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Nearly six weeks into 2011, partner compensation and group lateral moves are the early buzzwords on the lips of legal industry observers.

Both issues were front and center in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday in a report about the huge sums of money being paid by law firms in the major markets — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. — to lure top rainmakers who earn as much as $10 million. In some cases, partner compensation is being reduced in order to free up capital for these larger payouts, and the gap in pay among a firm’s equity partners is growing. These “star attorneys,” The WSJ reports, can make eight to nine times more per year than their fellow partners.

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