Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SAHMs Like Bonuses Too

It's that time of year again.

I'm not referring to the time of year where you give thanks and express gratitude for all your blessings in life.  Though I suppose it's that time of year too.  

I'm referring to law firm bonus season.  It is usually right around this time each year that the first firm announces its bonus numbers. Until then, law firm associates everywhere are on the edge of their seats wondering what these initial numbers will be, and what that will mean for their bank account.

Whatever this first firm announces as its associate bonus breakdown sets the stage for all other law firms.  And whatever the numbers are, they are never enough.  The initial announcement is usually followed by outrage and threats of an uprising.  All anonymous, of course.  Then, with all the talk of outrage, there comes hope.  Hope that your firm will right this wrong and increase associate bonuses, putting that first announcing firm to shame.  This rarely happens. 

To the outside world, this whole practice must seem ridiculous, and begs some questions:  

1) You're saying that that bonuses are not individualized?  You mean everyone receives the same bonus? 
Yes - for the most part - by level of seniority.  Some firms say that you have to have billed a certain number of hours to get a bonus, but once you reach that threshold, everyone will get the same bonus - usually the bonus set by the market.  Some firms have no hours threshold at all - you just have to show up to work to collect your check for a job well done.  

2) And these bonus figures are public?  
I don't think so.  But somehow, the internal bonus memos appear on Above the Law within hours.  I don't know where they get their informants, but they have them.  Lots of them.  Ballsy.   

3) And then all other firms will match the bonuses of the announcing firm?  Even though it is a completely different firm, with completely different employees, and completely different clients?  
The top firms will.  For other firms, it acts as a ceiling - you certainly won't get more (unless you are really, really lucky, and if you are, you probably have not seen your friends or family all year and deserve the extra money anyway).  

4) Don't these big firm lawyers make tons of money already?  Are they really so greedy and money hungry that they become consumed with holiday bonus announcements?  
A resounding yes.   

Let me rephrase.  

It's not that biglaw lawyers are inherently greedy people.  Their jobs just make them that way.  For the most part, they took their jobs for one reason and one reason alone: money.  This is the only way to justify their sacrifice - their long hours, their limited social life, their lack of exercise, their dearth of free time, their dedication to a job that only makes rich people richer.  Some of these people didn't set out to do this.  Some of these people went to law school because they wanted to help society and make a difference and give back.  Some of those people were then overwhelmed by law school loans and debt and were enticed by the promise of six figures.  Some of those people figured they would earn said six figures for a year or two and then devote themselves to the betterment of the world.  Some of those people let time get away from them, and before they knew it they had a mortgage and expenses and they couldn't let those six figures go.  These aren't bad people. 

(*Disclaimer - I was one of those people.)

You're probably wondering why I'm even talking about this.  I'm not at a law firm anymore.  I'm not getting a salary, let alone a bonus.  

But my husband is.   My husband is at one of those firms that matches, or at times exceeds, market bonus.  But his actual bonus depends on how many hours he bills in a given year.  The more hours, the more money.  

As you may have gleaned from my blog, I generally hate it when my husband works long hours.  I loathe the nights he has to work late and I have to put the kids to bed by myself.  I dread when he has to take work trips.  I get livid extremely annoyed when he cancels date night (particularly on a wedding anniversary).  But this time of year.... I have to admit I also get wrapped up in the greed of it all.

I find myself checking in with my husband on how many hours he has billed.  So for example (and this is all completely hypothetical, of course), if it is mid-November and he tells me he has billed 2150 hours so far, my wheels start turning.  That means if he really works his ass off, he could make it to 2400 hours by the end of December, which could mean a higher bonus.  That would mean he'd only have to bill 50 more for November, and then pull a 200 hour month in December. That's not so bad.  He's done worse.  And if it means that he can't be with the family as much over the holidays, well we can all suck it up.  That's right, honey, put in some more hours if necessary. I'll handle things at home.

Can you believe I'm saying this????

The rest of year I'm all about quality of life.  About putting the blackberry down, living in the moment, remembering what is truly important...  But during bonus season?  I embrace my husband's OCD and ridiculous work ethic.  I encourage it.  Push it, actually.  Check in with him periodically to make sure he is still on track to bill those hours.  We need the money, after all.  I'm not working, remember?  And I really want to get a new fireplace mantle.

So I, like all the law firm associates out there, will be checking Above the Law incessantly during this holiday bonus season.  Because stay at home moms like bonuses too.  


  1. I wouldn't get your hopes up. I'm not expecting anything big this year.

  2. Too funny! Also a biglaw wife and I ignore ATL all year, because most of it is so irrelevant. But bonus season, I'm on 10-15 times a day. Not expecting too much this year though.


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