Not all practice groups are created equal. Some law firm groups are flagships, oozing revenue and prestige. They’re touted to law students in glossy recruiting brochures and bragged about in interviews with the media.
Other groups are basically just deadweight. The firm would shed them if it could — if not for the need to please a major institutional client, or to show respect to an aging name partner.
If you’re an associate in a favored group — at our former home, Ed Herlihy’s FIG guys were the “green berets” of M&A — you’re on a rocket ship to partnership. And if you’re in a loss leader of a practice group, your days are numbered.
But Biglaw shops generally PRETEND that all practice groups are on the same footing. It’s a genteel fiction. You may work in a sexy and lucrative practice area, and your fellow associate two doors down may work in a backwater. But you both get the same pay and benefits.
Not so in the Washington office of Dechert. The firm just announced a “differential pay scale” that they concede in their memo is “unusual.” Under that scale, “FSG Associates” — associates in Dechert’s prestigious financial services practice group — earn higher salaries than their non-FSG colleagues, starting in year three ($175K to $170K). By the time they reach their eighth year, FSG associates are earning $30,000 more than their non-FSG counterparts ($280K to $250K).
We reprint the Dechert memo after the jump.
Yes, this is an odd pay scale. But we don’t know what the market is like in DC for financial services lawyers. Perhaps this move makes sense given the market realities.