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The $145,000 Associate

The Wired GC just couldn't resist commenting on this piece from the New York Times, For New Lawyers, the Going Rate Has Gone Up (Sept. 1), which reports on the ever-increasing starting salaries for new associates, now up at $145,000. Here, the picture accompanying the article (a color shot of four Weil, Gotshal & Manges first-year associates) reveals more than the text; even at this early date, only one of the four associates is smiling; the rest look rather glum.

For Wired GC, it's bad enough that firms are paying so much money to lawyers who have yet to acquire any real skills. But what he finds more objectionable is how firms have tried to pretend that they're absorbing the added costs, and not the clients. Wired GC quotes  this explanation by a law firm partner trying to explain that higher salaries won't increase rates for clients:

The inevitable issue for clients as well as the firms is whether higher salaries are reflected in increased hourly rates. But Michael J. Gillespie, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, another law firm based in New York, said: “There’s not really a connection between salary levels and hourly rates. We set salaries at whatever is necessary to attract and retain the best associates. We set hourly rates by client demand and market conditions based on firms operating at our level in the market.”

As Wired GC exclaims: 

Say what? No connection between associate salaries and hourly rates? That means partners are taking less to give first year associates more?

Moreover, even on these large salaries, associates don't have the luxury of focusing on skills development and improving competence to serve clients. As Larry Bodine points out here, marketing is no longer optional, and new high-paid associates need to focus on rainmaking from day one.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 6, 2006 at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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