In January, when warring Silicon Valley firms brought the associate-salary rat race to a new level, it was easy for Connecticut law firms to sit back and watch the spectacle unfold with a relieved sense of detachment.

But a stunning move by Boston’s Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault earlier this month to pay raw recruits annual base salaries of $140,000 — coupled with similar wage hikes in New York — has hiring partners here feeling the salary crunch yet again. Some compare it to the huge salary increases in the boom years of the 1980s, only this time they’re the result of law firms losing talent to high-tech, start-up ventures, instead of Wall Street investment houses.

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