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05/15/06

Analyzing the associate salary wars


Competition amongst law firms to recruit and retain the best talent has kept associate salaries steadily rising all this year. Following Philadelphia and New York firms, New Jersey firms have followed the trend of hiking associate salaries. New Jersey law firms have shown an overall increase in salaries of 7.2%. It may not stop there because many firms surveyed have not yet made a decision on modifying their existing pay structure for associates.

According to a new survey from American Lawyer Media, the associate salary wars began in January with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary increasing first-year pay to $125,000. Several firms followed suit. Drinker Biddle did it on the same day and Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen and Duane Morris caught up two weeks later. Two months later, firms like Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Blank Rome, Pepper Hamilton and Saul Ewing raised their starting salaries to $125,000.

New York firms played a key role in this increase. When New York's Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher increased salaries to $135,000, West Coast firms soon followed. New York's Sullivan & Cromwell announced a salary hike of $20,000 for all levels. Other New York firms including Davis Polk & Wardwell; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Cahill Gordon & Reindel also hiked associate salaries.

2006 has seen a 6.8% increase nationwide in 2006, and the trend showing no signs of stopping.

Burton Award for Best Publication
The Fisher & Phillips 2005-2006 Employment Law Reference Guide was judged the best by the 2006 Burton Awards. The Burton Awards are given annually to law firm publications in a number of categories. The best publication is selected on the basis of writing style and technique, research, analysis and content. Law school professors representing Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, as well as leading legal professionals and members of the judiciary, played a lead role in the judging process.

In order to encourage plain, clear and effective legal writing, the Burton Award, a unique national awards program, was established in 1999. The program honors law firms and law school students who use clear and concise language and avoid archaic, stilted legalese. The Burton Foundation is a volunteer, not-for-profit, academic organization.

The 2005-2006 Fisher & Phillips LLP Employment Law Reference Guide is available both in the traditional printed format and as an interactive CD-ROM. It provides guidance and direction to senior management, legal counsel and human resources professionals involved in employment-related matters

Mergers & acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions do not only help a company grow, they bring added benefits to law firms. The volume of global mergers and acquisitions has increased by 40% according to The American Lawyer magazine. Subsequently the 100 biggest U.S. law firms increased their gross revenues by more than 10% to almost $51 billion.

Some of the most powerful law firms have been busy on two of the biggest deals of the year. Sullivan & Cromwell is representing fourth largest bank in the world, Wachovia Corp., which this week announced an agreement to buy Oakland, California-based Golden West Financial Corp. for approximately $25.5 billion. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is legal counsel for the transaction.

Skadden, Arps is advising French communications-equipment maker Alcatel in its $14 billion acquisition of U.S. rival Lucent Technologies Inc., which is also being advised by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Fisher & Phillips LLP

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