Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe associates will have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as the firm announced just before the holiday it would match the year-end associate bonus scale set by Milbank earlier this month.
At Orrick, associates that achieved 2,000 hours of client representation in 2019 are eligible for a full bonus.
In addition to their year-end bonuses, and in a shift toward higher potential payouts across the board, the firm is also offering larger premium bonuses than in the past.
The premium bonuses will be awarded at a range of up to 35% of top performing associates’ respective bonus amounts this year. This is up from a 10% premium, plus some higher individual adjustments, offered in years prior.
Toward the end of each year, associates in Big Law wait for their law firms to join the bonus race. Firms have periodically upped the ante with higher bonuses, which can be a useful tool for recruitment and retention of younger talent.
Following Milbank’s announcement on Nov. 7, Cravath, Swaine & Moore announced four days later that it would match Milbank’s bonus scale, which ranges from $15,000 for first-year associates to $100,000 for senior associates, the same range offered last year. Until last year, Cravath was widely known as the first mover in the year-end bonus race.
This year, at least two dozen law firms have matched Milbank, including Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and Proskauer Rose.
But Orrick’s year-end announcement also featured additional perks. The firm is offering its “Unplug On Us” vacation year-end bonus of $15,000 for associates and counsel with over 2,400 hours billed over the past year. The program, which the firm first announced last year, allows for Orrick’s attorneys to take a vacation on the law firm’s dime. Orrick will determine at the end of 2020 whether to offer the bonus again.
Looking ahead to next year, the firm also announced a few changes to clarify its merit bonus system.
To qualify for a full merit bonus next year, associates will have a target of 1,850 hours of billable client and pro bono work, plus 100 hours of firm billable time, which is “time devoted to self and firm investment.” This category includes hours dedicated to innovation, training, diversity and inclusion, and substantive business development.
In 2020, the firm will also be awarding “wellness dollars” gift cards after the completion of 250 or more billable hours in a month with the hope they will be used as a way for attorneys to invest in “unplugging and wellness.” After any three months in the year at this rate, the award will increase to $1,000 for the third month.
All of the changes for 2020 will apply to lawyers as well as lawyers in nontraditional roles at the firm, with tailored hours targets.
The full bonus scale for associate classes at Orrick and other firms matching Milbank is as follows:
Class of 2019 – $15,000 (prorated)
Class of 2018 – $15,000
Class of 2017 – $25,000
Class of 2016 – $50,000
Class of 2015 – $65,000
Class of 2014 – $80,000
Class of 2013 – $90,000
Class of 2012 – $100,000
Class of 2011 and above – $100,000