I’ve been critical of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) in the past, but you have to give them credit for at least one thing: they have been tirelessly trying to make people understand that most lawyers do not make $160,000 a year straight out of law school.
In fact, NALP has been at the forefront of educating prospective lawyers on the dangers of focusing on “average” starting salaries. The average is meaningless. The median is just slightly more helpful, and NALP has been begging people to pay attention to the bimodal salary distribution curve that tells the true story of how much lawyers are likely to get paid.
And the bimodal curve is only useful if you are actually lucky enough to secure full-time employment. If you have to work part-time, God help you…
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 heady days of the “mutual assured destruction” approach to associate compensation by Biglaw firms are behind us. But some associates would still like to see how they are doing in comparison to their colleagues at other firms. A tipster recently wrote us:
Can you do a post requesting commenters to post grade schedules a la greedyassociates back in the day showing salary per year. This would make comparisons easier. I’ll start:
1st year 145K
then it gets vague with a range from 240-265K.
Some of this information is available in the firm profiles on the Above the Law Career Center. But as good greedy Sheppard-ite must know, comparing salaries is much more complicated these days due to some firms instituting merit-based compensation models.
WilmerHale is one of those firms. Yesterday, Wilmer released its projected salary structure for 2011. We’ll see if it’s a merit-based market leader…
It’s been a long, below-market salary road for DLA Piper associates. For over a year now, DLA has been screwing around with associate salaries. Yesterday the firm announced that it would be moving back to a $160K salary scale — at least in New York — by 2011. (If you know of other firms that are finally moving back to $160K, don’t forget to send us an email.)
It’s taken DLA a long time to get back here. Back in May 2009, DLA cut associates salaries by 20%. That was ten percent more than other firms were cutting, and after a time DLA restored ten percent of the initial 20% cut.
But DLA wasn’t done, and a couple of months later, DLA associate salaries were back on the chopping block…
It’s pretty tough being a first-year associate these days. You’re working hard, you’re terrified of getting Lathamed, and you can’t even complain, because everybody thinks you should be grateful to have a job.
But at least you don’t have to deal with bright and unbroken summer associates, rolling through your office with smoke billowing up their asses at every point. The recession has taken its toll on summer associate programs too.
At Sheppard Mullin, however, summer associates are actually making more money (per paycheck) than first-year associates. In fact, the summers are even making more than some second-year associates.
Back in February, we wrote about various compensation developments over at Pillsbury Winthrop. At the time, the firm said it was considering moving away from a lockstep model in favor of a more performance-based compensation system.
The firm has not yet killed killed lockstep — a move that has historically generated mixed to negative reviews from associates at other firms. Instead, it has done something that has proven much more popular.
Last month, the Pillsbury dough boy baked up some delicious-smelling pay raises. Nothin’ says lovin’ like money from the oven!
Our recent Career Center survey asked about starting salaries and annual salary increases at firms across the country. Over 70% of respondents indicated that their firms increase salaries during the traditional month of January. About 8% percent of respondents, including associates at this Midwestern firm, see their salary increase in February. Another 9%, including associates at thesetwo global firms, get raises in March. The remaining 12% of respondents indicated that their annual raises come at some later point in the year.
Check out the full survey results after the jump — and visit the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link , for more on changing compensation practices at firms across the country. If you are an employer seeking more detailed information on firm salary scales please contact T.J. Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nixon Peabody is one of the firms that has moved towards a merit-based pay structure. The firm also cut starting salaries down to $145K a year ago. So you’d think that any information on a Nixon Peabody salary raise would be greeted favorably.
Not so much. A tipster tells us:
I can confirm that I received a raise. I can confirm that it sucks. Anything else?
Oh boy, that doesn’t sound good. Is anybody feeling like a winner at Nixon Peabody?
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
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