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Philadelphia Law Firms Making 'Market Corrections'

Yesterday, The Am Law Daily reported that large law firms don't expect to make any radical changes in response to the economic downturn. Instead, firms are making modest "market corrections" such as cutting attorneys (both associates and partners), and relying more heavily on contract lawyers and experimenting with alternatives to the billable hour.

In this context, recent reforms at two Philadelphia-based firms seem downright revolutionary. Over at Dechert, law firm chairman and CEO Barton Winokur announced that he will take a $1 million pay cut, reports Philly.com. While Winokur's self-imposed reduction in his draw from law firm profits wasn't enough to spare associates and staff from recent layoffs, it's a small gesture of solidarity and an acknowledgment of the current situation that, to date, few other law firm partners have displayed. Still, giving up $1 million in salary won't send Winokur to the poor house by any means; it's reported that he earned nearly $8 million in 2007.

Meanwhile, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Drinker Biddle & Reath plans to welcome 37 first-year associates on schedule, in contrast to other firms that are deferring start dates. But there's a catch. The firm is capping first year salaries at $105,000, a $40,000 reduction from previous years. Moreover, the firm will institute a more formalized training program, where new lawyers will shadow partners, spend time in class and be freed from billable hours. The firm will also reduce its rates for work by first year associates on client matters.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 13, 2009 at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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