Litigation boutique Susman Godfrey is awarding its 73 associates with year-end bonuses that top Big Law competitors amid a boom time for trial work.
The elite, Houston-founded firm is doling out a median of $160,000 in extra pay for its most senior associates, Susman announced Tuesday.
The seniority-based bonus range starts at $85,000 for associates in the class of 2020. That’s nearly triple the $30,000 bonuses for associates in the same class in the scale announced last month by Wall Street’s Cravath, Swaine & Moore and other major law firms.
The bonuses come amid uncertainty for major firms faced with slowing demand that has already prompted some layoffs. Transactional and capital markets-related practices have been especially hard hit.
A combination of rebooted trials following Covid-19 stoppages, and new matters coming to the firm, has kept the litigation shop “crazy busy,” said Susman Godfrey managing partner Kalpana Srinivasan.
“We had many trials in 2022, and we are headed into 2023 with several dozen trials slated for the first half of the year,” Srinivasan said in an interview.
Susman announced a median bonus scale, rather than the lockstep scale rolled out by several other firms. Associates with “particularly high hours” received increased bonus amounts, according to a firmwide memo.
The firm takes a “holistic approach” to setting bonus levels, instead of using a standard billable hour threshold, Srinivasan said.
“Our associates work incredibly hard, but for associates who might have worked even more hours than our standard associates, particularly if they’ve been in trial or had something that was very time-consuming, we consider that in awarding bonuses,” she said.
Many Big Law firms are giving bonuses ranging from $15,000 for lawyers in the class of 2022 to $115,000 for the most senior associates. Some are dangling additional bonus cash for top billers.
Washington-based Wilkinson Stekloff, another litigation boutique, also topped its larger rivals with awards as high as $172,500 for the firm’s most senior associates.
Baker McKenzie was the first large firm to roll out associate bonuses, followed by Boies Schiller Flexner; Cravath; McDermott Will & Emery; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, among several others. More are expected to follow, likely matching the $15,000-to-$115,000 scale.
Susman is a 140-lawyer litigation firm that has represented WeWork Inc., Chevron USA, and Walmart Inc. The firm brought in $290 million in gross revenue last year, according to data compiled by the American Lawyer.