Simpson Thacher is threatening to withhold bonus money from associates at the law firm who don’t show up to the office at least three days a week.
The Wall Street firm recently updated its employee handbook to state that it may consider office attendance when handing out annual and other discretionary bonuses, a source familiar with the situation confirmed.
“Attorneys who do not comply with this policy (as determined by the Firm) may be ineligible for a discretionary bonus or may have the amount of their discretionary bonus reduced,” the firm said in the updated employee handbook.
Major law firms have struggled with how to coax lawyers back to the office as the pandemic wanes, especially early-career associates expected to take advantage of in-person training and development. Associates have seen the leverage they gained during a recent recruiting surge evaporate as demand slows and firms look to tighten their belts.
Simpson Thacher declined to comment on the policy change, which was first reported by Above The Law.
The firm’s policy update comes after competitor Sidley Austin told associates earlier this year that attendance would factor into bonuses. Big Law firms typically hand out annual bonus awards on a seniority-based scale, which last year topped out $115,000 in extra cash.
Firm leaders are using associates’ lost leverage to their advantage, said Rebecca Glatzer, a legal recruiter in Atlanta for Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Some are using it to readjust their policies and pull back work from home options,” she said.
Simpson Thacher reported nearly $2.2 billion in gross revenue last year, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer, placing it among the 15 largest law firms in the country. The deals powerhouse is among Big Law’s most active advisers on mergers and acquisitions.
Associates at some firms gripe that they’re being forced into offices, despite working under partners who rarely show their faces on site.
“It’s almost like I’m remote,” Glatzer said of associates who turn up at their offices to find partners working elsewhere. “I’m in the office but then I have to call, email or video chat with the partner to get what I need.”
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