Several Big Law firms are offering new bonuses to their associates, though some recruiters believe it may not be enough to retain an increasingly overworked population of employees.

“Big Law” colloquially refers to a number of large, high-revenue law firms that often operate out of major U.S. cities with branches across the nation. The substantial salaries at these firms are usually accompanied by long hours and heavy workloads.

After many Big Law firms had a successful year in spite of the pandemic, they appeared poised to pass the benefits onto their associates.

For some, however, the special bonuses (which reach up to $64,000 at several firms) may not compensate for the feelings of burnout from the job.

Juggling a bigger workload than ever with family and personal responsibilities during a global pandemic has no doubt affected how some associates see their time in Big Law, an industry that already took a toll on lawyers’ mental health before Covid-19.


Though many kept their heads down in 2020 because of the pandemic and its economic impact, in 2021 some associates’ priorities have changed, both personally and professionally, said Stephanie Biderman, a New York-based partner in Major Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group.


“Associate burn out is real,” she said.


Biderman said bonuses don’t solve the overwork issue nor do they function as an effective recruitment tool for associates if most peer firms fall in line with matching bonus amounts.

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