Widespread associate salary increases have led BigLaw to expect more from young attorneys, and experts say associates’ enhanced responsibilities and paychecks have made them less likely to jump ship for in-house jobs, buttressing law firm retention.
While a handful of law firms have raised billable hour requirements and others have increased their expectations of associate performance following sweeping pay hikes ushered in last summer, law firm recruiters say the general sentiment among associates nearly a year later is that they ended up benefiting from the decision — a sentiment that has led to increased retention in individual law firms and among BigLaw as a whole, stemming the flow of legal talent to corporate legal departments.
For some time now, attorneys have debated the value of taking up an often lower-paid in-house job for the sometimes friendlier work-life balance it allows, weighing those benefits against the big paychecks provided by BigLaw.
But, according to Michelle Fivel of Major Lindsey & Africa, the salary increases ushered in among large law firms last summer by Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP — starting at $180,000 for first-year associates — have tipped the scales for some in favor of private practice.
Fivel has spent the last decade placing associates in top-tier law firms and prominent corporations.
“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,” Fivel said.