New York firm Sullivan & Cromwell has taken the unusual step of reassuring the firm's lawyers that they will still get bonuses later this year.
Despite rival Davis Polk & Wardwell telling its lawyers last month not to expect the usual end-of-year payouts (The Lawyer, 15 October), Sullivan chairman Rodgin Cohen has said that assistants will get something. His announcement bucks the trend sweeping New York, where lawyers are facing up to the possibility of job losses and cutbacks in perks. One partner at a rival New York firm said the feeling among management in the market had been that most firms would follow Davis Polk's lead. The announcement by Sullivan plunges this year's round of bonuses back into uncertainty. A spokesperson for Sullivan confirmed that the firm will pay associates bonuses this year, but said the amounts had yet to be determined. A source close to the firm said it had always been staffed thinly so was able to weather downturns in the economic cycle quite well. Bonuses for first-year associates at the end of 2000 ran to as much as $40,000 (£27,342) in some firms. The Davis Polk memo of 5 October read: "Although special bonuses have been paid in years of extraordinary activity, we do not believe they should be paid simply as a matter of course. As a result, the firm does not currently anticipate the payment of year-end bonuses this year."