DLA Piper US associate bonus scheme sparks discontent

DLA Piper’s US associate bonus scheme has been criticised following an internal memo that claimed top performers were getting more than at competitor firms.

DLA Piper’s US associate bonus scheme has been criticised following an internal memo that claimed top performers were getting more than at competitor firms.

A memo sent last week to US associates at the firm was leaked to US publication Above The Law. The memo claimed that bonuses awarded to the firm’s top performing associates “exceed those paid by firms who used the Cravath [Swaine & Moore] bonus scale and are now paying spring bonuses”.

While a chart detailing bonuses, which was contained within the memo, showed that maximum bonuses awarded to associates at DLA did match Cravath’s bonuses, when compared to Cravath’s combined regular bonus and spring bonus, DLA’s payouts did not exceed the amounts dished out by the other firm.

For instance, an associate that qualified in 2004 at DLA’s US offices was eligible for a maximum bonus of $50,000, depending on performance. Associates that qualified in the same year at Cravath were paid a flat $30,000 bonus in December and $20,000 in April.

The source also argued that only a small number of associates at DLA were eligible for the maximum bonus.

“…What this chart doesn’t show is the number of associates who qualify for this bonus. Because of the f**ked-up compensation structure, overall performance is ranked on a scale of 1-4, with only 3 and 4 being bonus eligible. Usually a 3 is a half-bonus. The “Max” bonus is actually a 4+ bonus, which is not even disclosed by the Firm. Fewer than 10% of associates receive this bonus. That means that fewer than 10% of the Firm’s associates receive the same bonus as all other straightforward spring-bonus paying firms. And, importantly, this doesn’t even discuss salary…”

The source went on to describe how salaries at DLA in the US had not been thawed, since freezes were implemented in 2008, meaning base pay at the firm was one year behind its competitors.

DLA Piper did not respond to requests for comment.