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CHICAGO � Chapman and Cutler, a Chicago-based firm with three offices and about 220 attorneys, has joined the parade of firms boosting first-year associate pay to $160,000, but the firm is taking a new path once associates reach their second year. Second-year associates can opt for one of two compensation tracks at the firm under a new system that took effect last month, said Rick Cosgrove, who is chief executive partner at the firm. They can choose to work fewer hours at a lower pay level or more hours at a higher salary level, he said. Cosgrove declined to specify the hours required and related pay rates under the new pay program for competitive reasons. The firm’s partners voted for the compensation change in July after associates expressed differing views on pay and work preferences, he said. Chapman & Cutler hopes the new compensation system will help retain experienced associates. Second-year associates at larger Chicago rivals Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown got a pay raise to $170,000 in May when most large firms increased first-year associate pay to $160,000 from $145,000. Some associates want to put in more hours and to be very aggressive in pursuing their work no matter how much time it takes, while others are more interested in balancing work hours with other interests in their life, Cosgrove said. Today’s generation of associates aren’t necessarily as single-mindedly focused on career like many baby boomers were, he said. Cosgrove said he doesn’t want his firm to have a culture where associates put in a huge number of hours over a few years simply to make a lot of money. “The salaries have escalated really dramatically and yet people seem to be really unhappy,” Cosgrove said. “They don’t want their whole life to be work.” Chapman & Cutler initially resisted the first-year associate pay raises that began in New York earlier this year and spread to Chicago, with Cosgrove previously saying the increases were “irrational,” partly because he believed Chicago and New York are different markets. The firm is still seeking a foothold in the New York market, possibly through a merger with a firm there, so it can be generating New York revenue to go along with the New York-inspired first-year pay scale, he said.

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