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Simpson Thacher, Willkie Farr Match Cravath Year-End Bonus Scale

Dec. 2, 2020, 8:25 PM

As associate bonus season kicks into high gear, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Willkie Farr & Gallagher said they will be handing out year-end bonuses in line with those announced by other Big Law competitors.

In a memo viewed by Bloomberg Law, Simpson Thacher chair William Dougherty said that the firm will be paying out year-end bonuses, ranging from $15,000 for first-year associates to $100,000 for senior associates. These bonuses will be paid on Dec. 21.

Willkie Farr’s executive committee also sent out a similar announcement to its U.S. associates, noting that it’s bonuses will be paid on Dec. 18.

The range, which matches last year’s associate bonus scale, follows the pay scale announced early last week by Cravath Swaine & Moore, the perennial standard bearer in Big Law compensation.

Cravath additionally announced a special bonus that mirrors fall bonuses that were awarded to associates by a handful of law firms earlier in 2020, including Simpson Thacher and Willkie Farr.

Davis Polk & Wardwell, which Tuesday announced that it would also match Cravath’s year-end bonus scale, awarded special bonuses to its associates in the fall, ranging from $7,500 for first year associates up to $40,000 for its most senior associates.

Several elite firms opted to match these special bonuses in the fall. These included Simpson Thacher and Willkie Farr as well as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Debevoise & Plimpton, Latham & Watkins, Shearman & Sterling, Sullivan & Cromwell, and Weil Gotshal & Manges.

Those fall bonuses were described as a way to reward associates for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic, but they also raised concerns among in-house counsel about whether the firms’ corporate clients would eventually be asked to foot the bill.

Others, like Cravath, Paul Weiss, and Kirkland & Ellis, declined to pay special bonuses in the fall. Since Cravath’s dual-bonus announcement though, many of those law firms are catching up, rolling out the pair of bonuses that will net some of senior associates a total of up to $140,000 this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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