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US equity partners bag inflation-busting pay rises

By Jonathan Ames

19 September 2012 at 10:58 BST

Equity partners at the top US law firms have benefited from inflation-busting increases to their drawings over the last two years despite many corporate clients still struggling in the fallout of the worst financial crisis for more than a generation.

Equity partners are showering in the stuff

Equity partners are showering in the stuff

A comprehensive survey of the country’s leading business law firms shows that average partner billing rates crept up during that period by 5.5 per cent, but equity partner pay packets rocketed by an average of 11 per cent.
The average US rate of inflation during the period was 2.1 per cent.

Top firms

Researchers polled the country’s top 350 firms with the results showing that average hourly partner rates moved from $555 in 2010 to $585. According to a report on the Am Law Daily web site, the survey – conducted by international legal profession head hunters Major Lindsey & Africa – targeted partners at firms on the AM Law 200, National Law Journal 350 and American Lawyer magazine global 100 lists.
The rise in billing triggered an even greater increase in average remuneration. Partners at those firms reported an average 6.4 per cent rise in drawings over the last two years, reaching around $681,000 annually.
However, the researchers point out that it is the equity partners who will be reaching most quickly to pop the champagne corks. The survey highlights a significant ‘disparity in pay among partner classes’, with equity partners at those firms cashing in considerably more than those in the salaried ranks.

Rainmaker premium

Equity partners accounted for 62 per cent of the survey respondents and they reported their average drawings increasing from $811,000 in 2010 to a current level of just short of $900,000.
In contrast, average pay packets for the salaried ranks actually shrank from $336,000 two years ago to a level today that is $1,000 less.
Jeffrey Lowe, the head-hunter’s global practice leader, told the web site that those equity partners generating the work were taking their pound of flesh. ‘Rainmakers are demanding more money and are getting it because firms are afraid they’ll leave,’ he said.


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