Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Last month, we took a look at associate compensation in the 1990s. Our post focused on the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. We said that in the future we’d look at remaining major markets: New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco/Palo Alto, and Washington, D.C.

Today we’ll tackle Biglaw in the Big Apple. What were NYC salaries like in the last millennium?

For complete methodological details and various caveats, look back at our prior post. For now we will just paste in the data on adjusting for inflation, for ease of reference in making conversions:

The salary figures come from one of four years: 1992, 1993, 1996, or 1997. For your reference, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator:

  • $1 in 1992 has the same buying power as $1.70 in 2014.
  • $1 in 1993 has the same buying power as $1.65 in 2014.
  • $1 in 1996 has the same buying power as $1.52 in 2014.
  • $1 in 1997 has the same buying power as $1.48 in 2014.

A handful of general observations:

1. In terms of starting salaries, New York was the compensation king back in the 1990s. Looking at the firm-specific numbers below, you’ll see starting salaries ranging from $83,000 to $89,000 at the big NYC firms. Compare these to the amounts listed in our prior post for other major markets like Chicago and Los Angeles, which generally fell somewhere in low- to mid-seventies.

2. The New York pay scale was also much less “compressed” compared to other cities’ pay structures. Markets outside New York experienced a fair amount of what some call “salary compression,” where an additional year of seniority raised one’s salary by just a few thousand dollars. In New York, in contrast, an additional year of seniority generally involved a five-figure raise.

3. Salaries between New York firms were far from standardized. Today most major New York firms adhere strictly to what we call the Simpson Thacher base salary scale, named after the scale introduced by STB in January 2007 (a scale that hasn’t budged since then, to the disappointment of some associates). Back in the 1990s, when there was less transparency about compensation, (a) firms of lower prestige generally paid lower salaries, instead of feeling pressure to keep up with the Cravathians, and (b) even peer firms that paid roughly similar amounts would have all sorts of little divergences from each other, to the tune of a few thousand dollars here or there. (For example, compare the pay scales of Cravath, Davis, and S&C.)

These are just a few quick points to get the discussion going. The firm-by-firm stats appear below; feel free to share your own observations in the comments. Thanks!

NEW YORK

Baker & McKenzie

1992: First year $83,000
1997: First year $85,000

Cahill Gordon

1992: First year $83,000; second $99,000
1997: First year $88,000

Cleary Gottlieb

1992: First year $83,000; second $98,000; third $114,000; fourth $133,000; fifth $151,000; sixth $168,000; seventh $181,000
1997: First year $87,000; second $108,000; third $126,000; fourth $147,000; fifth $172,000; sixth $185,000; seventh $195,000; eighth $203,000; the firm contributes annually an additional 3% of each associate’s salary into a deferred savings plan

Cravath Swaine & Moore

1993: First year $83,000; second $96,000; third $112,000; fourth $128,000; fifth $144,000; sixth $160,000; seventh $170,000
1997: First year $85,000; includes arrival bonus; an additional bonus of $6,000 is paid to associates in December following the completion of their first year

Davis Polk & Wardwell

1992: First year $80,000; second $98,000; third $112,000; fourth $130,000; fifth $148,000; sixth $164,000; seventh $180,000
1997: First year $85,000

Debevoise & Plimpton

1993: First year $83,000; second $98,000; third $114,000; fourth $132,000; fifth $150,000; sixth $164,000; seventh $180,000
1996: First year $86,000; second $103,000; third $121,000; fourth $143,000; fifth $170,000; sixth $185,000; seventh $195,000

Dewey Ballatine (now defunct)

1992: First year $83,000; second $95,000; third $109,000; fourth $125,000; fifth $140,000; sixth $156,000; seventh $165,000
1997: First year $86,000; second $96,000 plus potential bonus $7,500; third $110,000 ppb $11,000; fourth $127,000 ppb $16,000; fifth $141,500 ppb $28,500; sixth $158,500 ppb $26,000; seventh $168,500 ppb $26,000; eighth $172,500 ppb $22,500; ninth $175,000 ppb $20,000; tenth $175,000 ppb $20,000

Fish & Neave (now part of Ropes & Gray)

1992: First year $83,000; second $92,000-$93,000; third $100,000-$101,000; fifth $150,000; eighth $170,000-$180,000
1997: First year $88,000; second $106,000; third $129,000; fourth $149,000; fifth $165,000; sixth $181,000; seventh $197,000; salary figures include base salary and typical bonus

Fried Frank

1992: First year $86,000; second $98,000; third $112,000; fourth $130,000; fifth $148,000; sixth $164,000; seventh $180,000
1997: First year $89,000; second $102,000; third $121,000; fourth $145,000; fifth $170,000; sixth $185,000; seventh $195,000; eighth $200,000; salary figures include bonus amounts

Hughes Hubbard

1992: First year $83,000
1997: First year $86,000

Jones Day

1992: First year $79,000
1997: First year $86,000; includes base salary plus stipend

Kaye Scholer

1993: First year $83,000; second $94,000; third $101,000-109,000; fourth $115,000-130,000; fifth $133,000-141,000; sixth $149,000-157,000; seventh $161,000-169,000
1997: First year $87,000

LeBoeuf Lamb (now defunct)

1993: First year $83,000; second $88,000; third $95,000; fourth $107,000; fifth $122,000; sixth $140,000; seventh $155,000 (year-end bonuses sometimes given)
1997: First year $85,000; second $98,000; third $110,000; fourth $125,000; fifth $140,000; sixth $150,000; seventh $160,000; eighth $170,000 (year-end bonus eligibility)

Milbank Tweed

1992: First year $83,000; second $98,000; third $112,000; fourth $130,000; fifth $148,000; sixth $164,000
1997: First year $87,000; second $103,000; third $121,000; fourth $143,000; fifth $170,000; sixth $185,000; seventh $195,000

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

1992: First year $83,000
1996: First year $85,000

Patterson Belknap

1992: First year $83,000
1997: First year $85,000; the firm also pays for bar exam/course, provides salary advances and moving allowance, and pays for membership in two bar associations

Paul Weiss

1993: First year $85,000; second $96,000; third $110,000; fourth $129,000; fifth $146,000; sixth $162,000; seventh $172,000; eighth $182,000
1996: First year $86,000 plus $2000 bonus; second $98,000 plus $5000; third $113,000 plus $10,000; fourth $132,000 plus $13,000; fifth $153,000 plus $17,000; sixth $165,000 plus $20,000; seventh $172,000 plus $23,000; eighth $178,000 plus $25,000

Rogers & Wells (now part of Clifford Chance)

1993: First year $83,000; annual base salary increments of $2,000-$3,000; bonuses range from $4,000 to $15,000
1997: First year $86,000

Proskauer Rose

1992-1993: N/A
1997: First year $87,000; second $103,000; third $121,000; fourth $145,000; fifth $168,000; sixth $190,000; seventh $205,000; salary figures include bonuses

Schulte Roth & Zabel

1993: First year $80,000; second $84,000
1997: First year $86,000; second $99,000 plus $3000 bonus; third $113,000 plus $4000; fourth $128,000 plus $6000; fifth $145,000 plus $10,000; sixth $157,000 plus $12,000; seventh $166,000 plus $14,000; eighth $170,000 plus $15,000

Shearman & Sterling

1993: First year $83,000; second $99,000; third $114,000; fourth $134,000; fifth $151,000; sixth $168,000; seventh $181,000
1997: First year $87,000

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

1993: First year $83,000; second $98,000; third $113,500; fourth $132,200; fifth $149,800; sixth $165,300; seventh $178,800
1997: First year $87,000

Skadden Arps

1992: First year $85,000; second $85,000; third $101,000; fourth $115,000; fifth $132,000; sixth $152,500; seventh $168,000
1996-1997: N/A

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

1993: First year $82,000
1997: First year $87,000

Sullivan & Cromwell

1993: First year $83,000; base salaries (not including bonus) second $93,000; third $102,000; fourth $119,000; fifth $135,000; sixth $150,000; seventh $160,000
1997: First year $85,000; salary figure includes $2,000 bonus distributed at the end of the first full calendar year

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz

1992: First year $87,500 plus bonus can reach $110,000
1997: First year $87,500; second $104,000; third $123,000; fourth $147,000; fifth $173,000; plus bonuses that can reach as high as 50% of base salaries

Weil Gotshal & Manges

1992: First year $83,000; second $92,000; third $106,000; fourth $126,000; fifth $143,000; sixth $159,000; seventh $174,000
1997: First year $88,500; second $103,000; third $121,250; fourth $145,000; fifth $170,500; sixth $185,000; seventh $196,250; salary figures are the maximum total compensation for each class

White & Case

1992: First year $83,000; second $92,000-98,000; third $107,000-111,000; fourth $125,000-129,000; fifth $142,000-148,000; sixth $158,000-165,000; seventh $170,000-180,000
1997: First year $85,000; second $103,500; third $110,000-124,000; fourth $125,000-145,000; fifth $142,000-165,000; sixth $159,000-186,000; seventh $168,000-197,000; eighth $178,000-211,000

Willkie Farr & Gallagher

1993: First year $83,000; second $98,000; third $112,000; fourth $130,000; fifth $148,000; sixth $164000; seventh $175,000
1997: First year $85,000 plus $2,000 bonus; second $93,000 plus $10,000; third $110,000 plus $12,000; fourth $128,000 plus $17,000; fifth $150,000 plus $20,000; sixth $163,000 plus $20,000; seventh $168,000 plus $25,000; eighth $178,000 plus $25,000

Winston & Strawn

1992: First year $83,000
1997: First year $85,000

Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts (now Pillsbury Winthrop)

1993: First year $80,000; second $92,000; third $98,000; fourth $110,000; fifth $120,000
1997: First year $86,000; salary figure includes $3000 bonus

Earlier: Flashback Friday: A Look At Associate Compensation In The 1990s (Part 1)
Flashback Friday: The Nation’s 15 Most Prestigious Law Firms — In 2008 And 1998


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