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Just as Am Law 100 firms don’t all compete for the same set of client assignments, they don’t all compete for the same pool of associates. Thus, just as they don’t all charge the same billing rates, they shouldn’t all pay associates on the same comp scale. Instead of one-size-fits-all associate comp, Am Law 100 firms should break into distinct segments by comp scale, just as they break into different segments by billing rate. One-size-fits-all associate comp forces mid-tier firms to billing rates that clients balk at paying, thereby weakening the industry’s long-term health. It is also an unseemly gift to partners of the most profitable firms and an uncalled-for penalty on partners of middle and lower profitability firms.


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