Milbank Tweed created an industry-wide stir when it announced recently a bump in first-year associate salary to $190K per year. The firm will also award $10K-$15K raises to incumbent associates. This comes at a time when many clients are openly revolting against the use of high-priced, inexperienced associates. Mark Smolik, the general counsel of DHL Supply Chain Americas, for example, announced publicly he would no longer subsidize on-the-job-training of law firm associates. Many other GC’s are less outspoken but are redirecting work once shipped to green associates at white shoe firms.
The Milbank increase has raised the hackles of legal buyers and the angst level of managing partners pondering whether to match it. Milbank’s announcement came nearly two years to the day after Cravath raised starting associate pay to $180K, the first increase since the global financial crisis. So far, the new $190K ceiling has been matched by eight other firms—a far cry from two years ago when 93 firms—including 76 of the AmLaw 100—followed Cravath.
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