Black box compensation systems are the worst. They hide behind a bootstraps mentality thumbing their nose at transparency efforts designed to give associates (or potential associates) the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the best place for them to work. But, while they’re thankfully in the minority in Biglaw, they persist. And no Biglaw firm is more committed to the secretive model than Jones Day.
Jones Day recently announced “above”-market salaries for first-year associates — of $225,000. That’s $10K above the first-year starting salary at Milbank/Davis Polk/Cravath and all the firm’s that’ve followed. Hopeful associates at rival firms may even wonder if this might signal another round of Biglaw raises. But, unfortunately for Jones Day associates (and others hoping for an even bigger raise), that’s not at all what it means.
See, other firms are ahead in overall compensation — by a lot. Jones Day doesn’t do bonuses, so that “above”-market number includes all bonuses given out at other firms. Year-end bonuses typically clock in at $15,000, which already puts market compensation at lock step firms ahead of first-years at Jones Day. Plus last year was a special bonus bonanza (valued at $12,000+ for first-year associates), so the overall comp numbers may dwarf the Jones Day salaries by even more.
Then the issue of the “black box” sets in. With only intel on starting compensation, and with comp individualized after that first year, midlevel and senior associates may find they’re even further behind the market compensation. With only the first-year number out there, they’re hoping that’s the only nugget of intel prospective first-year associates will note, and then once they’re ensconced at the firm is when they’ll notice how far behind their peers they are. But we see you.
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Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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