Things I Don’t Care About: BigLaw Pay Raises

Hello and welcome to Lawyers & Liquor, where we do nothing but talk about legal stuff in a profane manner because…you know what? I don’t owe an explanation to you.  Every lawyer in the world wants to just start cursing about halfway through discussing anything legal with laymen and brand-spanking-new baby attorneys, and that’s what I do because, frankly, I ain’t got much to lose anymore by doing it.

So today let’s start talking about the things I don’t really give two watery shits about, and by that I mean the whole thing going on that’s  been over-reported and covered with intense scrutiny in the legal community.  No, not the death of Judge Leighton, former federal judge and civil rights pioneer, and quite possibly the most interesting man in the world, back in the beginning of June, but rather the BigLaw pay raises that I, like many other small-time meat and potatoes attorneys aren’t affected by and don’t fucking care about.

I’m the Boozy Barrister, and it’s time to buckle the fuck up.

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Bonuses, How Do They Work?

I’m revisiting the hell out of old posts this week.  Not too long ago I posted about how Above the Law had an article detailing the horrendous burden of BigLaw associates possibly not getting the bonuses they expected.  In the article it was touted as an example of all that was wrong with the world, the fact that these poor, beleaguered first-year associates may see a reduction in their discretionary compensation that they are awarded in addition to a six-figure salary and benefits.  The world stood still, and people wept for them.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I just poo-poo’d the whole idea of this being a tragedy of some sort, because the vast amount of attorneys in the world aren’t in BigLaw and therefore have no expectation of receiving a bonus that’s pegged in any way to the Cravath Scale.  The Cravath Scale, by the way, is the salary and bonus scale paid by Cravath Swaine & Moore, LLP, a two hundred year old white shoe firm that is considered the industry standard for BigLaw compensation.  Let me point out that looking at the listing of law schools that Cravath attorneys hail from, very few of them are “for profit” law schools that exist outside outside of the top ranked schools in the country, and there are a number of foreign law schools on there.

The short read on this is for the vast majority of attorneys out there this holiday season, what Cravath does or doesn’t do won’t apply to you.  You are not BigLaw.  Your firm is not bringing in Cravath level money.  You do not work the same number of hours at the same billable rate and in the same markets as Cravath associates.  The Cravath Scale will have no effect on you, and is not a good benchmark for what you should expect bonus wise.

Hell, there’s a chance you shouldn’t expect a bonus at all, you lout.

Continue reading “Bonuses, How Do They Work?”

Reduced Bonus? Cry me a river.

So Above the Law posted today that some associates are unhappily finding out that their bonuses may be less than expected.  These associates, who range from Jones Day to Morgan Lewis, are upset to find that their bonuses are going to be slashed.  The minions are apparently in an uprising mode, and certainly this injustice will rock the streets of every city these firms have offices in.

That’s right, my brothers and sisters, the uprising is at hand!

I feel so sorry for those first year associates, what with their salaries at Jones Day of, according to GlassDoor, anywhere from $153,000-$171,000 per year.  Or maybe it’s $180,000 per year as reported by ATL earlier this year.  However will they survive without their bonuses?    By the way, for people screaming “NEW YORK COST OF LIVING,” their Pittsburgh office is paying out $160,000 in 2016 according to ATL in that June post.    That’s only about $73,000 per year more than the median starting salary for attorneys in Pittsburgh who aren’t in BigLaw.

I get it.  They wanted nice things and they worked hard to get into Jones Day.  But every time I see a post about a first year attorney, who made more than me last year, crying about not getting their bonus I get a little pissed off.  If you don’t like the BigLaw culture and pay scale, come join the rest of us in our smaller offices, with our less expensive suits, and our less prestigious clients.  That removes your bonus issue.

Oh, we work about the same number of hours, if not more, by the way, because we don’t have decades or centuries of prestige surrounding our office.  We have to build our reputations, and that means we bust ass.  We work nights, weekends, and holidays.  We’re on call to our clients constantly because we not only need them, we need their friends.  We spend as much, if not more, time briefing our arguments and bare-knuckle brawling it out.  We also do all of this for less money, more stress, and more in the way of ulcers.

By the way, for those people who point at their degree and say “BUT MAH IVY LEAGUE,” I’ll refer you to my father, a graduate of Harvard Law who hung a shingle and runs what is now a successful practice.  He did it without bonuses, with debt, with three kids, and while taking part-time work as a fuckin’ prosecutor so he could make sure we had insurance coverage.  You don’t like how your firm is treating you when you’re getting paid more than some attorneys who have been practicing for decades in your area?  Jump ship and become the competition.

Here’s my rule of thumb:  If you’re in your early to mid-20’s as a lawyer, you’re clearing well in excess of six figures, and you don’t have to worry about being both a competent and zealous attorney AND a businessman in the same geographical area as me, with many of the same expenses, don’t expect me to shed a single tear for you when your bonus isn’t as much as you want.  You have a damn good job, with damn good pay, and which most of us would love to bring in.  You are the upper-class of the legal world, and just like I’m not crying over a billionaire losing a couple million because of a bad year, I have no sympathy when your discretionary bonus gets cut.

Jump ship to another BigLaw firm if you have the ability to do it, or get down here in the gutter and start street brawling for your check like the rest of us.  But stop bitching.  Nobody’s crying for you.