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LOS ANGELES — The associate salary war rages on. Less than five months after the first salary hikes began in Southern California, a Los Angeles-based firm is again upping the ante. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, one of two firms that led the first round of raises in September, told associates Thursday evening that the firm would match new pay scales recently announced in New York. Effective March 1, first-year salaries will increase $10,000 to $145,000. “It’s the second increase, but our lawyers are working very hard now,” partner A. William Urquhart said. “We don’t think anyone should be making more money for comparable work at other firms. It was the fair — and the intelligent — thing to do.” Quinn’s raises for other associate levels will also match those recently announced by some New York firms, which boosted associate pay $20,000 across the board. Since Quinn Emanuel was already a bit higher in some senior years, the amount of the increases may vary. Fourth-years will make $190,000 a year. Law firm consultant Edward Poll said it’s too soon to tell whether other Los Angeles-based firms will follow suit. “It’s an interesting game that is being played,” he said. “I think it could go either way, but my guess is that big players like Gibson, [Dunn & Crutcher], O’Melveny [& Myers], and Latham [& Watkins] will draw a line in the sand and say, ‘We’re not going any farther.’” Leaders at other L.A.-based firms expressed doubt Friday that the second round of increases would catch on. “I think Quinn is a very different kind of firm than a large global firm,” said Seth Zachary, chairman of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, which boosted salaries $10,000 in January to $135,000. “One firm’s decision, particularly one with a specialized practice niche, is not terribly relevant.” Zachary added that Paul, Hastings will continue to analyze the market to make sure their associates are paid at the top. Guy Halgren, chairman of the executive committee at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton agreed: “We will always match the market, but that — certainly at this point — is not the market.”Quinn Emanuel’s primary competitors for associate talent are L.A.-based Irell & Manella and Munger, Tolles & Olson, Urquhart said. Mark Helm, the co-managing partner at Munger, Tolles, said the firm considers any developments in the marketplace, but has not made a decision on this latest move by Quinn. “It is extremely important to us to get top-quality people,” Helm said. “We’re more attuned to paying the top of market than most firms.” Munger, Tolles raised associate pay to $135,000 soon after Quinn and Irell, and other larger Los Angeles-based firms followed several months later, creating a domino effect that spread to cities across the country. When Morrison & Foerster announced first-year pay raises to $135,000 several weeks ago, Chairman Keith Wetmore indicated at the time that he was not interested in exceeding the L.A. raises because then everybody would follow. However, many New York-based firms followed with even higher raises earlier this month, and many transferred the new scales to their California offices. Quinn Emanuel, which last year led the Los Angeles region’s Top 10 firms in average partner compensation, saw a 21 percent revenue growth in 2005 to $193.5 million. Marie-Anne Hogarth contributed to this report.

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