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Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, the New York law firm, announced bonuses for salaried lawyers ranging from $7,500 to $30,000, based on experience, according to bloomberg.

Cravath’s announcement opens the bonus season among large New York law firms. The bonuses are less than half of what the most junior associates received last year, when bonuses were between $17,500 and $30,000.

“It’s the junior associates who really took a haircut this year,” said New York-based legal consultant Bruce MacEwen. “I think Cravath is reflecting the attitude that, frankly, junior associates aren’t worth as much. They don’t have experience. They don’t know what they are doing. It’s nothing personal.”

In the last two years, the biggest law firms in cities including New York, Chicago and Boston began paying first-year attorneys $160,000, according to a survey released July 30 by The National Association for Law Placement Inc.

Salaries for first-year attorneys peaked in 2009 and are likely to decrease “for the foreseeable future,” according to the NALP survey.

Law firms are scrambling to cut costs as demand for legal services drops and corporations pressure law firms to reduce their fees. Many of the largest U.S. law firms fired junior attorneys and staff this year, and firms such as Nixon Peabody LLP, Baker & McKenzie LLP and Chadbourne & Parke LLP cut attorney salaries.


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