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Los Angeles-Two Los Angeles law firms recently raised their first-year associate salaries while facing key partner departures and a federal criminal probe into whether lawyers engaged in illegal wiretapping. Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, whose top rainmaker, Bertram Fields, has said he is a subject of the criminal investigation, has agreed to raise salaries to $135,000. In the past month, the 90-attorney firm has lost about a dozen lawyers, including two members of its management committee. Separately, Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro boosted rates after seven associates left and as name partner Louis “Skip” Miller announced this month he would leave the firm. (The firm changed its name from Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro.) Christensen Glaser’s managing partner, Terry Christensen, is the only lawyer to be indicted in the wiretapping probe. In raising their rates now, both firms lag behind the decision by most firms to raise salaries in December and January. But the managing partners of both firms said their decisions had nothing to do with either the investigation or their recent departures. “We would not raise salaries just to make people confident,” said Christensen. “We do it because that’s the marketplace.” No ‘external forces’ So far, 14 people have been indicted in the wiretapping investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, including Christensen and private investigator Anthony Pellicano. Federal prosecutors are looking into whether lawyers hired Pellicano to wiretap their opponents in litigation. So far, no lawyers at Greenberg Glusker have been indicted. Norman Levine, managing partner at Greenberg Glusker, said that the firm raised first-year salaries to $135,000 from $115,000. He could not say when the decision was made, only noting, “we were not the first to make the decision.” “It had nothing to do with external forces,” said Levine, referring to the ongoing investigation. “Things are going well here, we have a lot of interesting work, and all our departments are busy.” But last month, name partner Dale Kinsella left the firm with 10 other lawyers to form Santa Monica, Calif.-based Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert. The new firm includes Lawrence Iser and Gregory Aldisert, both of whom served on Greenberg Glusker’s management committee. Separately, real estate partner Shai Halbe announced last month he had joined Heller Ehrman’s Los Angeles office as a shareholder. None of the departing lawyers has said they left because of the wiretapping investigation.Levine said Iser and Aldisert have been replaced on the firm’s management committee by tax partner Bruce Levine and Stephen Claman, the 73-year-old name partner who previously had stepped down from management. Sending out resumes Christensen confirmed that his firm, Christensen Glaser, hiked first-year associate salaries but declined to give details. He said the rates don’t match the level of New York firms, but are competitive with Los Angeles firms Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Munger, Tolles & Olson. Those firms raised their first-year associate salaries for this year to $135,000. In addition to Miller, at least seven associates have left Christensen Glaser since January.But Christensen attributed the recent associate departures to normal attrition and noted that the firm has hired seven associates in the same time frame. Miller, who has not yet joined another firm, declined to comment about his departure. Patty Glaser, a name partner at Christensen Glaser, said that the new salaries were effective in April, she but refused to draw a connection to the ongoing investigation or Miller’s departure.”A lot of other firms raised their base salaries,” she said. “We may be slow, but we’re not stupid.” But several former associates at Christensen Glaser said lawyers at the firm are sending out their resumes. “Certainly midlevel associates and up are interviewing,” said an associate who has since left the firm but asked to remain anonymous. “Even if it’s not really seriously, they just want to do it and have assurances there’s something else out there. It’s not questioning associates’ loyalty, but everybody is having a wake-up call.” One local recruiter said that boosting associate salaries demonstrates some level of security for current lawyers and prospective hires. “It demonstrates at least current financial stability and success and a push towards moving forward and taking care of your clients and lawyers at your firm,” said Courtney Goldstein, managing director in the Los Angeles office of recruiting firm Major Hagen & Africa.

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