BigLaw’s ‘Cranky’ Midlevel Associates Are Dissatisfied with Pay and Benefits

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Midlevel associates at America’s top 200 law firms survived the job cuts, but they haven’t been so dissatisfied since 2004, according to a new survey.

One of their big complaints is compensation, the American Lawyer reports. Twenty-seven percent of associates surveyed said their benefits had been reduced in 2010, and the associates rated their overall compensation and benefits an average of 3.78 on a five-point scale, the lowest rating in recent years.

The third-, fourth- and fifth year associates responding to the American Lawyer survey also expressed their displeasure in the comments section. Many associates complained they were being paid below-market rates. One asked for restoration of the firm’s 401(k) match, and another wanted to “bring back fun perks from before the recession.”

Associates also expressed dissatisfaction with staff layoffs that are forcing them to take on paralegal work and indicated unease with the abandonment of lockstep compensation. Heavy workloads were also a factor; almost 45 percent said that if they leave their law firms, it will be for better work-life balance.

Overall, associates gave their firms an average rating of 3.96, compared to 4.16 last year. “Maybe it’s the posttraumatic stress syndrome from watching so many associates and law firm staffers get the ax,” the American Lawyer writes, “but the midlevels who survived the great purge aren’t feeling particularly fortunate. In fact, they seem downright cranky.”

A separate chart shows the top-rated law firms. The top five:

1) Nutter McClennen & Fish

2) Thompson Coburn

3) Gibson Dunn

4) Harter Secrest & Emery

5) Best Best & Krieger

The American Lawyer noted an error in its rankings after this story was published. In its revised chart, Nutter and Thompson Coburn retained first and second place, respectively. Harter Secrest & Emery is now in third place, Gibson Dunn is in fourth, and Munger, Tolles & Olson in fifth. Best Best & Krieger dropped to seventh place.

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