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Akin Gump to Share Class Action Award With Every Employee at the Firm

Law firm bonuses tied solely to billable hours don't give associates any stake in the outcome of the transactions or litigations they're working on. Accordingly, we're big fans of initiatives that provide extra "incentive" compensation to associates based on criteria other than billable hours.

On that note, we were pleasantly surprised to read yesterday in a post on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog that Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld plans to distribute 14% of the $58.5 million it was awarded in connection with the settlement of a class action to every employee at the firm.

Firm chair Bruce McLean hit the nail on the head when he explained the motivation for the largesse: "Without the commitment of every member of the team, we would not be successful. The firm is sharing the fee earned in [this case] to demonstrate appreciation for that commitment."

As was noted in the AmLaw 200 Midlevel Associate Survey (here), a key gripe of many associates is that they work hard to contribute to their firms' growth, but then don't share in it. More instances of "appreciation" like that taken by Akin Gump -- not based exclusively on billable hour output -- would go a long way towards alleviating this frustration and improving morale and retention.

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