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Robert Ruyak doesn’t look like a revolutionary. With his full head of gray hair and conservative business attire, Howrey’s 59-year-old managing partner looks like the traditional image of a veteran litigator. But don’t let his appearance fool you. Ruyak and his management team at the Washington, D.C.-based firm are doing something that almost no other Am Law 200 firm has done: They’re revamping the tried-and-true method of paying law firm associates. Howrey is taking a sledgehammer to the established lockstep system, which guarantees associates salary increases every year. Instead, the firm is implementing a more competitive model: Raises, when they’re granted, will be based exclusively on merit.

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