Hueston Hennigan Joins Pandemic Bonus Bandwagon

By Aebra Coe
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Law360 (September 17, 2020, 6:39 PM EDT) -- Litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan LLP will join a small, but growing list of law firms handing out bonuses to associates this fall in addition to their usual year-end bonuses, but in a departure from other firms it also plans to extend extra cash to staff, a source at the firm confirmed Thursday.

Following the lead of others like Milbank LLP and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the firm announced that it will be providing an additional bonus to associates this year in light of the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic that will range from $7,500 to $40,000 based on seniority.

The bonuses were first reported on by legal blog Above the Law on Thursday and a source within the firm confirmed the news to Law360.

The bonuses being offered by Hueston Hennigan are on a similar scale to the ones used by Milbank and Davis Polk, although Milbank chose to extend the bonuses higher for those who have taken on a larger than average workload and lower for those who have worked less so far this year.

Cooley LLP also announced bonuses to recognize attorneys' hard work during the pandemic this week, saying it will offer "special appreciation bonus" payments of $2,500 to $7,500 to associates, special counsel and of counsel. Cooley will also offer an appreciation bonus to its professional staff at the end of the month, a spokesperson for the firm said.

Hueston Hennigan also said it will provide the firm's professional staff with bonuses, adding to similar ones of $1,000 it offered them this spring in light of challenges presented by the pandemic, the firm source confirmed.

The litigation boutique has become a leader in recent years when it comes to associate pay and bonuses. Last December, it announced that it would exceed the market rate for large law firms when it comes to year-end associate bonuses, exceeding the payouts at elite firms like Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Other firms in recent weeks have said they've rolled back pay cuts and other austerity measures put in place this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Squire Patton Boggs LLP and Duane Morris LLP are rolling back salary reductions for both lawyers and staff, the firms confirmed Tuesday.

Starting in October, Squire Patton will restore associate salaries to their pre-pandemic levels and reverse base salary cuts for support staff and other nonpartners who are making less than $75,000, while those earning above that level will see their compensation reduction cut in half, the firm said in a statement to Law360.

In addition to restoring the salaries, the firm added that it will reward employees "who performed at extraordinary levels" during the reduced compensation period with a special bonus, and its existing bonus program will also remain in place.

Similarly, Duane Morris also confirmed Tuesday that it has already restored the compensation for nonpartner attorneys and staff to their pre-pandemic amounts at the beginning of the month.

In a statement to Law360, Duane Morris said it eliminated the 15% compensation reductions implemented in May for associates, special counsel and staff making more than $100,000.

Duane Morris had also deferred equity partners' distributions and redacted their year-end compensation by 25% in April, but the firm did not say whether that has changed as of Tuesday.

On Monday, Mayer Brown LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright's U.S. offices confirmed that they will end pay reductions for both lawyers and staff by the end of the month. In addition to restoring base salaries to pre-pandemic levels, Mayer Brown also said it will award an additional discretionary bonus this year to high-performing income partners, of counsel and associates.

Last week, Holland & Hart LLP confirmed it had returned all employees' salaries and equity partners' third-quarter profit distributions to their full amount, and reinstated its employee match to 401(k) contributions this month.

Also last week, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC confirmed it had eliminated all salary reductions at the beginning of September, while Eversheds Sutherland confirmed its U.S. branch is restoring half of the 10% compensation cut it instituted in early May in response to the pandemic.

And on Friday, Dentons confirmed it would be partially rolling back its pay cuts and offering older business professionals and paralegals in the U.S. who have been with the firm at least 15 years the chance to retire early.

--Additional reporting by Emma Cueto, Xiumei Dong, Michele Gorman, Dave Simpson and Kevin Penton. Editing by Alyssa Miller.

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