Bonuses for Singapore lawyers hit 9 months

The Straits Times reported today of the large bonuses being paid out to the top performing lawyers, it being a reflection of the booming business the law firms are experiencing.

BIG law firms, buoyed by the business boom, are handing out bigger year-end bonuses this year, with the best payouts breaching the nine-month mark.

The Straits Times understands that top performing lawyers in top-league firms like Drew & Napier and Rajah & Tann are getting high payouts across the board as rewards to recognise good work when the going is good.

Other firms like Harry Elias Partnership (HEP) and KhattarWong also awarded fatter bonuses of between 5-1/2 and eight months to its lawyers.

HEP’s managing partner Latiff Ibrahim said its top performers are in the ‘booming corporate, construction and litigation practices’.

KhattarWong’s Subhas Anandan said the bigger bonuses also spilled to the non-legal support staff, with the best receiving up to 5-1/2 months.

Lawyers generally attributed the fat bonus cheques to the strong economy, increased revenues and the need to pay high performers for ‘all the hard work and all the nights they have put in’.

WongPartnership, one of the biggest firms here, has had an ‘extremely good year’ in terms of the transactions and briefs received, said Mr Chou Sean You, a partner in the firm.

‘We expect to remunerate our lawyers well for all the hard work they have put in throughout the year,’ he said, adding that his firm traditionally declared its bonuses in January.

The upturn has benefited small and medium-size firms as well, especially in conveyancing work, said senior lawyer N. Sreenivasan.

‘Whether the property boom continues into the new year remains to be seen,’ he added.

He said that ‘with expected rental and salary increases next year, law firms will have to be more efficient, to reduce the impact of these increased overheads on the cost of legal services’.

Small firms which may not be able to match the fat bonuses of their bigger counterparts are unfazed, with some noting the hidden toll in work-life balance for those working in the top league.

Said Mr R. Kalamohan, who has run his own firm for more than 18 years: ‘I don’t know how many ‘handicaps’ I have compared to big firms, but when you look at the work-life balance, it is a different issue.

‘I am not constrained to burn the midnight oil every day unless there are exigencies. I do not think income is the main criterion for a good life.’

I think the Malaysian law firms generally had a good 2007 as well, with law firms paying out good bonuses. Not quite in the same bracket as 8-9 months of course.

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