Akin Gump, Associate Salaries, Killing Lockstep

Akin Gump Back to $160K: Another Merit-Based Plan Offers Market-Level Base Salaries

It started with DLA Piper. After offering recession salaries to associates for a while under the guise of merit-based compensation, DLA relented earlier this month and restored the $160K base salary scale to its associates. Yesterday, WilmerHale announced that while it too is going forward with a merit-based compensation plan, it will be offering base salaries along the established $160K scale.

It seems that this little experiment of using merit-based compensation to undercut the market for base associate salaries is dying a quiet death. Today we have news that Akin Gump’s 2011 compensation model will once again include base salaries that match the market and are not tied to performance.

And even better, a tipster reports that all Akin Gump offices will be put on the New York market, $160K scale — which should represent a significant bump in salary for some associates…

The news was announced to associates at the end of a firm-wide meeting. Akin will be dropping its hybrid compensation model in 2011.

The current Akin compensation model is a bit confusing. Essentially, Akin Gump defers a portion of your compensation each quarter and only returns it to you if you are on track for 2,000 hours. So if you hit 2,000 hours at the end of the year, you get all of your money. But if you’re clocking in at, say, 1,300 hours in September, Akin keeps a portion of your salary.

Next year, that model is being dropped. It’ll be like the old days: your salary will be what they said it is, not contingent on hitting billable-hours targets at quarterly intervals.

And if you work for Akin outside of New York, things are going to get even better:

Currently also Texas, Philly and others have slightly different salaries. Philly gets paid less and Texas has some [deferred] compensation.

In 2011, you just get paid in all offices the same NY scale. So no more hours requirement to get your full salary. Plus nice bump!

That sound you guys are hearing is the sound of normalcy. No suspense, no drama, no ridiculous cost-cutting complications. You have a base salary that matches the top of the Biglaw market, and if you do well you’ll get some sort of bonus.

Are there other firms who would call themselves Biglaw but haven’t gotten the memo regarding the salary scale? Let us know. It’s about time for the stragglers to catch on.

Earlier: Nationwide Salary Thaw Watch: Akin Gump
DLA Piper and the Long Road Back to $160K
WilmerHale Brings Clarity to its Merit-Based Compensation Program

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