Junior attorneys at many top law firms worked harder in 2010 as the firms relied on leaner staffing, but their year-end bonuses are unlikely to budge much from last year’s.
Bonus payments to associates are among the most tangible indicators of the legal industry’s health. Many elite law firms are keeping those payments largely unchanged this year, at least partly because business hasn’t improved much, say partners at several big firms.
The trend also reflects a reluctance to risk offending clients who worry that increasing pay to associates could translate into higher legal costs, says a partner at one major New York firm.
Regulatory practices at big New York law firms are generally strong this year, say partners and consultants. But the financial crisis slowed the pace of the mergers, acquisitions and private-equity transactions on which the elite firms thrive. Litigation revenue also has lagged as many corporate clients have grown less willing to engage in protracted lawsuits and more apt to prod law firms to charge less for handling court cases.
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