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Milbank, Skadden Join Bonus War With Associate Payouts (1)

March 24, 2021, 7:46 PMUpdated: March 24, 2021, 8:20 PM

Milbank and Skadden have joined a growing list of Big Law firms awarding a new round of special bonuses to associates in 2021 in recognition of their work and as a way to retain talent during what’s shaping up to be a busy year.

Milbank announced spring and fall bonuses in a memo from chair Scott Edelman that was viewed by Bloomberg Law on Wednesday.

Milbank associates in U.S., London, Brazil, and Asia will receive seniority-based bonuses ranging from $4,500 to $24,000 in April, and $7,500 to $40,000 in September, according to the memo.

“The firm is off to a great start to the year, and your tireless dedication, resilience and enthusiasm have allowed us to deliver the highest level of client service, while remaining engaged with the Milbank community and serving the broader communities where we live and work,” Edelman wrote.

It’s unusual for Big Law firms to hand out associate bonuses across the board outside of traditional end of year bonus payouts. But since the global pandemic, firms have sought new ways to retain and reward associates working long hours in Covid-19’s shadow.

Skadden took a somewhat different approach to its bonuses than others have so far, planning to distribute its cash in June and December, rather than in spring and fall, according to a firm memo viewed by Bloomberg Law. Bonus sizes for both rounds will range from $6,000 to $32,000.

The messages from both firms said that their traditional year-end bonuses are expected to remain at least at the levels they reached in 2020.

Big Law firms have vastly outperformed financial expectations set at the start of the pandemic. Milbank reported $1.2 billion in revenue for 2020, a 15.6% jump from the previous year. The firm also boosted profits per equity partner to $4.5 million, up 15.9% from 2019.

Davis Polk & Wardwell and Fenwick & West have already revealed their own 2021 spring and fall bonuses. The new round of bonus announcements was kicked off by Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, which said late last week it would provide spring bonuses to associates.

Meghan Tribe contributed to this report.

(Adds information on Skadden bonuses throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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