Law Practice Management

BigLaw 'Has Changed Forever,' Says Womble Carlyle, Cutting Pay 10 Percent

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Imposing a roughly 10-percent pay cut that will be less for some and more for others, a well-known 530-attorney Southeast and Atlantic regional firm says there has been a sea change in corporate law practice.

“The world of large law firms … has changed forever,” says Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in an internal memo on the pay cuts published by Above the Law. A spokesman for the firm has confirmed to the ABA Journal that the text of the memo is accurate.

Expecting more value, corporate clients are requiring their counsel to cut costs without reducing quality, and attorneys must do so to continue operating a successful law firm, the memo recounts. “Simply stated, like the business world in general, law firms must be able to do more with less.”

For its part, Womble Carlyle is addressing with salary cuts for “many” attorneys and paralegals a “new world” in which the firm says it expects fees for transactional and litigation matters to stay flat or even decline. Those with stellar skills and work ethics may not see any pay reduction at all. However, those who are underperforming could see their pay cut more than 10 percent, the firm writes.

Current first- and second-year associates as well as new first-years joining Womble Carlyle in the fall can expect a 10 percent pay cut, according to the memo.

While this shift to a new compensation paradigm will not be popular, it is necessary to continue to succeed in a “transformational” legal world, the firm states. “The earlier we make these changes, the greater will be our opportunities for success.”

The pay cuts take effect April 15.

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