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Jones Day--No Bonus, But 36 New Partners

Vivia Chen

December 21, 2010

800278660_94d2ccf09f Bless its Midwestern heart: Cleveland-bred Jones Day could care less about prevailing trends and fashion. Instead of doling out those Cravath-size bonuses ($7,500 to $35,000) like every other megafirm in the nation this year, Jones Day is sticking by its guns: No bonuses for anyone. Nada.

"We don't do bonuses," says Jones Day partner Joe Sims. "We did away with that several years ago." (In an e-mail, Sims explains that most bonuses are tied to hours billed, which he says creates "an artificial incentive--artificial in the sense it is separate from any particular client needs--to bill hours." He adds, "we compensate our associates based on their overall contribution in all the aspects of their work, just as we do our partners.")

In fact, not only are bonuses nonexistent at Jones Day, but so too are lockstep salaries for associates after the first year. "We do merit raises," says Sims.

That lack of predictability (some say transparency) could scare off a lot of potential recruits. Sims, however, insists that that the firm can pick and choose its hires: "We have had no difficulty finding highly qualified new lawyers to join us from law school in the past and do not anticipate any change going forward."

One reason associates might hang in there is that Jones Day is still making partners. Yesterday, it announced 36 new partners in a variety of practice areas: antitrust, trial practice, bankruptcy, merger and acquisitions--and even a couple or so in real estate.

The good news is that Jones Day made the same number of partners as it did last year--though a bit of a drop from the 40 it anointed in 2008. And Sims says that women make up about a quarter of the new partners--"about the same as last year," he adds. Moreover, Sims says the firm has not laid off any lawyers (though he says there were some staff layoffs).

Overall, the news at Jones Day is a bit predictable, maybe boring. But considering that some firms have been trimming the number of new partners (Cravath made only one partner this year, while  Wachtell Lipton made none), boring might not be all that bad.

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Illustration:  http://glowinthedarkpictures.com/

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no VS 36 ........?

Just to put all this in perspective, a bit: Isn't Jones Day about 10 times larger than Wachtell? And maybe about 25% as profitable?

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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