Associate Misery, the Latest Chapter

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The Disappearance of Spring Bonuses

In a recent column we discussed the plight of associates at larger law firms, where the ranks of entry level lawyers have shrunk by as much as half since 2008 while compensation has remained flat. I had the chance to weigh in on another chapter of this associate misery when a reporter recently interviewed me on the disappearing phenomenon of associate spring bonuses. Traditionally, spring bonuses, coming just months after law firms give out any year-end bonuses, have been a means of giving extra pay in order to retain associate talent that might otherwise be looking for new opportunities. The rub is that, today, such opportunities are rare at best. As a result, some of the largest Wall Street firms that typically have paid spring bonuses, have yet to do so - including one major firm that publicly announced earlier that it would pay one. The natural conclusion is that these firms are not worried about associates looking for greener pastures.

Talent Should be Rewarded

My comment to the reporter was to the effect that talent should be rewarded for the contributions they are making. Certainly if associates are making a significant contribution to their firms and feel that they are not being appropriately compensated, they have the right to look elsewhere. The law firm world of the past, where few options were available at other firms and there was a stigma attached to trying to take advantage of them, has changed in that regard.

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