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‘Pandemic Bonus’ Rollouts Continue with Akin Gump Payouts

Oct. 21, 2020, 8:49 PM

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has become the latest Big Law firm to dole out a “special bonus” to associates and counsel in recognition of their extra work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm is matching the pay scale set by Davis Polk & Wardwell in early September, which gives associates an extra lump sum of $7,500 to $40,000 depending on their seniority. Other wealthy firms, including Debevoise & Plimpton, Milbank, Shearman & Sterling, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Sullivan & Cromwell have also issued such bonuses.

“We are extremely grateful for all you have contributed to the firm and our clients this year,” Akin Gump chair Kim Koopersmith wrote in an email to associates and counsel on Wednesday.

“The level of commitment has been intense as we work to meet the needs of our clients every day and you have been making extraordinary contributions in the most challenging of circumstances.”

The bonus will be paid on Nov. 30, according to the email, which was shared with Bloomberg Law. Koopersmith said the special bonuses will not affect year-end bonuses for associates, which are expected to be at market scale.

The bonus scale is:

· 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 & senior $40,000

Cooley was the first firm known to have offered a special pandemic bonus, offering associates $2,500 to $7,500 in recognition of their hard work. Davis Polk raised the bar shortly thereafter, setting the pay scale that other firms have rushed to match.

Some firms, however, have publicly chosen not to get into the bonus wars.

Earlier this month, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison’s chair Brad Karp called the bonuses inappropriate, given the economic trauma that many of the firm’s clients and community members have faced this year. “Providing a special cash reward in direct response to the pandemic does not feel right at this time,” he wrote in an email to associates.

Cravath Swaine & Moore, Kirkland & Ellis, and O’Melveny & Myers have also said they won’t be offering special bonuses this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at

To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at
Chris Opfer in New York at