LawCrossing Salary Survey of Lawyer Salaries in Best Law Firms

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Law Firm Name

 

2011 Salary & Bonuses

 

Salary Scale

 

2010 Target Bonus Level

 

Bonus Factors

 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld have salaries that start at $115K to $160K for first year associates, depending on the office. The average salary for first years across firms is $146,000.
There is an  unofficial billing target of 2,000 hours annually.

 

$160k

$7k,
$10k,


$15k,
$20k,
$25k,
$30k,
$35k
Class year determines bonuses.
 

Allen & Overy LLP

 

Starting salary is $160,000. Salary and bonus systems are both "lockstep." Billable hours have no bearing on bonuses.


$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k
 

  N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

Alston & Bird LLP

 

$160,000 starting salary for new associates. Merit considerations come into play when determining bonus amounts including billable hours. Top performers in first through fourth years can earn up to $25,000 extra. Top performers in fifth year + can earn up to $50,000 extra.

 

$135k,

 

$140k, $145k,

 

$155k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Bonuses are 4%, 7.5%, or 12% of salary at the following billable hours markers: 1,900, 2,000, and 2,100.

 

Arnold & Porter LLP

 

Arnold & Porter uses lockstep salaries based on class year with a base starting at $160,000. Subjective factors and billable hours determine bonus amounts. 2010 bonuses were considered "above-market," at $10,000 to $50,000 on average with a maximum of $70,000.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k,

 

$250k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses including quality of work and work quality in relation to seniority. Qualifying factors are not transparent but the basics include: 1,800 billable hours and pro bono work.

 

Baker & McKenzie

 

The Baker & McKenzie firm has a lockstep salary system with some exceptions given for individuals based on performance. Starting salaries are $160,000 except for Miami offices, where it is $130,000. Bonus amounts are considered to be below market.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though this process is not transparent.

 

Baker Botts L.L.P .

 

Salary is merit-based at Baker Botts. The four salary categories are determined by number of years with the firm (1, 2-3, 4-6, and 7+), but seniority promotions are not automatic. Starting salary is $160,000.  Texas offices have the highest bonus incentives. Bonuses are paid in March. Federal District and Circuit Court clerkship bonuses are given in the amounts of $35,000 and $50,000 to Texan and non-Texan offices, respectively.

 

$160k, $170k, $170k, $185k, $185k,

 

$185k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though this process is not transparent.

 

Baker Hostetler LLP

 

Starting salaries fall between $115,000 and $160,000 then slip into a hybrid lockstep system than combines billable hours, performance, and other factors into consideration. Individual salaries do not always match market levels, nor do bonuses, which are largely discretionary.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

5% bonus administered after completing 1,950 hours. Additional 12.5% bonus is possible, though rare, and based on performance.

 

Bingham McCutchen LLP

 

Bingham McCutchen follows a hybrid lockstep system that determines base salary levels. Starting salary is $160,000. Bonuses are at market level but not paid out until March. Judicial clerkship bonuses are also available.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k,

 

$250k

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though this process is not transparent.

 

Bryan Cave LLP

 

Salary at Bryan Cave in coastal and Chicago offices is $145,000 for the first year, $150,000 for the second year, and $155,000 for the third year. Base salary is lower in all other offices. In general, compensation is determined by lockstep and merit-based factors. Bonuses are also tiered but it is unclear how much members will receive each year. Judicial clerkship bonuses are available in some cases.

 

$125k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though this process is not transparent. Bonus tiers reside at 1,950, 2,100, 2,250, and 2,400 hours.

 

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

 

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft have a lockstep salary system that starts at $160,000 for all offices except Charlotte, which starts at $130,000. Spring bonuses in 2011 matched the market scale. 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k,

 

$250k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though merit-based factors are only considered after 1,900 billable hours have been logged.

 

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP

 

Cahill offers a lockstep salary system that starts at $160,000 and stays consistent depending on the associate's class. Bonuses were distributed in payments ranging between $15,000 to $20,000 in December 2010 and another at market scale in January 2011. Mid-year bonuses were also paid in June 2011 for $5,000 to $25,000.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

Chadbourne & Parke LLP

 

Chadbourne & Parke has a starting salary of $160,000 and bonuses that meet the market scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP

 

A lockstep system is used for setting salaries at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton with a base of $160,000. They match market scale bonuses across the board. 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Bonuses are determined by class year of the associate.

 

Clifford Chance LLP

 

Clifford Chance uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonuses meet the market scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

The process by which bonuses are determined is not transparent.

 

Cooley LLP

 

Cooley uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000 and meet the market level. Bonuses usually meet the market scale but a lack of overall transparency makes it difficult to gauge average amounts.

 

 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

 

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Some of these factors are believed to include performance, client relationships, quality, and partnership potential, though the process is not transparent.

 

Covington & Burling

 

Covington & Burling use a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonuses are lower than similar firms though the firm has a reputation for contributing to a better quality of life for its associates.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses though subjective factors may contribute like pro bono work, recruiting, involvement, performance, etc.

 

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

 

Cravath, Swaine & Moore use a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. The firm sets and surpasses market bonus amounts for both end-of-year and spring bonuses.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses

 

Crowell & Moring LLP

 

Crowell & Moring use both a lockstep system and merit-based approach to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonus amounts vary.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,900 billable hours must be logged for bonus eligibility.

 

Davis Polk & Wardwell

 

Davis Polk & Wardwell use a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. However, paychecks are only administered once a month. Bonuses match the market and came in at the top of the market for spring bonuses in 2011.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses

 

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

 

Debevoise & Plimpton uss a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonuses matched market levels in 2009 and 2010, while their spring bonuses for 2011 came in at the top of the market on the Cravath scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses

 

Dechert LLP

 

Dechert uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000 in most markets and at $145,000 for Charlotte, Philadelphia, Princeton, and Hartford offices. 2010 bonuses met the Cravath scale for standard performance and were doubled for those who were extremely productive. 

 

$145k, $152k, $160k, $170k, $180k, $190k, $200K, $210k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,950 billable hours nets a Cravath-level bonus. More hours increases this amount.

 

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP

 

Dewey & LeBoeuf uses a lockstep system for determining salaries, which start at $160,000 and increase each year after that. Bonuses are in keeping with the Cravath scale, but are paid out in March or April.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

$35K

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Associates that billed 2,000 hours qualify for bonuses with additional bonuses available for high performance.

 

Dickstein Shapiro LLP

 

Dickstein Shapiro has a lockstep starting salary of $160,000. After that, salaries are below market level. By the third year, associates can work for higher hourly pay. Bonuses are paid out in December. 

 

$160k, $165k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. After 2,100 hours, the bonus level increases every 100 hours.

 

DLA Piper

 

DLA Piper has a lockstep starting salary of $160,000 in most markets and $145,000 in smaller markets.  A newer compensation structure features three tiers that are separated by 2-4 years and accession through the ranks is based on performance. 15% of the salary is awarded at the end of the year, based on a performance review. If no salary is withheld, bonuses are given.  Income and bonuses are generally viewed as below market levels. In previous years, bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $50,000. Top performers now receive market-level bonuses.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. An end of year performance review determines if associates receive their 15% withheld portion of their salary. A rating of 4 or 3 warrants this; a rating of 2 warrants a 5% payment; and a rating of 1 warrants no withheld salary or bonuses.

 

Dorsey & Whitney LLP

 

Dorsey & Whitney uses a merit-based compensation system. Starting salary is $145,000 in California and New York and $110,000 to $120,000 in smaller markets. Bonuses are behind market scale discretionary.

 

$110k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though they are mostly discretionary. They are not determined in a transparent way.

 

Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP

 

Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge have a lockstep system for starting salaries at $145,000 in New York and Boston and $125,000 in Providence. Senior associates have a range of salaries, determined by unclear means. 10% of salary relies on meeting the minimum billable hours. Bonuses are less than market scale. 

 

$145k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Fenwick & West LLP

 

Starting salaries at Fenwich & West are $160,000 at all offices. Bonuses are typically lower than market levels.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,800 and 1,950 billable hour tracks are available for different salary and bonus potential.

 

Fish & Richardson P.C .

 

Fish & Richardson salaries are lockstep and start at $160,000. Bonuses ranged from $17,500 to above $50,000 in 2009 and even higher bonuses in 2010.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,900 nets a bonus with every additional 100 hours increasing this amount.

 

Foley & Lardner LLP

 

Foley & Lardner has a hybrid lockstep system with a tiered system for bonuses. Starting salary is $160,000 in major markets and between $110,000 and $145,000 in smaller markets. Deferred salary payment of $15,000 is made to those who work over 1,950 hours. Lockstep system dissolves after the fourth year. Bonuses vary and ranged from $0 to $50,000 in 2009.

 

$130k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses though the process is not transparent and largely discretionary.

 

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

 

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer uses a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Non-U.S. offices moved to a milestone system in 2011 based on performance only. U.S. office bonuses follow market standards but actually came in at the top of the Cravath scale for spring bonuses in February 2011. 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

 

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson have a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonuses match market levels and reached up to $35,000 in 2009. Spring bonuses in 2011 matched the Cravath scale.

 

 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. A minimum of 1,950 hours must be logged to qualify.

 

Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.

 

Fulbright & Jaworski have a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonus amounts vary but fall short of market standards. 

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Hourly bonuses are given to those that log 2,000 and above with additional amounts given to those every additional 100 hours. Discretionary bonuses are also awarded based on merit.

 

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

 

A lockstep scale is used to determine salaries at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and start at $160,000. Bonus amounts are in line with market levels for year's end and in the spring.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Logging over 1,950 qualifies associates for bonuses. Higher billable hours increase bonus amounts considerably. The process is not transparent.

 

Goodwin Procter LLP

 

Goodwin Procter uses a hybrid lockstep system to determine base salary levels, which start at $160,000, while including flexibility for merit-based assessments. Bonuses met the Cravath level, though individual associates complained about a lack of transparency in the assessment process. Spring bonuses did match the Cravath level in 2011.

 

$160k,

 

$170k

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses though the process is not transparent.

 

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

 

Greenberg Traurig has a lockstep and merit-based system to determine salaries. Both salaries and bonuses are discretionary, leading to a tendency toward the firm playing favorites. Bonuses fall behind market levels and many associates don't receive a bonus at all. 

 

 N/A

 

$160k

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Hogan Lovells LLP

 

Salary is determined by billable hours. Those that bill 1,800 hours receive a below-market salary and those that bill above 1,950 receive a market-level salary. Bonuses match the Cravath scale. 

 

$160k,

 

$165k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Those that bill 2,000 hours receive a Cravath-level bonus.

 

Holland & Knight LLP

 

Holland & Knight has a hybrid lockstep system, with salaries starting at $145,000. After that, salary is determined by seniority, billable hours, profitability, and quality of work. Bonuses were awarded in 2011 for performance at a rate of $2,500 for first through fourth year associates and $5,000 for fifth year and up associates.

 

$145k, $150k, $155k, $160k, $170k, $180k,

 

$190k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

 

Hughes, Hubbard & Reed has a lockstep salary system that starts at $160,000 and is based on subjective variables after that including billable hours, pro bono work, contribution to the firm, and quality, though the reviews are not very detailed and only sub-par reviews cause an associate to miss out on a salary raise. Bonuses were at above-market levels in 2009 but dropped to market level in 2010.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k,

 

$230k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours determine bonuses. At least 1,950 hours are required to qualify.

 

Hunton & Williams LLP

 

Hunton & Williams have a lockstep system and base salaries that start at $145,000 or $160,000 depending on the size of the market. Salary after that is determined by seniority and merit-based factors. Bonuses fall behind the market levels and are not distributed until May or June.

 

$145k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. It is thought that 2,100 to 2,200 hours are required to qualify for bonuses.

 

Irell & Manella LLP

 

Irell & Manella has starting salaries that start at $160,000. Bonuses fell between $15,000 and $70,000 in 2009 and doubled Cravath-level bonuses in 2010.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and class year determine bonuses, with a minimum of 2,000 hours required.

 

Jackson Lewis LLP

 

Jackson Lewis has different base salaries depending on the market, the lowest of which is $125,000. This is way below market levels. Bonuses are also below market levels.

 

$125k, $130k,

 

$135k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. A minimum of 1,900 hours is required.

 

Jenner & Block LLP

 

Jenner & Block has a lockstep starting salary of $160,000 that switches to merit-based after the first year. Salary determinations are highly subjective as are bonuses. Bonuses ranged from $2,000 to $38,000 in 2009 and has fallen behind market levels in subsequent years.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Jones Day

 

Jones Day has a merit-based salary system that includes factors like billable hours, pro bono, contribution, quality of work, and business development. Starting salaries range from $145,000 to $160,000 depending on the market. Bonuses are incorporated into salaries depending on each associate's contribution. Typically, bonuses fall above market levels.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

K&L Gates

 

K&L Gates has starting salaries that fall between $115,000 and $160,000, depending on market size, then slip into a merit-based system that takes into account billable hours, quality of work, contribution, performance, and other factors. Bonuses are discretionary.

 

$130k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. 1,950 hours are required to qualify for a bonus.

 

Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP

 

Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman has lockstep starting salaries of $160,000. It keeps with market levels for bonus amounts, though does not exceed it. 

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Factors determining bonus amounts are not clear.

 

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

 

Katten Muchin Rosenman has a lockstep salary system that starts at $130,000 and $160,000 depending on the market. After that, salaries are based on class year, billable hours, and performance. Bonus amounts fall behind market levels, however.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k,

 

$250k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Kaye Scholer LLP

 

Kaye Scholer has a lockstep starting salary of $160,000. Bonus amounts follow market trends. Qualifying associates in 2009 received between $20,000 and $40,000. Cravath-level bonuses were awarded in 2010.

 

$160k, $170k,

 

$185k

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Billable hours determine bonuses. 1,950 hours (1,800 billable) is the minimum requirement.

 

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

 

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton has a merit-based system to determine salary. Starting salary is $135,000 to $160,000 depending on the market. Bonuses follow market levels. 

 

$135k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses though the process is not transparent.

 

King & Spalding LLP

 

King & Spalding has a lockstep system for determining salaries, which start at $135,000 and $160,000 depending on the market. Bonuses lag behind market standards but a lack of billable hours minimum compensates for this fact. 2010 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

$135k, $140k, $145k, $155k,

 

165k,

 

$175k, $185k,

 

$190k

 

$22k,

 

$22k,

 

$27k,

 

$30k

 

Billable hours determine bonuses, though discretionary factors can come into play. A minimum of 2,050 hours is required

 

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

 

Kirkland & Ellis has a lockstep system that starts at $160,000. Double the market value bonuses are available to those that bill high hours.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k,

 

$250k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Above 2,200 garners increased bonus amounts.

 

Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP

 

Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear has a lockstep system to determine starting salaries. Base salaries begin at $140,000. Bonuses lag behind market levels because they're based on the number of hours billed that fall above the quota.

 

$140k, $150k, $160k, $170k, $180k,

 

$190k, $200k,

 

$210k

 

 N/A

 

Bonuses are based on billable hours.

 

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

 

Karmer Levin Naftalis & Frankel has a lockstep system that starts at $160,000. Bonuses follow market levels, though they are usually not paid out until February.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours determine bonus amounts. 2,150 hours are needed for a full bonus.

 

Latham & Watkins LLP

 

Latham & Watkins have a lockstep system that starts at $160,000. Bonuses are typically above market levels, sometimes so much as double. Spring bonuses were also awarded in 2011 that met the Cravath scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K, $280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. A minimum of 1,900 hours is required to earn the base bonus.

 

Linklaters

 

Linklaters has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonuses are lockstep as well, and fall in line with market levels. 2011 spring bonuses fell below Cravath scale level, however.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265K

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Manatt Phelps & Phillips

 

Manatt Phelps & Phillips uses a hybrid lockstep system with salaries starting at $125,000 and bonuses that fall below market levels.

 

$125k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Mayer Brown LLP

 

Mayer Brown has a lockstep salary system that starts at $160,000 for the first class year and has a range of salaries for every class year after that depending on billable hours, quality, pro bono, and other factors. Bonuses match market levels. End of year 2010 and spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours determine bonus eligibility with a minimum of 2,000.

 

McDermott, Will & Emery

 

Starting pay at McDermott, Will & Emery is $145,000 though a merit-based system was implemented in 2011 that made it so associates only received their full pay if they worked 2,000 billable hours. Bonus amounts meet market levels and they aren't awarded until March.

 

$145k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

McGuireWoods LLP

 

McGuireWoods uses a hybrid lockstep system to determine salary amounts. Starting salary is $130,000 with assessments each year after resulting in pay raises based on billable hours, pro bono, quality, performance, and other factors. Bonuses tend to be below market levels though working more hours will garner a higher payout.

 

$130k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP

 

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Year-end and spring bonuses for 2010 and 2011 met the Cravath level.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

 

Morgan Lewis uses a hybrid lockstep system with starting salaries at $145,000 in most markets. Bonuses keep up with market levels but increases are implementing very slowly. End of year bonuses for 2010 were paid in January 2011 for double the Cravath level.

 

$145k, $150k, $160k, $170k, $180k, $190k, $200k,

 

$210k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Morrison & Foerster LLP

 

Morrison & Foerster has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. The firm follows market levels for bonuses, with more being awarded to those who bill a high number of hours and perform well. Bonuses ranged from $7,500 to $65,000 in 2010. Spring 2011 bonuses matched the Cravath scale.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,950 hours warrants a standard bonus; 1,500 hours, a special bonus.

 

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

 

Munger, Tolles & Olson uses a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. First year associates received a flat $5,000 bonus in 2009 with rates matching market levels for following class years.

 

$160k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, including billable hours, quality of work, and other factors.

 

Nixon Peabody LLP

 

Nixon Peabody uses a hybrid lockstep system that starts at $145,000. Raises are dependent on performance. Bonus worth 30% of salary is possible.

 

$145k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

 

O'Melveny has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonuses follow market levels and not every associate receives a bonus. Spring 2011 bonuses were on the Cravath scale.

 

$210k, $230k, $250k, $265k,

 

$280k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. 1,950 hours is the minimum to qualify.

 

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

 

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe uses a talent model to determine compensation, with different amounts for associates, managing associates, and senior associates. Advancement is dependent on merit only. 2009 bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $75,000. 2010 bonuses met the Cravath scale. Spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

 N/A

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. There is no minimum billable hours requirement, though pro bono work factors in.

 

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP

 

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonuses follow market levels.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k,

 

$210k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and class year determine bonuses. Special bonuses given to those that log more than 2,100 hours.

 

Patton Boggs LLP

 

Patton Boggs uses a hybrid lockstep system to determine salaries with three tiers separated by billable hours: 1,650, 1,800 and 1,950. Bonuses are paid in March and fall behind or meet market levels depending on several factors.

 

 N/A

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. Two options are available: 1. Based on billable hours above minimum 2. Based on hours, pro bono, work quality, etc.

 

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP

 

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker use a lockstep system to determine salaries. Bonuses match market levels and are paid out in March. 2010 bonuses matched Cravath scale for top-tier associates. Spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath level for all associates.

 

$230k,

 

$250k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. Minimum 1,950 hours to qualify.

 

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

 

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison uses a lockstep system to determine starting salaries. Bonuses are paid in December and match market levels.

 

 N/A

 

$37k,

 

$42k

 

Class year and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Perkins Coie LLP

 

Perkins Cole uses a lockstep system to determine starting salaries ranging from $120,000 to $160,000 depending on the office's location. After that, merit plays a role in class year salary. Bonuses include equity in an investment plan.

 

$120k,

 

$120k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, including productivity.

 

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

 

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pittman has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $155,000 with raises made each year depending on if associates met a minimum number of billable hours. 2010 bonuses matched the market level at $15,000 for qualifying associates.

 

$155k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, including productivity. Minimum billable hours required is 1,950.

 

Proskauer Rose LLP

 

Proskauer Rose has a lockstep system that start at $110,000 to $160,000 depending on the location of the office. Bonuses follow the market scale, with 2010 bonuses falling in line with the Cravath scale.

 

$170k

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Class year determines bonus amount.

 

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP

 

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan falls behind the market scale for salaries. Bonuses were awarded in 2010 at 150% of the Cravath scale plus $5,000 per additional 200 hours past the base level. Spring 2011 bonuses matched the Cravath scale for those billing 2,000 hours and beat it for those billing above 2,100.

 

 N/A

 

$11k,

 

$15k,

 

$22k,

 

$30k,

 

$37k,

 

$45k,

 

$52k

 

Class year and billable hours determines bonus amount with a 2,100 hour minimum.

 

Ropes & Gray LLP

 

Ropes & Gray has a lockstep system for determining base salaries. Bonuses match market levels at were at the Cravath level in 2009 and 2011.

 

 N/A

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. A minimum of 1,900 hours is required.

 

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

 

Schulte, Roth & Zabel has a lockstep system with salaries starting at $160,000. Bonuses match the market levels. Spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

 $160k

 

 N/A

 

Class and billable hours year determines bonus amount with a 2,000-hour minimum.

 

Shearman & Sterling LLP

 

Shearman & Sterling have a lockstep salary system. Bonuses match the market level, though deviated slightly in 2010 when merit-based determinations were put in place. Spring 2011 bonuses matched the top of the Cravath scale.

 

 N/A

 

$7k,

 

$10k,

 

$15k,

 

$20k,

 

$25k,

 

$30k,

 

$35k

 

Class year, billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Sidley Austin LLP

 

Sidley Austin has a lockstep system to determine salaries and advancement. 2010 and 2011 bonuses met or exceeded the Cravath scale.

 

 N/A

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process isn't transparent. Minimum 2,000 hours are needed for full market-rate bonus

 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has a lockstep system to determine salaries, which are at the top of the market. Bonuses met the Cravath scale in 2009 and 2010. Spring 2011 bonuses also matched the Cravath scale.

 

 N/A

 

$35k,

 

$35k

 

Class year determines bonus amounts.

 

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

 

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom have a lockstep system for determining salaries. Bonuses meet market level in 2010 and were paid in December. Spring 2011 bonuses also met the market.

 

 N/A

 

$35k

 

Class year and billable hours determine bonus amounts.

 

SNR Denton

 

SNR Denton uses a lockstep salary system that starts at $160,000 with 12-15% of that paid out as a base bonus in the next year. After the first year, a three-tier system allows for raises based on merit.

 

$150k, $155k, $157k, $160k, $165k, $179k, $205k,

 

$210k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP

 

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey uses a merit-based system to determine salaries, which start at $117,000 and vary depending on class and performance.

 

$117k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Steptoe & Johnson LLP

 

Steptoe & Johnson use a lockstep system with some variable aspects, which start at $165,000. Bonuses falls below the market, though a supplemental bonus system does award additional money to those who bring new business to the firm.

 

$165k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

 

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan uses a lockstep scale and pays at market rates. 2009 bonuses met the Cravath scale for those who met the billable hour minimum.

 

 

 

 N/A

 

Class year, billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. 1,900 hours is the minimum requirement.

 

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

 

Sullivan & Cromwell uses a lockstep system to determine salaries. Compensation is typically ahead of the market, though it has matched it in 2009 and 2010. 2010 bonuses met the Cravath scale in December for years 1-6 and gave even more than that to years 7-8. Special bonuses are also occasionally awarded in the spring. In 2009 they ranged from $500 to $8,500.

 

 

 

$37k,

 

$42k

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

Venable LLP

 

Salaries at Venable vary depending on class and merit, but they start at $145,000. Bonuses fall below the market.

 

$145k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses.

 

Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

 

Vinson & Elkins uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000 for first years. A lockstep bonus is also given to first years, but all years after that provide higher bonus amounts depending on billable hours. 2010 bonuses were above the Cravath scale, though spring 2011 bonuses fell below it.

 

$170k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses. For senior associates, bonus levels are higher at 1,950, 2,150, and 2,300 hours.

 

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

 

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $165,000. Bonuses are a percentage of an associate's base salary.

 

$165k

 

 N/A

 

Bonuses are determined by salary percentage.

 

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

 

Weil, Gotshal & Manges uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonuses meet the Cravath scale. As of 2011, the firm no longer pays a special bonus to particularly high performing members.

 

 

 

 N/A

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

White & Case LLP

 

White & Case uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, though payment varies from office to office. Bonuses meet market levels and are paid out in January. Spring 2011 bonuses were paid out in April and were highly variable.

 

 

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, including pro bono, contribution, and quality of work. The process is not transparent.

 

Williams & Connolly LLP

 

Williams & Connolly uses at lockstep system to determine salaries, which start at $180,00 for first year associates. Bonuses are not awarded and are built into the base salary, instead.

 

$180k, $190k,

 

$230k

 

 N/A

 

No bonuses are awarded.

 

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

 

Willkie Farr & Gallagher uses a lockstep system to determine salaries in its U.S.-based offices. Bonuses are paid out in December each year to all associates at market levels. 2009, 2010, and spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

 

 

$35k,

 

$35k

 

Class year determines bonuses.

 

WilmerHale

 

Starting salaries at WilmerHale are $165,000 though the firm is moving to a merit-based structure in 2012, at which time a higher percentage of salary will be paid out in bonuses determined by performance, quality of work, pro bono work, and other factors. Spring 2011 bonuses met the Cravath scale.

 

$165k,

 

$210k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent.

 

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

 

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati use a hybrid lockstep and merit-based system to determine salaries, which start at $160,000. Bonuses are at the market level, with a few associates getting higher than that. Bonuses ranged from a max of $9,000 for first years to $49,000 for senior associates.

 

$160k, $170k, $185k, $210k, $230k, $250k,

 

$265k

 

 N/A

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, though the process is not transparent. Bonuses levels cap at 1,900, 2,100, and 2,400 hours.

 

Winston & Strawn LLP

 

Winston & Strawn uses a lockstep system to determine salaries, which meet the market levels. 2009 and 2010 bonuses met the Cravath scale. 2011 spring bonuses were not awarded.

 

 

 

 

 

Billable hours and subjective conditions determine bonuses, including pro bono, quality of work, contribution and other factors. The process is not transparent. Over 2,200 hours nets an additional bonus.

The Best Countries for Lawyers

Being a lawyer has traditionally been considered a profitable profession to be in. In the US, the prospects are good for those who are already in a secure position in a law firm, where 2013 prospects are said to increase in 2013 salary-wise, especially for trial lawyers. The average 2012 annual salary for trial lawyers in the top law firms was $204,000, while the lowest paid category, law professors at top universities, earned an average of $56,500 across 20 of the highest paying states. On average across categories, the annual salary of a US-based lawyer is $110,012.

However, the US is not the only market open to American lawyers. Indeed, because it is quite expensive to live in the US, other countries with a lower cost of living are very attractive to work in for a lot of expatriate lawyers. Provided that the right licenses, company and market niche can be obtained, American lawyers, especially new graduates where only half will get hired as a lawyer, may want to consider relocating.

In a study of 14 countries comparing the compensation for attorneys in 2012 adjusted for average cost of living, it was found that the best country for a lawyer to practice is China. It’s not really much of a stretch, considering how rapidly China is expanding its economic borders and the concurrent demand for legal representation. Adjusted for cost of living with New York City as the control, the average annual salary for a lawyer in China is $222,165. Coming in a far second place is Germany at $126,272, closely followed by France at $125,330 and the United Arab Emirates at $123,626. The US comes in at fifth place.

Some countries are not as appealing, with Canada at $87,655, Brazil at $86,594, the UK at $79,578 and Australia at $60,135, all adjusted for average living costs. However, considering the less-than-ideal employment conditions in the US with new graduates willing to accept lower salaries and fewer perks, it may be a good move for new and experienced lawyers alike to look overseas for a job. Roughly half of all new graduates for 2012 failed to secure jobs in law firms, and many have opted to take whatever jobs were being offered to try and pay off their student loans. The debt burden of the average law school graduate is $100,000, and unfortunately, it just won’t go away by itself.

Going overseas to find jobs as a lawyer may seem rather drastic at first, but more and more legal professionals are finding that it makes perfect sense. Expatriate attorneys will need to undergo licensing requirements in their country of choice, and some of these can be rather rigorous, not to mention the potential language barrier issues, but it is now a growing trend. Younger lawyers are especially eager to test their wings in foreign places, although it is easier for US-educated lawyers with more experience to get licensed in countries such as Australia. Law firms based in the US are also finding that expanding their reach in certain countries is paying dividends, so for associates willing to relocate, the prospects are good.

Please see the following articles for more information about life as an associate:


Please see the following articles for more information about attorney salaries:
   

Please see the following articles for more information about law firm jobs:
   

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