9 Months Bonus for Lawyers


Some of the top lawyers in Singapore will get up to 9 months bonus payout this year.

The Straits Times reported that Drew & Napier and Rajah & Tann are giving fat bonuses across the board.

Harry Elias Partnership and KhatterWong are also giving big bonuses of 5.5 to 8 months to their staff.

The payouts even “spilled” to the non-legal support staff.

Small law firms however are unable to match such rewards. But they are “unfazed”, as there’s “hidden toll in work-life balance for those working in the top league.”

See comment from a lawyer reader.


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  1. 1. Please do not be misguided by such reports.

    2. I do not know why there is so much focus on lawyers. Investment bankers get paid 12 to 2 months bonuses in a good year and 2007 (most part of it) was a good year.

    3. The article gets up to 9 months bonus. It is unclear how many indivs are beneficiaries of this max. limit. It is usually the very junior ones whose base is less and therefore cheaper to give more months.

    4. For the senior ones, the average falls and also in order to be the top performer, one has to sell one’s life and soul (plus all waking hours and sleeping ones too) to the firm. This is not sustainable and most corporate lawyers and trial lawyers burn out within 3-5 years, which explains there a great shortage of lawyers in spoe in those years.

    It is not a glamerous life.

  2. dude graduates are already getting a minimum of 4k. a bonus of 36k doesnt sound too bad to me. and about burning out, isnt it the same for all professions? doctors have the pressure of performing each delicate surgery with precise actions, or risk the death of a patient. isnt that stress too? wouldnt they burn out? its all a matter of opinion

  3. There is so much focus simply because there aren’t enough lawyers and there’s a conscious effort to attract more people to join the industry. One way is of course to focus on the remuneration. As parasitic lawyers are, they are needed to support the finance industry and given how our economy is increasingly reliant on the finance sector, its not surprising that the government is going all out to get more warm bodies into the legal sector. From setting up SMU law faculty, increasing the intake in NUS to having more news coverage, its all quite obvious.

    Just as a few years back when the government wanted to draw more to join the life sciences industry, there were articles and news reports on the remuneration and prospects all the time.

    The sad truth is that, like politics and finance, law is a parasitic sector that only functions to move money from one part of society to another, or sometimes from one part of the world to another……..there is very little value creation (whether tangible economic value created by entrepreneurs or intangible value creation by philantrophers, artists or educators). And when more and more young people get misguided by all these reports about the top salaries they can expect to get, you’ll just get more dissatisfied people and less value creation overall.

  4. true (at least my case) lawyer burns out at fifth year, but not to pitiful bits – join inhouse, i just got 12 months bonus and my base is slightly above local market rate..there’s alternative of switching to different career (if one is willing and able to take the pain of creating another venture at middle age)

  5. 4.5K is only for the larger local firms (though its since been upped to 4.8K – 5K at 1 or 2 firms). At foreign firms based here, its anything from 5.5K to I dont know, maybe 7 – 8K? On the other hand, lawyers in small firms are getting 3K plus even after 2 – 3 years.

    If you want big money, do something else. If you want stability of income, lawyering isnt bad, I suppose.

  6. I am a +2PQE (with a Malaysian firm) who will be starting work as a foreign lawyer with the arbitration department in a medium-sized firm in Jan 2009 with a provisional pay of between S$3.6k to S$4.0k p/m.

    Reckon it is a good starting pay?

  7. singa09: if you are getting only $4k, it means you have been dropped 2 years PQE as $4k is really NQ salary. 2PQE should be somewhere in the $6k range, at least in cartel. i’m at 4PQE and getting $8.5k base. some of my 4PQE peers at international firms are getting $12-$15k.

  8. singlaw:-

    Thanks for the information.
    Well, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt as:-

    1) I will be switching from litigation to arbitration (not to mention that I am not admitted to the Singapore Bar as yet); and

    2) I have yet to prove my capabilities in a different jurisdiction.

    Hopefully things will be different once I have settled down with the job.

    Am really look forward to the challenge!

    Thanks again.

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