Happy Days Are Here “Still”–at Biglaw

All economic signs indicate that times are still good at biglaw. Today I read that Sullivan and Cromwell is changing it’s compensation structure for senior associates and adding in a “supplemental bonus” which is tied to firm performance. Rumor has it that this will add as much as $30,000 to the paycheck of a senior associate which in turn, could bring total compensation up to…GASP…$400K (if you assume a $60K year end bonus.) In addition, the competition for talent remains high and this is causing firms to get more creative with recruiting. In another item reported today in Law.com, Quinn Emanual has decided to try a “72 hour” interview.

Of course the fruits of these good times are not spread evenly. If you happen to be a recent graduate of a top law school and you are currently working at a large firm (particularly in a transactional practice group), then there are a lot of suitors who would like to speak with you. But if you chose the litigation route or ended up at a smaller firm, your market cache may be somewhat less. Similarly, if you are a very senior associate, even at a top firm, then you might find that your marketability is not high as it once was.

To me, the takeaway is that it is important to look beyond the headlines to understand your own place in the economy. What is happening in the most highly publicized sectors of the profession may have little bearing on your own situation.

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