I Do Not Think ’25 Best Paying Companies’ Means What You Think It Means

Bingham logo.jpgLast week, Fortune released its annual list of the 100 best places to work. Shockingly, a number of law firms made the list.

Now Fortune wants to tell us about the 25 Best Paying Companies (from among the top 100 companies to work for), and once again I have no earthly clue what they are talking about.

Let’s start right at the top. The number one, best paying company that is also nice to work for, in the entire United States of America is … Bingham McCutchen. According to Fortune:

For the second year in a row, this law firm is the top-paying Best Company to Work For. Lawyers fresh out of school get starting salaries of $160,000 a year, topped off with fat bonuses.

Umm … okay. I mean, I think Skadden’s definition of “fat” is a little different than Fortune’s, but whatever.

More from Fortune after the jump.

The glowing Fortune write-up on Bingham McCuthchen also notes:

Bingham, which prides itself on keeping pay scales “competitive at all times,” looked at compensation at other law firms in mid-2007 and immediately boosted pay a hefty 20%.

I imagine that Bingham employees are very excited to learn about ancient 2007 salary increases a couple of days after we reported that the firm has instituted a 2009 salary freeze. There’s a difference between “competitive at all times” and “competitive with Latham at all times” don’t you think?

Meanwhile, further down the list we learn that Orrick, Herrington & Stufcliffe is the 3rd best paying company. According to Fortune:

In the U.S., legal secretaries’ average total pay is $77,702 annually.

According to ATL, Orrick is freezing salaries. But Orrick did pay out 2008 bonuses on a Skadden scale, not Cravath.

In fact, every law firm on Fortune’s list has in some way frozen salaries on their associates.

Obviously, Fortune is using salary information compiled in 2007, which is a bit like trying to pay your rent in Webvan stocks.

Maybe it’s not the right time to come out with a Best Paying Companies list?

Top-Paying Companies [Yahoo]

25 top-paying companies [CNN Money]

Earlier: Fortune Lists Top 100 Companies to Work For

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