Some large law firms, when announcing year-end associate bonuses, also announce base salaries for the new year. In Biglaw, the salary scale hasn’t budged since January 2007, when Simpson Thacher announced the $160K scale (providing for base salaries ranging from $160,000 for first-year associates to $280,000 for eighth-year associates).
You could view this as a compensation cut, since we have had some inflation (even if not high inflation) since 2007. According to the inflation calculator of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $160,000 in 2013, the latest year available, had the same buying power as $142,407 in 2007. Of course, law school tuition has climbed quite a bit since 2007 — so even for the lucky souls who land Biglaw jobs, the value proposition of a law degree isn’t as appealing today as it was back in 2007. You’re paying more for a degree that gets you less.
What’s the solution? Work for a firm that will pay you more than $160,000 as a starting salary, of course! Let’s say hello to the newest member of the $160K-Plus Club….
Alas, the firms that we’ve previously identified as members of the $160K-Plus Club, firms that pay starting salaries greater than $160,000, are incredibly selective. Getting into one of these firms is famously difficult — harder than getting a job at a generic Biglaw firm.
That’s true of the latest addition to the $160K-Plus Club: Dovel & Luner, a California litigation boutique that specializes in plaintiff-side patent litigation on a contingency fee basis. The firm has just eight lawyers, and if you look at their bios, you’ll see a dazzling array of top law schools, elite clerkships, and leading Biglaw firms in their backgrounds.
The firm might be tiny, but the rewards of working there are huge (click to enlarge; but you should be able to read those big numbers just fine):
Here are some other benefits of working at Dovel & Luner, according to partner Jeff Eichmann:
1. No billable hours. Ever.
2. All incoming associates get bonuses based on firm revenues – from day 1. There is no cap on the upside.
3. Info on the experience we give young attorneys:
Given the firm’s focus on IP work and emphasis on excellent credentials, getting a job at Dovel & Luner is difficult, but not impossible. The firm is currently looking for one new associate. And for those of you lucky (and smart) enough to be studying at Harvard Law School, the firm will be there on Friday to interview 1Ls.
Congratulations to Dovel & Luner on all of its success so far — and kudos to the firm for sharing the wealth with all of its lawyers. You can read more about the firm, including major matters it has handled (and won), over at its website.
(And you can read about other firms that pay starting salaries in excess of $160,000 via the links below. There aren’t many of them, but they are out there. Good luck, job seekers!)