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Christmas Comes Early to Associates at BigLaw Firms

Who'd have thought Santa Claus was masquerading as a partner at a big law firm?

Whether you believe in him or not, the BigLaw partners have sent out early Christmas cards with promises to stuff their associates' socks with plenty of cash. How much? Try on a $100,000 bonus for size.

There's no catch, other than being an associate at a large and profitable firm. And, of course, you must have already paid your dues.

A Scale of One to Eight

For lawyers at Cravath Swain, the first big firm to announce bonuses this year, their class of 2008 associates will get $100,000. The first-year attorneys will receive $15,000, pro-rated.

Immediately after Cravath made the announcement, other firms followed suit. In a bonus report by Above the Law, Wilkinson Walsh tipped the scale at $150,000 for 2008 attorneys.

Cravath, which traditionally leads the pack in announcing bonuses, also first announced an increase in associate salaries this year. It's $180,000 for first year attorneys, $315,000 for 2008 lawyers (in case you were thinking about where to look for work).

Ebenezer Has Turned a Corner

Although the bonuses basically match last year's, the outlook is bright for attorneys in the near future. According to Robert Half Legal's 2017 Salary Guide, salaries should increase an average of about 3.6% in the coming years.

And it's not just desserts for BigLaw. Salary growth is expected to be higher at mid-size firms -- an increase of 6.9 percent that will bring mid-level associate salaries to as much as $183,000. Although, the same may not be true for in-house lawyers, who are looking at fairly stagnant salaries for the year ahead.

As for bonuses, there's no telling how much or whether the mid-size and small firms will compete with BigLaw this season. At least no one is announcing their generosity yet, and a few of the big firms are holding on to their Christmas money until after the New Year.

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