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Pay hikes at major firms have sparked a great deal of interest among the partners and candidates. In turn, pay hikes at major firms challenge small firms to come up with creative but sound strategy to attract and retain top candidates among experienced associates and law school graduates alike.
Advantages of a smaller firm 1.Better partnership prospects by con-trolling number of attorneys at each level. 2. More responsibility � smaller matters enable attorneys to take the ball and run with it. 3. Attorneys really get to know their clients. 4. More control over work schedule and lifestyle. 5. Support in developing clients. Smaller firms are willing to take on small matters. 6. Sharing in profits from business brought in or developed. 7. Different atmosphere, more collegial environment allows attorneys to get to know colleagues. 8. More input in controlling practice and type of work. 9. Specialty practice. 10. Participation in daily operation of firm. 11. Job satisfaction. 12. Broader “whole picture” experience.

While keeping a steady eye on the changes in the marketplace for top-tier candidates initiated by some larger law firms, managers at small and midsize firms seem unfazed by the recent flurry of salary hikes. Some have taken steps to match increases while others rely on the advantages they perceive their firms offer associates to attract the best talent. The common strategy among them seems to focus on the overall career experience of which salary and bonuses are pieces of a larger prize. According to partner David Longinotti, chair of both the real estate practice group and recruiting at Hanson, Bridgett, Marcus, Vlahos & Rudy, a San Francisco-based firm with more than 100 attorneys, “Candidates make career decisions based on a number of factors, not just money. Factors like a firm’s commitment to their professional development, entrepreneurship, community involvement, pro bono commitments, diversity and the availability of specific practice opportunities. We focus our recruiting efforts on highly skilled candidates who value these aspects.” Hanson, Bridgett, Longinotti adds, works at offering young lawyers “meaningful roles on significant matters early on in their careers.”

Firm Response to Pay Hikes

“In a certain sense we have not �responded’ in that we were already in a very competitive marketplace for talent. Our salaries did increase this past year, though not to the level of the largest national firms, and we adjusted our bonus system to allow associates to earn substantial bonuses at attainable levels of productivity.”

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