Legal Law

Newest Bonus Announcement Leaves Some Essential Particulars Fuzzy

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Bonus announcements are largely formulaic affairs: “Thank you, blah blah blah, continued success, blah blah blah, here’s the table, make your hours, keep up the hard work.” Which is why any announcement that deviates from the standard is so glaring. It may well be that Mayer Brown is matching the DPW bonus scale the same way most everyone else is. On the other hand, the fuzzy wording really makes you wonder.

First things first, here’s the bonus table. It’s a backloaded match paid out in June and November.

So far, so good. Associates have to be on track with their hours as of May 31 and October 31 to qualify for the respective bonus. That’s also pretty standard. But look at the precise wording.

Counsel and associates who do not qualify for the first payment will be eligible to receive the second payment if they achieve the required annualized hours as of October 31.

While most memos include language indicating that someone who misses the first payment will be eligible to catch up if they’ve made up their hours by the time of the second payment detection zone, this seems to say only that missing the first payment doesn’t disqualify someone from the second bonus. Does that mean if someone billed on track from May 31 to October 31 — regardless of where they are for the whole year — they will get the second bonus? Or just that catching up by October 31 only nets the backloaded $7500 to $40K? It feels like the latter. That’s definitely how the tipsters who have written in so far are interpreting it.

And that suspicion seems confirmed by the following line:

Counsel and associates who do not meet the relevant hours requirement at either May 31 and/or October 31, but who do meet that requirement by the year end will be considered for a discretionary Special Bonus payment at that time.

That’s saying that an associate who makes it to the requirement — 2000 “client equivalent hours,” of which 1900 are chargeable — by virtue of an absolutely brutal November and December is only in line for a discretionary bonus. Yikes. By the way, that 2000 number comes from a follow-up memo we got that was sent to Chicago associates noting that this detail was missing from the original. That means they’re aware that the language was fuzzy and still only clarified the hours part.

This isn’t necessarily out of character for Mayer Brown. The firm notoriously uses hours thresholds to determine class advancement too, meaning third-year associates who don’t hit these hours, will still be making third-year money the next year when they’re technically fourth-years. We’ve heard rumors there are senior associates still getting compensated — both base and bonus — as mid-levels.

The full memo is on the next page. We won’t bother the Mayer Brown people any more today so they can get back to billing!

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HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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