19 April 2017

Fewer lawyers moving in-house as associate pay packets grow

Growing salaries for associates in BigLaw are encouraging younger lawyers to stay in private practice rather than making the switch to in-house roles.

By Kathryn Higgins

Andy Dean Photography

According to reporting in industry publication Law360, juicier pay-packets for associate level lawyers working in BigLaw means that in-house recruiters are going to need to up their game if they want to secure talented young lawyers for in-house roles. The recent growth in associate salaries was triggered by Wall Street major Cravath Swaine & Moore, which lifted remuneration for first-year associates to $180,000 midway through last year. The move was the firm’s first increase for associates since the global financial crisis, and prompted many BigLaw firms both in the US and abroad to follow suit in order to remain competitive in the war for talent.

Higher standards

Search firm Major Lindsey & Africa’s Michelle Fivel told Law360 of its impact of the associate pay increase on in-house recruitment: ‘From the candidate perspective, when I approach them with in-house opportunities, they now have increased standards for what they’re willing to throw their hat into the ring for, mostly based around compensation,’ she said. However, with associate pay hikes weighing heavy on BigLaw margins, there is concern that better pay for associates may correlate with fewer partnership opportunities further down the line, complicating the outlook for private practice retention.

Sources: Law360; ABA Journal

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