We recently wrote about the two-tier associate compensation system just announced by Thelen. Associates who work 2,000+ hours a year are paid on the $160,000 scale, while associates who work less remain on the old $145,000 scale.
Sounds sensible and fair, right? Well, maybe not so much. What if you WANT to be on the faster track, earning a market-rate salary, but the firm won’t let you? We hear that Thelen is effectively telling some of its associates, “Please, guys, don’t work so hard — ’cause we can’t make it worth your while anyway!”
Here’s one source at the firm on how the two-tier system is being received:
Most people seem cool with it because it included hours-based bonuses for hitting 2000, 2100, and 2200. But there are some slow practice groups in certain offices where a decent number of associates got put on the lower tier, and those people are less happy.
Indeed. We received an email from one of those less-than-happy campers. It’s pretty scathing — but deservedly so.
Check it out, after the jump.
From a pretty ticked-off associate:
The LA office is not pleased. First off, the office has lost over 20 associates and partners (23 as of next Friday to be exact) since the merger was announced, most of those in the commercial litigation department. There has not been much work. The national com lit chairs were even flown in to reassure everyone that the department and office was okay — i.e., not closing — and that the lack of hours would not be held against anyone.
Pretty grim. And it gets worse:
Then, due to this “down cycle,” all the com lit associates were placed on the lower tier. All the associates, except for the first-years, summers and incoming first years (Sept. 2007) — they were given the “benefit of the doubt,” and did not have the current slow trend held against them.
Here’s what’s most perverse about the situation:
In sum, we have second and third years making less or the exact same as first years. First years will not get raises in December, unless the next six months markedly improve in terms of busy-ness. All of this would be fine and good if the associates could CHOOSE their tier, but this is not the case.
It is clear that the firm does not value its mid-level associates and in effect is asking everyone to go find work elsewhere. I don’t know one person here not interviewing, and I would caution anyone considering the firm to look at the entire compensation structure, not just first-year starting salaries.
But hey, there is a silver lining to this proverbial cloud:
That being said, if you want a lifestyle firm where it is okay to bill 1700 hours and still get paid pretty well, but not market, then Thelen is the place for you.
Hey, we have an idea. Remember these kids? Why not just disband Law Students Building A Better Legal Profession, and hire all of its members at Thelen?
Earlier: Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Thelen Reid, and A Tale of Two Tiers