I wanted to resist the temptation to comment on the NY Times law firm associate article today but I …just…can’t…
First off, you have to love the picture, with two compliant Weil Gotshal newbies dutifully holding a BlackBerry for the photographer. The dapper WG associate with the belt holster ought to know better than to stand in front of the “Weil,” though.
But then there’s the punchline: the new starting rate in NYC is clearing out at $145,000.
That may not be a lot of money in the Big Apple. It does, however, get the attention among some of the faithful clients of Weil Gotshal. They see this for what it is: their law firm is paying lawyers with no experience more than it pays anyone save top-level managers. You’d think that this would have repercussions long-term for such firms. Apparently you’d be wrong.
But the money is not the worst part.
The worst part is that some firms float this trial balloon:
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: â€œThereâ€™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.â€
No connection between associate salaries and hourly rates?
That means partners are taking less to give first year associates more? And more to the rest of the associate classes to avoid overly compressing them?
Perhaps partners should try these on when standing next to clients: