There is limited good news at K&L Gates. Associates that bill a bunch of hours — well over the firm’s typical bonus hour requirement — will get special bonuses in line with the market rates sweeping the industry. But, woo boy, the firm’s extensive memo outlining the bonus is a real read.
Take a look at this gem, where the firm tells associates they need to care about more than just what other firms are paying:
We believe the Associate experience at K&L Gates is and should be an outstanding and rewarding career path for reasons going well beyond hours worked and what other firms are undertaking and expecting in the markets.
But really, knowing your worth and what other firms are willing to pay for your skills *is* important. The lateral market is hot right now, and if a firm isn’t paying you what you deserve, you can leave. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that a firm putting conditions on market pay is trying to undermine the importance of market pay.
The firm’s email goes on to say they want credit for not firing people:
We are a firm in which talented, hard-working and contributing Associates can build a rewarding career in a positive and engaging environment; we are not a firm in which such Associates look over their shoulder for pink slips when they don’t hit certain billable hour targets in a limited given period.
So yeah, even though the firm is technically matching market bonuses, it is only for associates that bill a whopping 2080 hours — significantly more than the 1950 required for year-end bonuses.
Tipsters expressed frustration with the firm’s stance:
To many of us feel that associates have been asked to share in the losses but not the profits, to work harder simply to recoup money we earned in 2020 but haven’t been repaid, and that the email from leadership (especially the first paragraph) is somewhat tone-deaf.
Oh yeah, we should also mention that though the firm cut salaries for a period during 2020, they have not done make whole payments (unlike a large chunk of Biglaw).
You can read the full memo on the next page.
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Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. 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).