Another Biglaw Firm Raises Billing Requirements In The Wake Of The Pay Raise

Another Biglaw Firm Raises Billing Requirements In The Wake Of The Pay Raise

time money cash billable hour bonusHow are law firms paying for the Great Associate Pay Raise of 2016? Anecdotal evidence suggests they’re taking several different approaches, sometimes in combination.

A firm can make partners pay for the raises, by taking the money out of partner profits (let’s see if we notice this when the new Am Law 100 rankings come out next month). It can make support staff pay for the raises, by conducting staff layoffs (and taking other steps to trim expenses). And it can make associates pay for the raises, by making them work hard(er) for the money.

Wilson Sonsini — which raised associate salaries last June, a little on the late side (after peer firms like Cooley and Fenwick & West had raised) — is now raising its billable-hour requirement. A disgruntled tipster reports:

[Last week] WSGR sent an email to associates raising bonus hour requirements to 1950 hours (from 1900) and providing that individuals who release their time late can see their bonuses reduced by $5,000 or more (which is a bit ridiculous in my opinion). They also claim that 1950 hours is consistent with market — I am not aware of other CA-based firms having this requirement, unless this is a recent development.

Actually, in fairness to the firm, a number of WSGR’s peer firms do have either a billable-hours requirement or target of 1950 (at least for $180K scale and/or bonus eligibility). See, e.g., Cooley, Fenwick, Morrison & Foerster, and Orrick.

And the strategy of making associates pay (quite literally) for delinquent time entry is also not new to Biglaw. See, e.g., Norton Rose Fulbright, Hughes Hubbard, and Simpson Thacher.

As for raising the billable-hour requirement in the wake of the pay raise, that too is something we’ve seen before. See, e.g., Crowell & Moring and Perkins Coie. (If your firm has pulled a similar move, let us know, by email (subject line: “[Firm Name] Hours Requirement”)).

Our source’s ire is understandable, but so is Wilson Sonsini’s new hours requirement. And on the bright side, the firm does count all pro bono hours toward the 1950, as well as 100 “firm citizenship hours” and 25 to 50 hours of “shadowing” (depending on one’s seniority level).

There’s no such thing as a free lunch — especially in Biglaw.

(Flip to the next page to read the complete Wilson Sonsini memo.)

Earlier: With Great Raises Come Great Increased Billing Requirements
Firm Offers Raises Retroactive To July 1

DBL square headshotDavid Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law and the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at


Published at Mon, 10 Apr 2017 23:16:51 +0000

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