Associate Helps Firm Land Client, Then Sues Over Size of Bonus

By Jason Beahm on November 30, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

How much does a BigLaw associate receive when they bring in a big client? According to an ex-associate at Nixon Peabody, 5% of the fees they bring in. Not so, said the firm, contending that the bonus was only discretionary.

Noah Doolittle began work at Nixon in 2002 and said that he brought in a big client in 2005. Doolittle expected that bringing in the client was going to mean big money for him down the road.

In the end, Noah Doolittle received a $75,000 bonus after he left the firm. While by no means a small figure, Doolittle believed he was entitled to far more.

Nixon Peabody said that bonus was "in accordance with its established salary and bonus policies." However Doolittle believes he is owed more than three times that amount. He wants $266,000, which works out to 5% of the $5.32 million in fees Nixon Peabody collected from the client Doolittle landed.

Doolittle has sued for breach of contract, fraud and deceit, and misrepresentation. The Wall Street Journal researched these types of bonuses and found that the policy described by Doolittle is considered unusual for a large corporate firm, but not unheard of.

Some believe the policy described by Doolittle would be unusual for a corporate firm the size of Nixon Peabody, which has 700 lawyers.

But it's not unheard of.

"We don't do anything near what you're describing, but we would certainly look at client development efforts as well as results," said Susan V. Fried, chief officer for recruitment and development at K&L Gates.

Doolittle is now an in house attorney at Eastman Kodak Co., who is a longtime Nixon Peabody client. Kodak, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

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