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McDermott Matches Milbank With New Associate Salary Scale

June 10, 2021, 9:52 PM

McDermott Will & Emery will pay its most senior associates up to $355,000 after adopting a new Big Law salary scale first announced by Milbank on Thursday.

The firm will give associates raises of $10,000 or $15,000 depending on their class year, according to an internal memo to U.S. associates sent by firm chair Ira Coleman and viewed by Bloomberg Law. McDermott salaries for first year associates will be $200,000, a jump up from $190,000. The changes are set to take effect July 1.

Milbank on Thursday morning kicked off what could become a new associate salary race by revealing the first across-the-board pay boost in Big Law since 2018. The firm was soon followed by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and McDermott.

Firms have lately been seeking ways to reward their younger talent and retain them in the busiest lateral associate market in recent memory. Despite Covid-19, Big Law has recently fielded a huge volume of work, particularly in corporate practices.

“With our year-to-date performance being our strongest yet, we also recognize that many of you are balancing between performing at your highest level and feeling stretched too thin,” Coleman wrote in the memo. “We are working to both smooth out workloads across offices and teams and to recruit new top-tier talent.”

Before raising salaries, many Big Law firms also used “special bonuses” over the past 18 months as an associate incentive, including McDermott. But salary bumps differ in that they are almost always a long term expense on a firm’s balance sheet, rather than an isolated payout.

Meghan Tribe contributed to this report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com
To contact the editor on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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