Goldberg Segalla Revamps 2020 Bonus Program

By Sarah Martinson
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Law360 (November 19, 2020, 6:24 PM EST) -- New York-based Goldberg Segalla said Thursday that it changed its 2020 bonus program to remove certain criteria, including how it used to calculate productivity, after its attorneys raised concerns about the transparency of the old system.

As part of the changes, the firm removed a "professional hygiene" requirement that involved following staffing guidelines and administrative protocols. Goldberg Segalla COO Chris Belter told Law360 that the firm found that some of the old factors used to determine attorneys' compensation were counterproductive and didn't match the firm's philosophy of being fair and transparent.

Instead of switching to a point system or mathematical formula when determining 2020 year-end bonuses, Goldberg Segalla will instead consider experience, expertise, leadership, contributions to organizations outside of the firm, service provided to clients, and the quality of their work, Belter said.

"Sometimes attorneys will focus on certain contributions and some will focus on others," he said, "but you really need to look at that from, not just in a quantitative standpoint, but a qualitative analysis."

The firm's facilitation committee, led by Belter, started reevaluating its bonus program in February after receiving some feedback from attorneys about dissatisfaction with its system, he said.

Belter said he personally felt the firm needed to improve its bonus program so that it could provide attorneys with straightforward answers about what their bonuses would be at the end of the year.

In June, despite the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm began having meetings with its partners, as well as with attorneys outside of the firm, about how it could improve its bonus structure. The firm's leadership felt it was important to roll out a new bonus system this year and didn't want to wait out the pandemic to make changes, Belter said.

On top of that, the firm will now issue bonuses sooner. Previously, it paid out bonuses in two installments in December and mid-summer, Belter said. Now the firm will be distributing bonuses in December and April, he said.

Belter said the changes have been received positively, but that the firm won't be announcing bonuses until mid-December. He also said he doesn't anticipate that bonuses will be lower this year because of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, in light of the pandemic, Goldberg Segalla cut staff and temporarily reduced partner draws by 10% to 20% beginning May 8, and suspended its matching contributions to 401(k) accounts.

In August, the firm restored partner draws and senior administrative leaders' salaries to pre-pandemic levels and has begun rehiring certain staff members who had been let go earlier in the year, as well as hiring 13 attorneys in order to keep up with client demand.

Earlier this week, Baker McKenzie kicked off the end-of-year bonus season, telling associates they could receive up to $100,000 in one-time payments, and that its offerings could increase if other firms set their scales higher. The bonuses will range from $15,000 for associates who have been with the firm since 2019, to $100,000 for those who have worked for it since 2012 or earlier.

--Additional reporting Justin Wise. Editing by Adam LoBelia.

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