Are You Happy With Your Bonus?

15 January 2020

It’s the most… wonderful time… of the year! No, not the festive period – it’s bonus season!

It’s the time we’ve all been waiting for; all the clients won, all the hours billed, all the pockets emptied over the holidays, have led to this. For most of us, we were given a map with clear directions on how to enter bonus territory and finished the year with a pretty good idea of whether we’d see that beautiful lump sum slide into our bank account. For some, though, things haven’t been so simple.

We’ve kept our ears to the ground for some of the stories that have come out of bonus season. We’re not going to name and shame here, as we’re not sure that this news applies to all offices of the firms, but it’s fair to say that some firms have some explaining to do. Here are the trends we’ve come across.

Confusing, opaque ‘black box’ bonus calculations

This is perhaps the most frustrating of the lot. Associates at one major international firm have no idea what the formula is to determine whether they are bonus eligible. Hitting your hours doesn’t necessarily equal a bonus, leaving many associates pulling their hair out trying to reverse engineer the bonus equation. The effects have been reported to affect partners the most, but we’re also hearing that those who have worked on lower-paying matters through the year have been hit hard.

Well below market average bonuses

Working in Biglaw should mean you get paid Biglaw bonuses. That’s not been the case at one Biglaw firm who released their bonus scale recently. Their scale shows bonuses at only 60% of the market standard, with an option to request additional bonuses based on merit. That’s right, eighth year associates at this firm are receiving the same bonuses as first year associates elsewhere. That’s gotta hurt. Can’t hurt as much as arguing your case for why you should be paid what you deserve, though.

Very late bonuses

Better late than never, I guess. One Biglaw firm has reportedly delayed bonus season until March. The good news for employees is that they should expect to receive market rate bonuses. The bad news is that the money is sitting there waiting, in March. This is frustrating news for those who had expenses riding on the expectation of receiving their bonuses within the usual Jan-Feb season, or for those who were considering a lateral move and now have to wait several more months before it is feasible.

Did your bonus come up a little short (or not at all) this year? Route1 can help ease the burn. Get in touch with us and not only can we hook you up with a firm who will pay you the right bonus, but we’ll also give you a sign on bonus of 5% of your associate salary when you land the job. No black box, no delay; just a new job and a nice health bonus to say, ‘well done!’. Get in touch with our Engagement Team today!


We have big ambitions to permanently change the way people hire and get hired, both in the legal and other white collar sectors, using GDPR compliant, content-rich, value-added recruitment techniques. We place transparency, charity, and candidate control at the heart of our model.

Route1 was founded in the UK in 2015 and is headquartered in London. Our founders and investors include experienced lawyers, digital entrepreneurs, recruitment consultants and HR professionals.

Route1 is an award winning marketplace for legal talent. For any questions, please contact our Engagement Team or visit our Contact Us page for more information.

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