‘I love being an associate!’

We’ve waited a long time to type these words. A major law firm just raised starting salaries for first-year associates.

Before you start chanting “NY to 190,” however, there are some things you should know. The raise relates to associates in what some might call a “secondary” legal market; we’re not talking about New York, or Washington, or Los Angeles. Associates at this firm, even post-raise, won’t be making the magic number of $160,000 a year.

That said, the legal market in question is rather large, and the law firm in question is a national and even international player. So the move could have ramifications beyond just the affected associates….

The firm in question is Greenberg Traurig, and the market in question is Miami/Fort Lauderdale — the fifth-largest U.S. legal market, ranked by total law firm payrolls. Here’s the news, as reported by Julie Kay of the Daily Business Review:

Greenberg Traurig has bumped up pay for its first-year associates in Miami and Fort Lauderdale 16 percent from $125,000 to $145,000.

“While the need to deliver exceptional value to clients is stronger than ever and business conditions change from time to time in each market, we remain committed to adjusting compensation as may be necessary to hire and retain the very best,” Greenberg CEO Richard Rosenbaum said in a statement.

According to the NALP buying power index, you need to earn $78,320 in Miami in order to live like someone earning $160,000 in New York City. So earning $145,000 in Miami is a pretty good deal.

Will other Florida offices follow suit? It’s not clear. A spokesperson for Holland & Knight, which currently pays a starting salary of $135,000, told the DBR that a possible raise is “something we will review in the future.” Foley & Lardner already pays around $145,000 in Miami, so they’ll probably keep their powder dry.

And don’t expect anything out of GrayRobinson:

Byrd “Biff” Marshall, president of GrayRobinson, said his firm pays first-year associates $105,000 in South Florida and doesn’t plan to change that.

“We get very good candidates interested in working for us at that rate, and we don’t intend to pass along higher prices to our clients,” he said.

Or lower profits to our partners. On its website, GrayRobinson touts itself as “Extremely Floridian.” Is “Floridian” a synonym for “cheap”?

Just kidding — we don’t want to get anyone named “Biff” angry at us. In this day and age, law school graduates earning $105,000 should be pleased with and proud of their six-figure paychecks. Yay GrayRobinson!

UPDATE (6:30 p.m.): Thanks to Partner Emeritus for reminding us (in the comments) that GrayRobinson was nice enough to raise associate salaries during the recession. It seems that the firm marches to the beat of its own drum when it comes to associate compensation.

And perhaps GrayRobinson is right. Some industry observers expressed puzzlement to the Daily Business Review about Greenberg’s move. As legal recruiter Joe Ankus said, “You’re talking about a surplus of talent that is unprecedented. The supply so grossly exceeds the demand that I scratch the back of my head and say, ‘why?’”

But others offered an optimistic take. As Abbe Bunt of Bunt Legal Search opined, “I think it’s a good sign. Deals are back on the table, people are looking for real estate attorneys. We also haven’t raised salaries here in a few years, so this will bring it more in line with other major metropolitan cities.”

Unless those other major cities raise salaries as well. Can we get some “NY to 180″ in the house?

Greenberg Traurig Hikes Pay For First-Year Associates to $145,000 [Daily Business Review]

Earlier: New York to $180K. I’m Totally Serious.
New York to $190K? Actually, It’s About Time.
Which Cities Give Young Lawyers the Biggest Bang for Their Buck?
Partner Emeritus, Meet Biff–You Could Learn Something


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