He pointed out that the increased hiring this year at Cantor Colburn reflects more spending by corporations on patent and trademark work, as well as his firm's growing market share. "What's exciting for us, is that the hiring is across all aspects of our law firm," Cantor said, listing IP sub-practice specialties like chemistry, electrical engineering and computer sciences. "What that means," Cantor said, "is we are growing across the board, which I think bodes well for the health of our law firm."
While it's standard for an IP firm to look for highly specialized experience for the work it does, that trend of focusing on lateral hires with specific skills is becoming increasingly apparent at full-service firms as well.
In recent years, said Giuliani, many firms have been stung by the old practice of hiring right-out-of-law-school associates, only to lose them after a relatively short term to other firms or corporate counsel positions. "If you're hiring an experienced lawyer who's any good, the chance of getting that person into a paying position that's earning money for the firm will work out faster than with a new associate right out of law school," Giuliani said.
While there is an inventory of experienced lawyers looking for work, supply and demand factors have kept pay relatively flat. "There are people with two or three years' experience that would die to get a starting salary job," Giuliani said.
Salaries were reportedly about the same or up modestly at some large firms with Connecticut offices, although many firms declined to reveal how much they are paying new associates.
Last month, the National Association for Law Placement released survey results which found that for the first time since 2007, less than half of the first-year associates at firms with 700 or more lawyers brought home top dollar, $160,000 per year. At law firms of 251 to 500 lawyers, median salary increases were reported from $125,000 to $130,000.
Most of the firms that answered that survey indicated pay levels would remain steady for the recently graduated law school class of 2012. But at Day Pitney, hiring executives said the starting salary for first-year associates in the Connecticut office is $120,000, up from $110,000 in 2011.
At Shipman, like most firms, the starting pay varies in different offices. In Hartford, first-year associates are paid $110,000. In Stamford, the starting salary is $125,000. Associates in the Washington, D.C., office get $145,000.
"Starting pay has been relatively the same over the past several years," Staib said.