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This article, like many others, was first published exclusively for long-term supporters, 1 hour before everyone else got to read it.

Trilegal pays special 1 month Covid salary for all on top of bonus after ‘exceptional’ financials • SAM, JSA unfreeze

Surprise bonus + bonus at Trilegal
Surprise bonus + bonus at Trilegal

As many firms had frozen salaries (or recently unfrozen them), Trilegal has paid out an unconditional one month’s extra salary to all fee-earners and staff, on top of expected usual performance-related bonus payments and scheduled PQE increments, two sources with knowledge of the move have confirmed.

Financial results at the firm, which will be finalised by 31 March 2021, are expected to be “exceptional”, according to one equity partner with knowledge of projections announced internally.

Bonuses are usually paid at the end of April, but the additional one month salary payment over and above this is understood to have been announced as a gesture of appreciation from the partnership to fee-earners as well as support staff for their hard work (and presumably difficult circumstances in which such work took place) this year.

The news was first published earlier today in a Legally India discussion on Covid bonuses (which had perhaps been started ironically).

Trilegal management declined to comment on the bonuses when contacted.

Trilegal is is also one of the few firms that never announced a salary freeze of annual ordinary post-qualification experience (PQE) year increments, which normally automatically take place as fee-earners become more senior every year.

Indeed, at the beginning of the pandemic in May 2020, Trilegal had also paid out its performance bonuses in a bid at projecting “business as usual” (though performance-linked bonuses were understood to have been a little lower than usual).

Update 22:16: According to Trilegal, a “conservative” payout in May 2020 was adequately balanced out by a higher September 2020 bonus. “The firm stayed true to its commitment in 2020 and paid out the lawyers and staff bonus, as per the guidance however in two tranches,” said Trilegal head of human resources, Kavita Mathur.

This is in contrast to most other big firms.

Both Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas had effectively temporarily deferred bonuses.

SAM and JSA retrospectively pay PQE increments

Bar & Bench had reported earlier this week that Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas had announced “bumper increases and performance bonuses”, with a “10% increment in the fixed retainer fee of its lawyers, with retrospective effect from April 1, 2020”.

According to Bar & Bench, billing targets to calculate bonuses had not adjusted at the beginning of the pandemic, with future bonuses to be paid depending on whether lawyers exceed pre-agreed billing targets that would depend on fee-earners “Cost to Company (CTC)":

The variable fee payment will be based on the target agreed at the beginning of the financial year. For the coming financial year (2021-22), the lawyers’ CTC will be considered as if it has increased by 10% for both fixed and variable payments.

We understand that this increase does not apply to first-year associate fresher salaries at the firm.

We were not able to confirm whether this 10% increase is equivalent to standard retrospective PQE increases or beyond that.

We have reached out to SAM for comment and further explanation earlier this week but have not heard back.

J Sagar Associates (JSA) too has announced earlier this week that there would be a universal 10% increment to lawyers and staff applied retrospectively (though not applicable to first-year associate fresher salaries). Those increments had been held back previously.

The previously frozen PQE increments had been resumed from September 2020, retrospectively.

According to a statement from the firm:

On 19th March 2021, J. Sagar Associates (JSA) was pleased to announce the restoration of the full increment for attorneys and staff despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with retrospective effect from April, 2020. This will be paid out at the end of March, 2021. The bonus has already been paid to all in September, 2020.

Executive Committee at JSA said “It has been a difficult year. Our colleagues stepped up to the challenges and worked as a team to overcome them. The Firm recognises their contribution, and their hard work in adapting to the changing environment and the new normal. This is a message to JSA Family that the worst is over and good times will soon be here.”

Update 27 March: Clarified JSA situation that PQE increments were unfrozen in September and that the currently announced increments were on top of that.

Photo by Nick Youngson.

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