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17 December 2019

US litigation boutique lights up bonus season with $115k-plus pay outs

Susman Godfrey sets the pace in an otherwise predictable bonus round for big law associates

Songquan Deng

Leading US litigation boutique Susman Godfrey has smashed the benchmark end-of-year bonus scale for ‘big law’ US associates by announcing eye-watering hand-outs. The most junior lawyers at the firm, which has forged a reputation for leading the market for bonuses, will receive an average bonus of $115k. 

This compares to a benchmark rate of $25k for class of 2017 lawyers at the largest US law firms, according to Above the Law's bonus tracker.  

The Susman Godfrey bonus scale rises to $235k for class of 2011 lawyers, in comparison to the standard rate of $100k. The firm also revealed that more than 20% of attorneys at the firm will have received total compensation of more than $500k this year.

‘The firm had another spectacularly successful year on behalf of its clients and recognises that this would not have been possible without the superb and tireless work of its associates,’ said the firm, which has offices in New York, Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Los Angeles.

It joined fellow litigation boutique Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz in beating the market – although Wilkinson Walsh’s $37.5k for the class of 2017 is significantly more modest.

Aside from these market-busting pay outs – and a flurry of excitement when Milbank announced its rates ahead of regular pace-setter Cravath - Above the Law is reporting a flat year for bonuses, ranging from $15k for class of 2019 associates to $100k for those in the class of 2011.

The legal news site has also pointed out that overall payouts are down because associates weren’t awarded summer bonuses this year, a move interpreted as a sign firms are preparing for a market downturn.

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