Magic circle takes prudent approach to US bonuses

Magic circle takes prudent approach to US bonusesMagic circle firms have vowed to take a conservative approach to this year’s round of US associate bonuses as economic conditions continue to worsen.

The US managing partners of Allen & Overy (A&O) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer highlighted financial prudence as a key factor in setting year-end bonuses, adding that it is also important to remain in line with competitive New York rates.

Earlier this month (19 November) The Lawyer reported that Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has kept associate bonuses static at 2007 levels while also dropping its special bonus. Cravath Swaine & Moore and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett have halved their annual bonuses and abandoned special payments.

A&O US head Kevin O’Shea said: “A final decision hasn’t been made yet. We have to consider managing cost because of the economic conditions this year. I think our lawyers appreciate us being more prudent because it demonstrates good management and shows we’re thinking of the year ahead of us.”

At Freshfields, US managing partner Brian Rance said that the firm tends to follow the trend set by the majority of New York firms when allocating its bonuses.

He added: “I suspect that this year the majority of firms will opt for reducing their associate bonuses, but it’s too early to tell for certain. Our impression is that clients do care about associate compensation because it affects the rates they pay.”

While Clifford Chance declined to comment on its bonuses, a source at the firm said it is expected to follow the “fiscally prudent” approach taken by Cravath and Simpson Thacher.

The source said: “Like other firms Clifford Chance follows market trends with bonuses in the US. Unlike other years there are two routes to take this year and I suspect we will adopt a more conservative approach.”

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