Biglaw firms are anticipating an economic slump. We know that because of the layoffs at Shearman and Cooley and Goodwin and Gunderson and Kirkland. And, short of that step, firms are tightening of the purse strings, making it more difficult for associates to earn their full market bonus.
Now comes word that another Biglaw firm is changing course on associate bonuses. Perkins Coie, a firm that made $1,155,565,000 in gross revenue in 2021, making it 42nd on the Am Law 100, told associates the billable hours requirement to get their full bonus is going up. It’s being bumped up from 1950 hours to 2000, but the kicker is it’s for the current year. At Perkins, the financial year begins in October. So associates were nearly 5 months into the year when new criteria got dumped on them.
A tipster shared the following image from the firm’s announcement:
So you can see the firm is asking for an additional 50 client billable hours per associate. If the associate is unable to hit that target (seeing as they found out about it ~5 months into the year), then they’ll only get half of their bonus.
As you might imagine, tipsters from inside the firm are reporting anger at the situation, with one saying, “Every associate is livid.” Another described the firm’s messaging of the change as putting the blame on associates who want market compensation:
The entire conversation was very uncomfortable. Firm leadership blamed associates for the change. They said that this was because they raised our salaries. They were asked if they would raise our billables again and the firm would not give a straight answer. They claimed they were doing this to match our competitors.
Another insider said folks at the firm see this as a prelude to even more severe cost-saving measures:
At PC, junior associates have their annual reviews in the spring. Many associates believe that placing the blame on us (blaming the us for the salary increasing without mentioning inflation, saying that the extra hours are “barely” more than an extra hour per week, essentially saying there’s no reason associates shouldn’t hit their hours because there’s “so many resources” to hit the hours without recognizes that some groups are slow, saying they will be pulling our hours every month and having conversations with people who aren’t hitting monthly targets) is just preparing to put the blame on us when they do layoffs this spring after reviews.
And associates are saying this change will permanently alter the firm’s culture: “Associates were very upset that our laid back culture is changing.”
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 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.