Associate Salaries, Killing Lockstep, Salary Freeze

Nationwide Salary Watch: Morgan Lewis Raises Salaries

We have good news for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius associates. Salary information is in and most people are getting raises. True-up raises at that. The class of 2008 pulled the short straw, but everybody else seems relatively happy. A tipster reports:

Please post that yesterday MLB essentially unfroze salaries (most ’08 grades only went up to 165 though) but otherwise made everyone whole, retroactive January 1, 2010.

The double-bump raise for veteran associates comes a couple of months after MLB announced big time raises for a select few associates — while most of the firm’s associates were left to wait and wonder. In January, we reported this message from Morgan Lewis Chairman, Francis M. Milone:

After considering all of these factors, we awarded base salary increases of up to $25,000 and incentive bonuses of up to $35,000 to our highest performing associates. As I advised in my November video presentation, we did not reduce associate base salaries.

According to the firm, the decision to give true-up raises to mostly everybody is in keeping with MLB’s new merit-based strategy …

Morgan Lewis has been threatening to kill lockstep compensation for a while now. A firm spokesperson tells us that these class raises are part of the general move towards merit-based compensation:

Yesterday our Chair announced an upward adjustment in associate compensation. The primary purpose of the adjustment is to ensure that our associates are being fairly compensated for their hard work, excellence, efficiency and client service. The adjustment will not impact client billing rates in any way and is consistent with our move away from lockstep. The increases are based on merit and not tied to a specific number of billable hours. In short, they recognize our associates’ important contributions to the Firm and to our clients’ interests.

In addition to recognizing the important contributions of associates, MLB apparently also recognizes the importance of having associates that aren’t homicidal at the firm. A tipster reports:

Fran Milone made it clear it was coming out of the partners pocket but they believe they need happy associates since we are the front line and face of the firm to clients.

You’d think that more firms would understand that angry associates spread their bile much farther than the office water cooler (or Above the Law).

Milone’s point that the raises are coming out of the partners’ pockets seems obvious enough. Just last month, we reported that MLB partner profits took a dive in 2009.

Over the course of 2009, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius found a lot of ways to dispirit its associates classes. Perhaps this move will start to set things right?

Earlier: Morgan Lewis: Details Still Sketchy on its Merit Based Compensation
Morgan Lewis Delays the Death of Lockstep
Morgan Lewis: Not Enough Pie for Everybody

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