Associate pay hikes gather steam after Cravath announcement; which law firms have matched?

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Associate pay hikes gather steam after Cravath announcement; which law firms have matched?

Associates at several BigLaw firms are getting pay hikes in the wake of an announcement Tuesday by Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Image from Shutterstock.

Associates at several BigLaw firms are getting pay hikes, thanks to an announcement Tuesday by Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Milbank was the first large law firm to announce that it was raising associate pay by $10,000 annually while matching last year’s bonuses. Three weeks later, on Nov. 28, Cravath announced that it would also match last year’s bonuses and would raise associate pay, surpassing the Milbank scale for senior associates.

Cravath’s new pay scale ranges from $225,000 annually for associates in the class of 2023 to $420,000 for those in the class of 2017.

The announcement is likely to stress less profitable firms, some of which may decline to offer raises, according to experts who spoke with Bloomberg Law.

“The salary boosts come as a shock to many in the industry,” Bloomberg Law reports, “because such raises traditionally arrive during boom times. Instead, work at many firms fell off dramatically from the peak in 2021, when a frenzy in the deals market pushed the industry into an unprecedented war for talent.”

The pay hikes appeared to be no issue, however, for more than a dozen firms that announced that they would match the Cravath scale within days of its announcement. Some paid even more than Cravath to the class of 2016 and more senior associates.

Here is Cravath’s new scale for pay and bonuses:

  • Class of 2023: $225,000 pay (matching Milbank), $15,000 bonus

  • Class of 2022: $235,000 pay (matching Milbank), $20,000 bonuses

  • Class of 2021: $260,000 pay (matching Milbank), $30,000 bonus

  • Class of 2020: $310,000 pay ($5,000 more than Milbank), $57,500 bonus

  • Class of 2019: $365,000 pay ($10,000 more than Milbank), $75,000 bonus

  • Class of 2018: $390,000 pay ($10,000 more than Milbank), $90,000 bonus

  • Class of 2017: $420,000 pay ($10,000 more than Milbank), $105,000 bonus

Bonuses will be paid Dec. 15 and will be prorated for those with Cravath for only part of the year.

Firms matching Cravath include:

  • Akin Gump (Above the Law)

  • Baker McKenzie, which also plans additional discretionary bonuses for high performers (Law.com, Bloomberg Law, Above the Law)

  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (Above the Law, Bloomberg Law, Law.com)

  • Davis Polk & Wardwell (Above the Law, Law.com)

  • Debevoise & Plimpton (Above the Law)

  • Dechert, which will raise the bonus by 30% for those billing more than 2,200 hours per year and an extra 40% for those billing more than 2,400 hours per year (Above the Law, Law.com)

  • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson (Above the Law)

  • Hogan Lovells, with the possibility of additional bonuses for those with higher hours (Law.com, Above the Law)

  • Kirkland & Ellis, which outlined the pay scale through the class of 2018 and said bonus news would be forthcoming (Above the Law)

  • Mayer Brown (Above the Law)

  • McDermott Will & Emery (Above the Law, Law.com, Bloomberg Law)

  • Norton Rose Fulbright, which omitted the mention of bonuses in its pay-hike announcement (Above the Law)

  • O’Melveny & Myers (Above the Law)

  • Paul Hastings (Above the Law, Law.com, Bloomberg Law)

  • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which also plans additional discretionary bonuses for high performers (Law.com, Bloomberg Law, Above the Law)

  • Proskauer Rose (Law.com, Above the Law)

  • Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which also paid special bonuses in the fall (Law.com)

  • Sidley Austin, with additional bonus pay for exceptional performance (Above the Law, Law.com)

  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Above the Law, Law.com)

  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (Law.com)

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher (Above the Law)

Boutique law firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg also announced a match. Another boutique, Wilkinson Stekloff, has announced bonuses that surpass the market rate.

Updated on Dec. 1 at 8:05 a.m. to add more law firms to the list.



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