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New York giants Cravath Swaine & Moore and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom have announced bonuses way down on last year's.
But Cravath is now New York's top-paying major firm, after agreeing to give associates bonus payments ranging between $20,000 (£14,111) for first years and $50,000 (£35,278) for seventh years. Although the payouts are half what the lawyers took home last year, they come against a backdrop of economic slowdown and rival law firms refusing to give any bonuses. Davis Polk & Wardwell announced last month that it would not be making payouts at the end of the year. Cravath pays its first years a base salary of $125,000 (£88,196), becoming the highest paying firm with a package of $145,000 (£102,307). Skadden Arps has by contrast announced what it described as "modest" bonuses. The firm already pays its first years $140,000 (£98,779), which is above market rate, but it will give bonuses ranging from $2,500 (£1,764) for first years to around $12,000 (£8,467). The head of Skadden Arps' European operations Bruce Buck refused to comment on figures, but said: "The firm is healthy and even in these circumstances we thought it was appropriate to pay a bonus, although the bonus is modest and not the same as last year. "We view our salaries as already well above standard market rate, but notwithstanding that, we decided to pay a modest holiday bonus." In a memo sent to Cravath lawyers, presiding partner Robert Joffe said that the cuts were made because this year "has not kept pace with last year's results or our forecasts". He added that there may be no bonuses at all in 2002. The memo stated: "We are convinced that we are well positioned to weather the storm that faces the legal community. We have extremely strong practices on both the corporate and the litigation sides of our firm. Our litigation practice shows no signs of slowing down, and while some parts of our corporate practice have slowed, other parts remain quite busy." Most New York firms have yet to announce whether they will award bonuses. Sullivan & Cromwell has told its lawyers they will get payouts, but has yet to set the amounts.