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Days after two big L.A. firms hiked base salaries for associates, San Francisco’s Keker & Van Nest announced it was matching the raise. Keker partner Christopher Kearney said last week that the 50-lawyer litigation firm would increase the base pay for first-year associates to $135,000 to compete with three L.A. firms that announced hikes in the past month. “To get the top people, we need to pay at market,” Kearney said, adding that the firm competes for talent against San Francisco firms and the Northern California offices of L.A.-based firms. Keker also matched increases in the salaries of other classes. Fourth-year salaries are up $5,000, to $170,000, and seventh-years’ are now at $210,000. L.A. firms O’Melveny & Myers and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker said last week that they’d bump first-year salaries to $135,000 to match Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s December increase. In September, smaller Los Angeles firms Irell & Manella, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges and Munger, Tolles & Olson lifted salaries in a market that had been largely frozen since the dot-com days. Given the growing competition for young guns, most local lawyers are closely watching salary developments. Some are playing the waiting game. Shartsis Friese chief operating officer Paul Feasby said the firm has had no real discussions on the topic, but is keeping an eye on Bay Area firms such as Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Cooley Godward. “We’ve always matched in the past,” he said. “I would expect that we would again.” Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliott just raised first-year associate salaries to the national average of $125,000 effective Jan. 1. Managing Partner Scott DeVries said that’s a “good place” and the firm intends to stay there. “We think this is the consistent prevailing rate in the community,” he said. “Of course, if there are material moves throughout the San Francisco marketplace, it’s something that we’d need to assess.” Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been paying $140,000 to first-years nationwide, including those in California.

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