Law firm bonus wave continues, with boost from Davis Polk

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
  • Davis Polk, Paul Weiss, Paul Hastings match Cravath's year-end bonuses, with extra cash to boot
  • Special "one-time" bonuses reach up to $23,000

(Reuters) - Davis Polk & Wardwell said Monday that its associates will receive thousands of extra dollars this month along with market-matching year-end bonuses, a move soon followed by its competitors Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Paul Hastings.

New York's Davis Polk, which has been one of the legal industry pace-setters for pay and bonuses during the pandemic, confirmed Monday it will match the $15,000 to $115,000 year-end associate bonus scale set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore last month. Additionally, the firm is offering a "special one-time bonus" for the class of 2020 and above, ranging from $4,000 to $23,000 for the most senior associates, according to an internal memo reviewed by Reuters.

Paul Weiss and Paul Hastings followed suit on Monday with matching one-time and year-end bonuses, according to memos obtained by Reuters. Debevoise & Plimpton also matched, legal blog Above the Law reported.

Davis Polk’s bonuses will be paid on Dec. 30, and will be pro-rated "for part-time arrangements and 2021 start dates,” the firm's memo said. Paul Weiss has set its payout date for Dec. 20, and Paul Hastings' will be Feb. 4, according to their memos.

With the two bonuses combined, the firms will be paying their most senior associates up to $138,000 in year-end rewards.

Many U.S. law firms have already offered multiple rounds of bonuses since the start of the pandemic, in addition to widespread associate salary increases beginning in the summer.

Stephanie Ruiter, a director at legal recruiter Lateral Link, said firms are strategically offering extra compensation in the form of bonuses because it allows them to reward hardworking associates in a tight market for talent without committing to higher pay in the long term.

"I think it's a balance between that, and then rewarding homegrowns who didn't get signing bonuses" like the associates who recently joined from another firm, Ruiter said.

Read more:

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

More law firms join end-of-year bonus race following Cravath

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Thomson Reuters

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 Xiumei.Dong@thomsonreuters.com.