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Wake Up Call: Kirkland Matches Davis Polk Salary Scale

June 21, 2021, 12:26 PM

In today’s column, some Big Law firms are using signing and retention bonuses as an extra competition lever, on top of salary hikes, in the hot market for talent in key practice areas; worklaw attorneys in Los Angeles are seeing a surge in demand for advice from companies reopening after Covid shutdowns; Texas-founded Vinson & Elkins still dominates the Houston market, despite the entry of several Big Law firms.

  • Leading off, the world’s biggest law firm by revenue, Kirkland & Ellis, is matching the Davis Polk scale for associate pay hikes for the first six years on the scale and for nonequity partners, according to reports. The Davis Polk scale runs from $202,500 to $365,000 per year, depending on year of seniority. Posted by Above the Law, Kirkland’s memo stops at $330,000 for the class of 2015. Katten Muchin Rosenman’s memo matches the scale through 2014, up to $350,000. (Above the Law) (American Lawyer)
  • Several other Big Law firms matched the Davis Polk scale late last week, some of which stipulated associates have to meet their billable hour and performance requirements to get the raises. The other matches included Baker Botts, White & Case, Quinn Emanuel, Hogan Lovells, Cooley, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Kramer Levin, and Hunton Andrews Kurth. (Above the Law)
  • As firms face a flood of work in mergers & acquisitions, private equity, and capital markets, some are also offering signing and retention bonuses to mid-level associates with experience in those practice areas. (American Lawyer) In London, U.S. law firms have “declared war” on elite magic circle firms by offering 140,000 pound ($194,125) salaries to lure away junior lawyers, the London Times reports. (The Times)
  • Labor attorneys in Los Angeles from firms including Fisher Phillips, Akin Gump, Ogletree Deakins and others say they’re seeing a surge in demand for pandemic-related advice from companies looking to reopen after pandemic lockdowns. (Los Angeles Business Journal)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Despite challenges, South Florida attorneys say they support continuing to use Zoom court for simple hearings post-Covid. ( In New York state, 19 older judges who were among 46 ousted last year in controversial cost cuts have returned to work after a bitter political fight. (New York Law Journal)
  • Big Law firms have been setting up in Houston for over a decade, but Texas-founded Vinson & Elkins still dominates the market with 312 lawyers in the city, compared to second-biggest firm Kirkland’s 206 lawyers. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Lina Khan, the advocate of tough antitrust enforcement appointed by the Biden administration to lead the Federal Trade Commission, reported earning nearly $100,000 as an associate law professor at Columbia Law School since September 2020. (National Law Journal)
  • The Minnesota judge in Derek Chauvin’s trial is due to sentence the former Minneapolis police officer this week for his murder convictions in the death of George Floyd. (NBC News)

Laterals, Moves

  • Crowell & Moring said experienced commercial and financial services litigator Brian Hail joined the firm from Goodwin Procter as a partner in New York; Orrick, Herrington & Suttcliffe added a team of three structured finance lawyers from Chapman and Cutler in Washington as partners. They include Mike Mitchell, who spent nearly a decade at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and former bank general counsel for capital markets Preetha Gist, who were both at Orrick earlier in their careers. Jones Day veteran, Mitch Naumoff, is the third making the move. (

Legal Education

  • The Arent Fox Center for Racial Equality announced a new partnership with Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center. Under the program, Howard Law professors and students will work with Arent Fox lawyers and administrative staff to identify, research, and produce policy analysis and research projects on systemic racism and racial injustice, the law firm said. (

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at