Room for Improvement

Source: Latin Lawyer

By Rosie Cresswell, Latin Lawyer

While associates across Latin America are generally happy, it would be strange if they didn’t have any complaints. Rosie Cresswell reports on their biggest gripes, and considers whether they should be a cause for concern for law firm leaders

No one is happy all the time, including lawyers of even the most talent-friendly Latin American law firms. In our survey, we asked associates specifically what they enjoyed the least about their current roles and identified some universally shared grievances, as well as a good number of concerns that were more personal, or at least unique to associates at a certain point in their career.

Barrett Avigdor, managing director for Latin America at Major, Lindsey & Africa, thinks Latin American associates have a point regarding compensation and transparency of career paths, areas in which they have it far tougher than their counterparts in the US. New York law firm Cravath Swain & Moore recently announced its first-year associates would be earning a whopping US$180,000, or US$15,000 a month, which will likely soon be matched by its closest competitors. That’s a far cry from Latin American rates. Latin Lawyer’s 2014 associate salary survey found monthly salaries for junior associates to be significantly lower. The highest rates we heard about were just over US$3,000 in Chile and US$3,350 in Mexico, while the top monthly salary was US$2,170 in Brazil (although firms there have more complicated remuneration models) and just US$1,760 in Colombia.

“Firms in the US compete by paying a lot of money, knowing they won’t recover that money for a few years. They pay them a lot, work the associates hard and train them well, with the idea that those that survive as senior associates will become very profitable,” says Avigdor. “The economics in Latin America are different. They don’t pay associates particularly well so they become profitable earlier in their careers, but they demand the same as US firms in terms of work–life balance and hours.”

Meanwhile, managing partners can take comfort from the fact that law firms still remain the most attractive option for lawyers starting out in their career. It’s hard to get an in-house job with no experience and the only other option is a government role. But law firms provide the best training. “There is no substitute for the quality of training and the resumé value of spending a few years at a top law firm,” says Avigdor.

Read more of this article at Latin Lawyer.

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