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Why Some Boutiques Doled Out Behemoth Year-End Bonuses

Aebra Coe LAW360.COM

A select group of litigation boutiques not only met but exceeded BigLaw benchmarks when it came to year-end associate bonuses in 2018, upping the ante amid a fierce fight for talent and prestige.

A handful of boutiques — a number of which were founded in recent years — are positioning themselves as desirable places to be for associates by offering up year-end bonuses topping out, in some cases, above $200,000, a tool experts say allows them to compete with larger and more established law firms for up-and-coming legal stars and, ultimately, clients.

"These super high-end boutiques are going after the absolute creme-de-la-creme [associates]," said Michelle Fivel, a partner at recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa. "It's a marketing strategy to say to clients, 'We hired the top talent — these are associates who can work for any firm and they chose us.'"According to Fivel, the boutiques "step it up a notch" on factors like compensation in order to compete with more established law firms like Cravath, or with the BigLaw behemoths, which provide young attorneys with a more traditional, seemingly "safe" career path.

And, she said, they tend to not only up the ante by sharing the wealth with younger talent when they have a banner year but also offer up more experience early on to hungry associates who want to gain valuable skills.

"They're not going to be carrying the briefcase of the person who's carrying a person's briefcase," she said.


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