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US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges is set to make the highest bonus payments so far this year, beating those paid out by Cravath Swaine & Moore.
It will be giving up to $60,000 (£41,515) to senior associates. When The Lawyer reported that Cravath and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom would retain the bonus element to associate remuneration schemes (The Lawyer, 26 November), Cravath emerged as the top-paying New York firm. Weil Gotshal has now elbowed Cravath's highest payment of $50,000 (£34,600) into second place. First year-qualifieds can expect as much as $20,000 (£13,840), although this is half the amount pocketed by junior associates last year. A memo issued to associates from Weil Gotshal's management committee announced the bonus package. It stated: "Of course, we remain keenly aware of the current economic environment in which the firm and our clients are operating." Despite the reduction, Weil Gotshal's announcement puts it above New York rivals for bonus payments. Skadden Arps revealed that it would pay bonuses ranging from $2,500 (£1,730) to about $12,000 (£8,300). Adding the bonus figures to base salaries shows that total compensation for first and second year associates at Weil Gotshal will be $145,000 (£100,330) and $160,000 (£110,700) respectively. The combined numbers again compare favourably with New York counterparts. The memo asserted: "Merit bonuses will be based on a variety of factors, including quality of work, efficiency, interpersonal skills, productivity, firm and community activities and professional relations." It added that those failing to meet the criteria may still be awarded a lower amount. This year there is much discrepancy between the usually harmonised New York firms. Davis Polk & Wardwell has stated that it will not be paying bonuses this year. Sullivan & Cromwell has reassured lawyers that bonuses are on the way, but it has yet to specify figures. Other firms in New York remain silent on the issue.