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Milbank Paying Pandemic Bonus with 50% Boost for Some Associates

Sept. 17, 2020, 12:52 AM

Milbank has matched the pandemic-related associate bonuses handed out by Davis Polk & Wardwell earlier this week with a further 50% payout to lawyers who have worked extra long hours during the virus crisis.

The one-time bonuses will be reduced by 50% for associates who worked less hours than their peers, the firm’s chair, Scott Edelman, announced in an internal memo sent Wednesday and obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Edelman wrote the bonuses were paid “in light of our success” during the pandemic and out of gratitude for the associates’ work despite “unprecedented challenges.”

“In determining the amounts of the bonus, we were very aware that our lawyers have been affected very differently over the course of the last year in terms of the demands that the Firm has made upon them,” Edelman wrote in the memo. “Given that some of our lawyers have shouldered a much greater work load during this period, we believed that fairness requires some differentiation in the amounts of this special bonus to be determined by hours worked to date.”

Lawyers below 80% utilization through Sept. 6 will receive half the bonus, while lawyers whose time cards put them in excess of 110% utilization will receive a 50% boost. The special payout will not impact traditional year-end bonuses, which Edelman said the firm does not expect will be less than those paid in 2019.

The bonuses will be paid on or before Oct. 30 to associates in Asia, London, São Paulo, Brazil and the U.S., and are tiered as follows:

Class of 2019: $7,500
Class of 2018: $10,000
Class of 2017: $20,000
Class of 2016: $27,500
Class of 2015: $32,500
Class of 2014: $37,000
Class of 2013: $40,000
Class of 2012: $40,000

Those tiers match the announcement Davis Polk made earlier this week, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg Law.

It remains to be seen how many firms will match the pandemic-related bonus pools, which come at a time when many Big Law firms have cut associate salaries due to a weakened economy.

Milbank has a history of setting the bar for associate wage scales, which other Big Law firms often match to remain competitive in the talent market. In 2018, the firm was the first to offer first-year associates a starting salary of $190,000.

The firm is also offering a traditional October start for its incoming class of first-year associates. Many firms have pushed start dates back to 2021.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

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

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