Rest of AmLaw 100 to Milbank: "cool, we'll catch up later."

Originally published by Whistler Partners on 02.08.22


We've gotten a few calls from candidates in the last two weeks that've gone a little something like this: 

“Great, really excited about my offers. *Long silence* I know they're at New York scale, but uh *another long pause* do you think any of these firms are moving to Milbank scale?"

It’s hard to imagine the word “Milbank” inspiring lust, but here we are. As of now, about 20 firms have moved to match Milbank (Above the Law is very much on the case). Most of them are Wall Street firms (although notably the most hoity toity firms, your Cravaths and Wachtells, have yet to respond), with a few of our favorite tech clients sprinkled in (Goodwin, DLA Piper and Wilmerhale). And, true story, we have received a voicemail that came with a burn notice, telling us that an AmLaw 20 firm is planning to give out retention bonuses to anyone who stays through March 31, which will make the firm’s associate comp lockstep with Milbank.

So we’re going to make a couple of bold predictions here on associate compensation trends going forward:

1) Quarterly bonuses may become more common.

We know of a few boutiques that give quarterly bonuses, which is great for associates’ sense of agency in their jobs. And from the firm's perspective, it’s more conservative and easier to pivot when a worldwide catastrophe strikes, but it does mean that associates will feel more free to leave when they become unhappy (which for some reason is a bad thing to some firms?).

2) There might not be one New York scale forever.

We’re boldly predicting that there may be tiers (and tears), separating AmLaw 50-100 from its higher AmLaw ranked counterparts. There’s only so much keeping up with the Joneses that a firm can do. We’ve spoken to a lot of boutiques that have struggled to compete with salaries in 2021 (which is a travesty. We don’t want to live in a world where only mega brands survive), but their sell is always simple: you may not make as much here, but don’t you want to work somewhere with a better culture and lifestyle? So if tiers inspire a kinder, gentler world of AmLaw 50-100, is that really such a bad thing?

Topics: Big Law, Word on the street, Salaries