Top compensation is a driver for many lawyers in their job search, and Biglaw is making waves once again with soaring associate compensation. Putting aside the flow-down effects on billing rates that hit clients’ bottom lines (e.g., associates billing over $1,000 per hour), the salary wars can benefit in-house lawyer and outside counsel alike by providing increasing economic rewards for often 24/7 work lifestyles. The legal job market is extremely tight, and companies and law firms are fiercely fighting one another for top talent. With all that said, is top compensation enough for an attorney to decide to make a move? For some, the greener the grass, the better, but for others, factors besides salary are more important.
“Starting salaries for first-year associates at Milbank were just raised to $200k, and for eighth-year associates to $355k. Other firms, including McDermott Will & Emery, Cadwalader, Mintz, Winston & Strawn, and Fenwick, quickly followed suit. Davis Polk, in fact, did Milbank one better and raised first-year associate salaries to a market-leading $205k, with eighth-year salaries at $365k. What do these salaries tell us? They say that we have a summer “Salary War” on our hands. As the pandemic appears (hopefully) to be fading and allowing us to get back to the office, many Big Law firms seem to be compensating associates’ hard work and sharing in some of the legal industry gains that materialized during the pandemic. The question becomes, however: Is top compensation enough? It seems that Big Law is doing what most employers do when they want to keep their top talent under their roof – they give employees a raise. But what about that old maxim, “money doesn’t buy happiness?””
Read: Is Top Compensation Enough? at Princeton Legal Search Group