c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — The law firm co-founded by the well-known litigator David Boies is again breaking away from the pack when it comes to showering big year-end bonuses on young lawyers.

The Boies, Schiller & Flexner law firm is paying bonuses of as much as $300,000 to some of its associates, with the average young lawyer taking home an additional $85,000, a firm spokeswoman, Dawn Schneider, confirmed late Tuesday. Last year, the maximum bonus handed out to some of the young lawyers at the firm, which specializes in trial and appellate litigation, was $250,000.

Other major law firms are giving much smaller bonuses to their young lawyers, with payments topping out around $60,000. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, often a trendsetter in compensation for major law firms, recently gave associates bonuses of $10,000 to $60,000. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom paid $60,000 bonuses to associates who had been with the firm since 2005 or longer, and $2,500 to those who joined in the last few months.

The big law firms that focus on corporate and securities work, including advising on mergers, litigation and restructurings, traditionally have moved in lock step on associate pay and bonuses. Bonus amounts at most big law firms are determined largely by seniority. But Boies Schiller, with its more litigation-focused business, has sought to distinguish itself by rewarding associates for the amount of time they put in on significant cases.

Boies Schiller, with offices in New York, Washington, Miami, Las Vegas and nine other cities, is awarding bonuses to its 133 associates a few days before the firm’s annual winter retreat this weekend in Key Biscayne, Fla. The average associate makes a base salary of $220,000.

Next year overall, the average starting salary for lawyers at firms is expected to rise 3.1 percent, according to the legal arm of the professional staffing firm Robert Half.

Boies — who founded the firm with Jonathan D. Schiller in 1997 after leaving Cravath, where he was a partner and had worked some 30 years — said in an interview that the rich bonuses were intended to make associates feel that they were an integral part of the 241-lawyer firm. He said the culture of many big law firms was to bestow most of the riches on the partners and treat “associates as just visiting” and moving on after a few years.

“To be candid, a majority of firms are run for the partners and not the associates,” Boies said. “And in the near term, there’s probably not much incentive for them to change their business models.”

Known for supporting liberal causes, Boies, 72, teamed up with the conservative lawyer Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush, to defeat California’s ban on same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court this year. The legal odd couple recently joined forces again to challenge a Virginia law that bars gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

Boies said the legal profession needed to find a way to better spread legal resources to improve representation of the interests of individuals and groups who lack the money and power to argue for themselves. Boies said the U.S. was “overlawyered” when it came to the rich and powerful, but “under-lawyered when it comes to people who don’t have resources.”

“I think one way the legal profession has got to adapt,” he said, “is to serve not just the people who it has largely served excessively, but develop a business model for people who are underserved.”