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Fenwick & West is freezing salaries for most of its approximately 250 staffers, the firm told employees Tuesday. The pay freeze, Fenwick’s first, is not across the board. While staff will not receive merit salary increases, some individuals will receive adjustments so their salaries are in line with current market rates. In a memo to staffers, the firm’s managing partners said the firm had reviewed the April 2003 Watson Wyatt survey, which includes information on more than a dozen Silicon Valley firms, as well as other salary information, and found that the salary ranges Fenwick set in March 2002 remained competitive in the current Bay Area legal market. “The economy has all of us focusing more closely on expenses, but if salary increases were warranted to keep us at market we would have” made adjustments, said Fenwick Co-Managing Partner Laird Simons III. Simons said he did not know how many employees would be receiving a salary boost, but said it would probably be a minority of the staff. Several Bay Area firms cut staff or froze salaries last year in response to the economic downturn. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which is not freezing salaries this year, laid off 100 secretarial and support staff in August. Pillsbury Winthrop offered voluntary buyouts to its staffers last June and again in December. The firm also froze staff salaries for 2003. Fenwick has never had a staff layoff, Simons said. The firm delayed making a decision about 2003 staff salaries for three months. Since then, “We have continued to take a cautious, conservative approach to our 2003 budget to ensure the firm’s financial health despite the economic challenges we, and other firms in this area, continue to face,” the memo to staffers said. “Although we remain optimistic that the economy will recover, it still appears unlikely that any significant improvement will occur during 2003.”

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