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Dallas-Based Gardere Trims $20K From Associate Pay, Cuts Billables

Posted Dec 11, 2009 7:33 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Dallas-based Gardere Wynne Sewell announced Thursday that, effective Jan. 1, first-year pay will drop to $120,000 from $140,000.

Along with the salary cut, billing expectations have also been altered at the 275-lawyer firm. New associates will now be expected to bill 1,700 hours, down from 2,000, according to a news release from the firm and a post by the blog Tex Parte.

Steve Good, Gardere's managing partner, said in the release and to Tex Parte, that compensation and billing adjustments are in response to client demands. Good told Tex Parte that the firm is getting engagement letters telling the firm that it can't use first-year lawyers on their matters.

The new pay level will apply to 10 incoming associates and to five others who joined the firm this fall.

Good said he doesn't expect the firm will save money from the salary cuts because Gardere is also implementing a new model that includes 300 hours of on-the-job training, which will be costly. He said the investment will be worth it in the long run.

The new first-year associate program will compliment a competency-based compensation that Gardere adopted in 2007 for senior associates, the release notes. Under that 2-year-old model, associates are compensated based on one of four competency levels rather than based upon the year they graduated from law school.

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