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LOS ANGELES-After a few days of watching New York, the first California-based firms made their moves last week, charting two paths for associate pay. Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges moved to the higher New York scale of $160,000 for first-year associates in all offices. But O’Melveny & Myers, saying it would match that in New York, will pay California and Washington first-years $145,000. That’s still a raise, though not nearly as big as the one New Yorkers are getting. At Morrison & Foerster, which is matching in New York, California starting pay will remain $135,000, at least for now. New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett started the latest salary sweepstakes last week when it raised first-year associate pay by $15,000. “I don’t think most [California-based firms] will follow Quinn,” predicted Ronald Beard, a legal consultant with the Zeughauser Group. “I think most of them will go to $145.” Beard contends that the markets in New York and California are too divergent to merit the same salary bump, but he noted there can be exceptions like Quinn, which is “up there with the other elite New York firms.” At Quinn, which reported profits per partner of almost $2.5 million in 2006, partner William Urquhart would agree. “We had a string of phenomenal years financially and the associates are a large part of our financial success.” He said the firm raised pay across the board because it wants to foster unity. Also last week, Greenberg Traurig said its 330-lawyer New York office, the firm’s largest, would raise first-year salaries to $160,000, and that mid-level and senior associate salaries would be raised as well. Also last week, a number of New York firms followed Simpson Thacher’s lead in raising associate salaries: Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Shearman & Sterling; and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. They acted after similar moves by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Sullivan & Cromwell; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; and Milbank, Tweed, Hadly & McCloy, all of New York. -Anthony Lin of New York Law Journal contributed to this report.

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