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Just when you thought the associate salary wars were over, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has fired another shot. The firm announced Thursday that it’s hiking associates’ pay in all California offices, except Sacramento, to the $160,000 pay scale that most big firms adopted just in New York, but not elsewhere. While a few firms, like Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, raised first-year salaries in California to $160,000, most opted to pay $145,000 in the round of raises earlier this year. “We decided to do it because we think it’s the right thing to do in the context of our market position and our commitment to being one of the leading law firms in the world,” said Ralph Baxter Jr., Orrick chairman and CEO. The move has sparked speculation that another round of raises may be on the horizon. Orrick and other big California-origin firms like Latham & Watkins, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers raised their New York associates up to the $160,000 level, but left their West Coast equals starting at $145,000 earlier this year. All three of those firms declined to comment late Thursday afternoon on whether they would match Orrick. “I would expect that those types of firms would be the ones to consider it,” said Richard Gary, a law firm consultant with the Bay Area’s Gary Advisors. “But I don’t see all firms going up to 160.” Gary said that while more middle-market firms were able to match in New York, they won’t be able to climb to the same scale here. “I think that many firms will decide that they simply don’t need to match, and probably can’t,” he said. Orrick will pay its San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Orange County associates at the $160,000 scale, the same as in its Washington, D.C., and New York offices. It has also boosted pay for its Sacramento and Pacific Northwest first-years to $145,000. The newest raises will be effective June 1. “With the segmentation among law firms, the role of regionality becomes less and less important, and we find ourselves in more and more of a national market,” Baxter said. “At Orrick, our strategy is to do the work at the highest-value level in each of our specialties, in each of our locations.” Aside from Quinn Emanuel, such New York firms as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and IP firms like Fish & Richardson raised their California associates to the New York scale in the initial round of raises. Baxter said Orrick’s clients won’t object to the raise. “We must do it, and our clients expect that we will do it,” he said. “Our clients expect that our associates are second to none.”

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