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CHICAGO — McDermott, Will & Emery, Kirkland & Ellis, and Sidley Austin have raised pay for their first-year associates in Chicago to $160,000, while other firms, such as Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Jenner & Block, are reviewing the increase and haven’t followed suit at this point. The firms that have boosted pay are matching increases made for first-year associates in other cities, including in New York and California. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, Winston & Strawn and Katten Muchin Rosenman also increased the first-year Chicago associates’ pay to $160,000, from $145,000. In the most recent prior increase, firms bumped pay up from $135,000 in February, retroactive to January. Compensation is climbing as competition for associates becomes more intense, partly because firms are growing while the size of law school graduating classes remains relatively unchanged. In Chicago, the competition is also being stoked by an influx of national firms opening new offices in the city, many of them by way of mergers. Pay scales at many firms keep salaries lower in Chicago than in coastal cities because of cost-of-living differences. Some firms, such as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, prefer to keep pay across the country consistent. Skadden, with its largest office in New York, raised all first-year associates’ pay to $160,000 earlier this year. Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz, with major offices in Chicago, also mainly keeps pay consistent with all associates now earning $145,000, though some exceptions are made. The firms are giving corresponding compensation increases for more senior associates. For instance, Mayer Brown said that second-year associates will now earn $170,000 with raises up through $265,000 for seven-year associates.

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