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Paul Weiss Raises Associate Salaries to Match Davis Polk Pay (6)

June 17, 2021, 3:03 PMUpdated: June 17, 2021, 10:37 PM

Associate salary increases are gaining steam at some of Wall Street’s wealthiest law firms, including Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which has announced it is raising associate salaries to match the new scale set by Davis Polk & Wardwell.

In a memo sent by Paul Weiss chair Brad Karp, he said the firm is increasing the starting salaries for first-year associates as of July 1 to $205,000 while its more senior associates will see their salaries bump up to $365,000, following the scale recently announced by Davis Polk.

Summer associate salaries will be increased to match the class of 2020, Karp said. Counsel at Paul Weiss will also see a base salary increase of $15,000.

Fellow New York-founded firms Fried Frank, Kramer Levin, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher will also implement raises in July, including for summer associates, according to firm memos viewed by Bloomberg Law.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is also upping its associate salaries, according to a source familiar with the firm.

The firms adopted the Davis Polk scale, though Willkie and Simpson Thacher will pay their associate classes of 2021 the same salary as the classes of 2020, like Paul Weiss and Cravath Swaine & Moore.

Both Sheppard Mullin and Goodwin Procter confirmed Thursday they would match the new prevailing salary standards on the same timeline for all U.S. associates, with Sheppard Mullin including overseas associates on its U.S. partnership track. The two firms said in their email announcements that they’re raising summer associate salaries to $3,894 per week.

White & Case will also be providing raises on the new scale starting at $205,000 for the 2020 associate class, the firm confirmed late Thursday.

The latest salary announcements come not long after Cravath said late Wednesday that it would be increasing its associate salaries to $205,000 for the class of 2020 and up to $350,000 for the class of 2014, according to a memo viewed by Bloomberg Law. The increase was first reportedby Above the Law.

Associate salaries have long been referred to as belonging to “The Cravath Scale,” as the Wall Street firm traditionally set the lockstep pay scale for Big Law’s young lawyers.

In 2016 the Wall Street firm set the pace for associate salaries. However, it was Milbank that first moved on salaries in 2018, increasing starting pay for first years to $190,000. Cravath matched Milbank’s scale for its junior associates, but bumped salaries for its midlevel and senior associates by $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, in 2018.

The latest Big Law salary race was kicked off last week by Milbank, who said it would be raising starting salaries for associates to $200,000 from $190,000 and bumping the salaries for its most senior associates to $355,000 from $340,000.

A day later, Davis Polk one upped Milbank, raising its starting pay for the class of 2021 to $202,500 and $365,000 for its senior associates.

Associate salaries have been stagnant since 2018, and the increases come amid increased competition for associates, particularly in the corporate space.

Over 20 law firms have matched the new scale set by Davis Polk, including McDermott Will & Emery, Baker McKenzie, Dechert, Proskauer Rose, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, and Ropes & Gray.

(Adds information about White & Case salary raises in paragraph eight. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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