Lawyer Pay

As K&L Gates Lifts Salary Freeze, Blog Explains Lingo of Pay Thaws

Could the new year bring good tidings for associates whose salaries have been frozen?

At least one law firm, K&L Gates, is planning to lift its pay freeze in 2010, according to reports in Above the Law, which broke the news, and the Washington Business Journal.

Partner Michael Missal told the Washington Business Journal that the freeze will be lifted March 1. Depending on performance and seniority, some associates will receive a “true up”—meaning their salaries will increase to the level they would have been if there had never been a freeze, he said.

Incoming associates in four of the firm’s smaller offices, however, will be seeing lower starting pay, the stories say. Above the Law identifies the offices as Dallas, Seattle, and Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and he says the cuts will vary based on the office.

Law firm spokesman Michael Rick confirmed to the ABA Journal that the freeze was being lifted March 1, but he was not able to provide details. He also confirmed the pay cuts in four of the firm’s 23 offices, but not the locations or amounts.

The firm is also abandoning lockstep raises for a merit-based compensation system, Missal told the Washington Business Journal.

Above the Law reported that a second law firm, Latham & Watkins, has plans to unfreeze salaries and give associates a “true up” raise. The blog also says the firm plans “make whole” bonus payments to associates who met minimum billable hour requirements. A firm spokesman did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s request for confirmation.

A commenter complained to Above the Law that its salary thaw lingo was confusing. The blog elaborated in a separate post. Firms that give a “true up” or “double bump” increase would pay a class of 2007 associate $185,000 during his or her third year of practice, the same amount a third year would have made if there had never been a freeze. Firms that unfreeze without the double bump would be paying the third-year $170,000.

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