Law Firms

First-year associate pay will be $180K at multiple BigLaw firms following Cravath's lead

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Updated: Pointing the way to higher pay for other BigLaw associates in major cities, Cravath Swaine & Moore announced Monday that the New York law firm is increasing its starting salary to $180,000, effective July 1.

The unusual midyear pay raise has already been matched by at least 16 other law firms, as a growing number announced to associates on Wednesday, including Silicon Valley powerhouse Cooley. It said in an internal memo seen by an ABA Journal reporter that it is adopting the new Cravath salary schedule, which also includes pay raises for more senior associates, in all of its United States offices.

“Cooley provides the finest legal talent to its clients. We build and develop teams of lawyers who are among the best in our industry and are committed to compensating them competitively,” said chief executive Joe Conroy in a written statement.

Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis and Winston & Strawn also are following Cravath’s lead, according to Above the Law and Crain’s Chicago Business (sub. req.).

And, in additional news about BigLaw firms jumping on the Cravath bandwagon, Above the Law reports that Sullivan & Cromwell is on board, as is Davis Polk & Wardwell (details can be found in another Above the Law post), Debevoise & Plimpton (see Above the Law for details) and, as yet another Above the Law post reports, United Kingdom-based Freshfields. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan also announced pay raises for associates, Above the Law reported

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has adopted the new salary schedule, too, the American Lawyer (sub. req.) reports.

Also on Wednesday, Above the Law also reported a match by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and another Above the Law article includes a screenshot of a Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton email announcing salary increases there.

Among other BigLaw firms, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy adopted the same associate salary schedule as Cravath in a Tuesday internal memo obtained by Above the Law, as did Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, also in a Tuesday internal memo, reports another Above the Law post. And Cahill Gordon & Reindel adopted the new salary schedule on Tuesday, too, Above the Law reports, as did Weil Gotshal & Manges, another Above the Law article notes.

Two elite smaller firms also have followed Cravath’s lead: California litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan matched on Monday, Above the Law reported. And on Tuesday a Manhattan litigation boutique, Holwell Shuster & Goldberg, said it would match, too, Above the Law reports, although the ATL post does not provide a copy of any memo by the firm.

The new $180,000 starting salary for first-year associates introduced by Cravath will result in a bump-up in compensation for more senior associates, too: Their salaries will now range from $190,000 for the class of 2014 to $315,000 for the class of 2008, according to an internal memo obtained by Above the Law.

These salaries, as the Cravath memo notes, are base salaries. BigLaw firms also pay hefty bonuses when business is good. In 2015, the end-of-year bonus schedule for Cravath associates ranged from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on seniority.

The Paul Weiss memo says that the firm will pay incoming first-year associates in the class of 2016 the new $180,000 salary. It also says those in the class of 2007 and earlier years will be paid $325,000 annually.

The Weil memo says the firm, like Milbank, will pay the same salary schedule in all of its U.S. offices. Since it has more offices than Milbank, however, that could cause a bigger ripple effect in cities outside New York, the ATL article says.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Starting associate pay of $160K is common–but not as common as in 2009” “NALP sees ‘upward movement’ in starting pay for associates; median increases $10K”

Last updated June 19 to note more firms that have raised base salaries.

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