their V20 and down require 2k hours, which they don’t hit.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:17 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:49 pm
I suspect based purely on anecdata that there are large swaths of people (especially in lit or restructuring, in recent years) that do not get it, bc their V20 and down require 2k hours, which they don’t hit.
Who are all of these mythical lit associates who are not working more than 2k hours? Lit has been bonkers busy.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 2:40 am

Barrred wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:09 pm
I assume its a pretty high percentage in recent years, where there has been a lot of work to go around in all departments. But what the heck is a "support department"?
OP - Support department in the sense the practice groups that are not the big earners. Like corporate obviously is a heavy hitter, but L&E teams, for example, often don't handle big cases or bring in big clients on their own and instead "support" or "service" the side needs of the clients corporate brings in.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:26 am

I work at a lower Vault firm in a secondary market (used to work at a top NYC firm where there was no hours requirement) and recently saw annualized data across full-time/on-track associates and the average was like high 1600/low 1700s. This was in line with previous year and current budget. The idea that everyone in biglaw hits 2000 is a myth largely perpetuated by people at V20s in NYC where it's a lot more accurate than it is among all of biglaw.

Edited to add that I am a senior associate and won't hit 2000; don't expect any bonus.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Chrstgtr » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:27 am

The average attorney at a biglaw firm bills something like 1750 hours. So if there is a 2K hour cutoff then no, a lot do not get it.

N.b. take that 1750 number with a grain of salt--there are a ton of reasons why it is artificially deflated (i.e. people who've been fired but are still technically employed while they look, people who are turning down everything for their last few months because they know they're leaving, first years/laterals ramping up). Also that 1750 number doesn't take into account pro bono or firm citizenship hours, which count at a lot of firms

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by hdr » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:38 am

I know several senior associates who have never gotten a bonus. It's much more common than you'd think. At plenty of V100 firms the average associate bills 1700-1800 hours, sometimes even less. If you do acceptable work you're not going to be pushed out for billing 1700 hours, especially these days when many firms are desperate for bodies.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Chrstgtr » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:42 am

hdr wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:38 am
I know several senior associates who have never gotten a bonus. It's much more common than you'd think. At plenty of V100 firms the average associate bills 1700-1800 hours, sometimes even less. If you do acceptable work you're not going to be pushed out for billing 1700 hours, especially these days when many firms are desperate for bodies.
Just adding that while all that is true, 1700 can still be soul crushing. Imagine showing up to the office and doing nothing most of the day and then getting dumped on at 5 and then working 5 hours until 10, and then getting about 8 hours of work to do on a weekend. Because that is a 1800 billable year

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:59 am

In my experience, if you're in NY you will get it. You will either get it because you will meet hours, you're a 1st or 2nd year so you may have missed hours by a bit but 15K isn't worth having disgruntled juniors over, or the minimum billable hours at your firm really aren't applicable for NY and is mostly there to gatekeep low billing associates abroad.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:00 pm

Chrstgtr wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:42 am
hdr wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:38 am
I know several senior associates who have never gotten a bonus. It's much more common than you'd think. At plenty of V100 firms the average associate bills 1700-1800 hours, sometimes even less. If you do acceptable work you're not going to be pushed out for billing 1700 hours, especially these days when many firms are desperate for bodies.
Just adding that while all that is true, 1700 can still be soul crushing. Imagine showing up to the office and doing nothing most of the day and then getting dumped on at 5 and then working 5 hours until 10, and then getting about 8 hours of work to do on a weekend. Because that is a 1800 billable year
This is the unspoken reason why wfh was so much better. The days you have nothing you're still available by email but you can go do errand, or read a book or play video games. Less wasted time. And working 5-10 is much more tolerable at home too.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by eastcoast_iub » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm

All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:18 pm

eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm
All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.
Alternatively, I work at a 2,000 hour bonus minimum firm in a non-specialist corporate group and no one has ever hassled me for not working enough so long as I am annualizing close to 2,000 hours. I take 5 weeks of vacation and hit 2100-2200 every year which has earned me a reputation of a hard worker.

I turn down tremendous amounts of work and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a no-minimum shop.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by eastcoast_iub » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:18 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm
All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.
Alternatively, I work at a 2,000 hour bonus minimum firm in a non-specialist corporate group and no one has ever hassled me for not working enough so long as I am annualizing close to 2,000 hours. I take 5 weeks of vacation and hit 2100-2200 every year which has earned me a reputation of a hard worker.

I turn down tremendous amounts of work and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a no-minimum shop.
That's great you've been able to do this, but I don't think most people would be successful with this. If you hit 2,000 hours in October, it's not like you can just turn down work for the rest of the year. For the average person the benefit of not having to worry about bonus outweighs the ability to take a lot of vacation. It is difficult to obtain coverage for that much vacation in most places and in many cases it will be an interrupted vacation if you get it.

Also no min firms tend to be the wealthiest firms that need bodies the most and are not going to can someone decent for 1800 hours in this market. There is not pressure to take any and all work (unless you are gunning for partner).

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:41 pm

I mean, I'm happy for you but I would guess it would be very difficult for you to recreate your success as a non-specialist corporate lawyer at a non-minimum firm when your fellow cohorts are putting up 2500 hours.

If you are working above 2,000 hours anyways, the expectation to hit 2,000 hours is a very good thing. Obviously, if you are working less than 2,000 hours, missing your bonus is awful and the no-minimum firm is significantly better. So it's a question of what is more likely, and as you said, the no-minimum firms are way more profitable, somehow.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 1:26 pm

hdr wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:38 am
I know several senior associates who have never gotten a bonus. It's much more common than you'd think. At plenty of V100 firms the average associate bills 1700-1800 hours, sometimes even less. If you do acceptable work you're not going to be pushed out for billing 1700 hours, especially these days when many firms are desperate for bodies.
For what it's worth as one more data point, at my V10, in M&A, I was told by a partner that billing 1950 is fine and there's no need to bill more, unless you want to really impress, in which case more is always better. The more interesting bit is that if you fall below 1650, you could expect to attract the attention of the personnel committee (ominous). Anything in between, and there will be an expectation that you will take on additional work or explain why you cannot.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 1:45 pm

eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:37 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:18 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm
All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.
Alternatively, I work at a 2,000 hour bonus minimum firm in a non-specialist corporate group and no one has ever hassled me for not working enough so long as I am annualizing close to 2,000 hours. I take 5 weeks of vacation and hit 2100-2200 every year which has earned me a reputation of a hard worker.

I turn down tremendous amounts of work and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a no-minimum shop.
That's great you've been able to do this, but I don't think most people would be successful with this. If you hit 2,000 hours in October, it's not like you can just turn down work for the rest of the year. For the average person the benefit of not having to worry about bonus outweighs the ability to take a lot of vacation. It is difficult to obtain coverage for that much vacation in most places and in many cases it will be an interrupted vacation if you get it.

Also no min firms tend to be the wealthiest firms that need bodies the most and are not going to can someone decent for 1800 hours in this market. There is not pressure to take any and all work (unless you are gunning for partner).
Depends on the year and what's going on with the broader group - but FWIW, I hit my hours midway through October and my staffing partner told me today that once my deals are closed out for the year (should be tomorrow), I'm off for the month of December and won't be staffed on anything new.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 2:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 1:45 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:37 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:18 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm
All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.
Alternatively, I work at a 2,000 hour bonus minimum firm in a non-specialist corporate group and no one has ever hassled me for not working enough so long as I am annualizing close to 2,000 hours. I take 5 weeks of vacation and hit 2100-2200 every year which has earned me a reputation of a hard worker.

I turn down tremendous amounts of work and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a no-minimum shop.
That's great you've been able to do this, but I don't think most people would be successful with this. If you hit 2,000 hours in October, it's not like you can just turn down work for the rest of the year. For the average person the benefit of not having to worry about bonus outweighs the ability to take a lot of vacation. It is difficult to obtain coverage for that much vacation in most places and in many cases it will be an interrupted vacation if you get it.

Also no min firms tend to be the wealthiest firms that need bodies the most and are not going to can someone decent for 1800 hours in this market. There is not pressure to take any and all work (unless you are gunning for partner).
Depends on the year and what's going on with the broader group - but FWIW, I hit my hours midway through October and my staffing partner told me today that once my deals are closed out for the year (should be tomorrow), I'm off for the month of December and won't be staffed on anything new.
Yeah, you're off until everyone else is killed and a client comes in Dec. 10 with something that needs to sign by year-end and you're the one asshole cruising.

The only way you ever really get off December in transactional practice is to have your deals close ~first week and have a busy November. Everyone sees you were slammed into first week of December and assumes you remain on pace even as you roll off everything.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 2:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 2:23 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 1:45 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:37 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:18 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:04 pm
All things being equal, I would choose a no-minimum firm over a minimum firm any day of the week. I work in a specialist group at a firm known as a sweatshop and would have missed bonus a few years at many firms where I had 1800 or 1900 hours.

Not having to worry about getting nickel and dimed on a bonus is a tremendous benefit. As the previous poster noted even an 1800 year can be terrible b/c of the unpredictability and constant availability.
Alternatively, I work at a 2,000 hour bonus minimum firm in a non-specialist corporate group and no one has ever hassled me for not working enough so long as I am annualizing close to 2,000 hours. I take 5 weeks of vacation and hit 2100-2200 every year which has earned me a reputation of a hard worker.

I turn down tremendous amounts of work and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a no-minimum shop.
That's great you've been able to do this, but I don't think most people would be successful with this. If you hit 2,000 hours in October, it's not like you can just turn down work for the rest of the year. For the average person the benefit of not having to worry about bonus outweighs the ability to take a lot of vacation. It is difficult to obtain coverage for that much vacation in most places and in many cases it will be an interrupted vacation if you get it.

Also no min firms tend to be the wealthiest firms that need bodies the most and are not going to can someone decent for 1800 hours in this market. There is not pressure to take any and all work (unless you are gunning for partner).
Depends on the year and what's going on with the broader group - but FWIW, I hit my hours midway through October and my staffing partner told me today that once my deals are closed out for the year (should be tomorrow), I'm off for the month of December and won't be staffed on anything new.
Yeah, you're off until everyone else is killed and a client comes in Dec. 10 with something that needs to sign by year-end and you're the one asshole cruising.

The only way you ever really get off December in transactional practice is to have your deals close ~first week and have a busy November. Everyone sees you were slammed into first week of December and assumes you remain on pace even as you roll off everything.
Always possible that something rolls in last minute, but unlikely. Most deals have been staffed through EOY.

Of course, I'll be ready to work when they need me, but in the past couple of years, everything dies down around December 15-20th anyway. Not much risk here.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 18, 2021 5:47 pm

In my 5 years (all at firms that had hours minimums), there was only one year I missed the hours target because my group was extremely slow and I did not get a bonus. But I know seniors who have missed the bonus more years than they received it, and they were still kept around.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Nov 19, 2021 3:46 pm

It is so wild to me that for years I've been fighting tooth and nail to get my hours below 2400/year, asking partners repeatedly for more associate help on cases and pushing back when they try to put more on my plate, all the while there are associates everywhere (per this thread) not making their bonuses because of low hours.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by BrowsingTLS » Fri Nov 19, 2021 8:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Nov 19, 2021 3:46 pm
It is so wild to me that for years I've been fighting tooth and nail to get my hours below 2400/year, asking partners repeatedly for more associate help on cases and pushing back when they try to put more on my plate, all the while there are associates everywhere (per this thread) not making their bonuses because of low hours.
This pisses me off. Stop staffing me on stuff when my hours are well ahead of most associates' hours. Give new cases to those shirking work.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Nov 19, 2021 8:40 pm

BrowsingTLS wrote:
Fri Nov 19, 2021 8:38 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Nov 19, 2021 3:46 pm
It is so wild to me that for years I've been fighting tooth and nail to get my hours below 2400/year, asking partners repeatedly for more associate help on cases and pushing back when they try to put more on my plate, all the while there are associates everywhere (per this thread) not making their bonuses because of low hours.
This pisses me off. Stop staffing me on stuff when my hours are well ahead of most associates' hours. Give new cases to those shirking work.
Same problem. Drives me crazy.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by eastcoast_iub » Fri Nov 19, 2021 9:09 pm

This is your reward for apparently doing good work. The solution is to be acceptable but not exceptional.

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Re: Big Law Bonus - Do most people get it?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Nov 19, 2021 11:38 pm

Is it their way of avoiding paying bonuses to everyone? Like you would obviously get a bonus for billing over 2,400 so if they stack you with more work their cost remains the same rather than spreading the work and triggering bonus payments to others?

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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