Cravath kicks off year-end bonus season with payouts reaching $115K

Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP are located in Manhattan, New York City
Cravath, Swaine & Moore offices in New York. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • The law firm will pay its associates year-end bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $115,000
  • Big U.S. firms are balancing high demand and growing expenses as salaries and bonuses mount

(Reuters) - Cravath, Swaine & Moore said Monday that it will pay its associates year-end bonuses next month ranging from $15,000 to $115,000, upping the ante in a period of swollen paychecks for lawyers at major U.S. law firms.

The announcement is the first by a top firm detailing year-end bonus amounts this year, setting a new, higher scale that the firm's competitors will face pressure to match or exceed. A Cravath spokesperson declined to comment. The move was announced in an internal memo and first reported by legal blog Above the Law.

The Wall Street firm will distribute the bonuses on Dec. 17, and associates must “still be at the firm” on that date to be eligible, according to the memo.

Law firms have already offered multiple rounds of bonuses since the start of the pandemic, both to recognize associates' efforts during the crisis and to entice them to stick around amid a crush of work on corporate deals and other matters.

Cravath is among dozens of firms that offered two-installment “special” bonuses in the spring and fall, ranging from $6,000 up to $32,000 for its most senior associates. It also joined a wave of firms boosting associate salaries this summer, hiking pay for first-year associates from $190,000 to $205,000.

A report this month by Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor Index, which tracks economic indicators at large and midsized law firms, found direct expenses grew more than 7% over the past year, fueled largely by associate raises and bonuses.

According to Monday's memo, the firm will pay year-end bonuses of $15,000 (pro-rated) for the class of 2021; $20,000 for the class of 2020; $30,000 for the class of 2019; $57,500 for the class of 2018; $75,000 for the class of 2017; $90,000 for the class of 2016; $105,000 for the class of 2015; and $115,000 for the class of 2014.

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Xiumei Dong covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firm strategy and growth, in-house counsel and the Washington, D.C., legal market. Reach her at