Associate Pay Hikes Could Spur NYC Exodus

Source: Law360

By Aebra Coe

Law firms spread the love when raising associates' starting salaries to $180,000 over the last two weeks by not limiting the bumps to attorneys in New York City, but rather including remote hubs like Cheyenne, Wyoming. The move leads some experts to conclude that top talent will soon eschew the high-rent metropolis that was once a bastion of fat paychecks.

New York-based Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP set the industry's new associate salary benchmark on June 6, and other major law firms have been swift to follow suit. Rather than limit the raises to their New York offices, many firms matched the Cravath scale elsewhere, in expected locations like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., as well as unexpected places like Broomfield, Colorado; Anchorage, Alaska; Longview, Texas, and Cheyenne

Kati Weaver, managing director in Major Lindsey & Africa’s Texas office, says she wasn't surprised that Texas firms and those with a strong presence in the state were quick to match the raises, as the firms she works with have demonstrated a commitment to competing with the coasts for top talent for a while.

"I think it will affect recruiting out of law school and laterally," she said. "Associates can make the same amount of money living in cities with a much lower cost of living and good public schools, while maintaining the same level of matter and client sophistication. I think that the number of associates moving from those big cities to these other markets, whether it be the west coast or Texas, will certainly continue to increase."

She said she spoke to a mergers and acquisitions attorney not long ago who worked at a major firm in New York City who had decided to make a move to Houston.

"With his wife expecting, he decided it was the best move because of the cost of living and the lifestyle,” she said. "But I believe he wouldn't have made a move if he'd have had to take a pay cut."

Read more of this feature at Law360.

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