It’s a wonder D.C. lawyers got any work done last week. Across town, partners and associates alike were grabbing colleagues in the corridors, calling emergency meetings, and swapping gossip by phone and e-mail. The urgent topic: When would the latest fusillade in the salary wars bracing law firms coast to coast strike Washington?

Associate salaries have been going nowhere but up for several years. In the D.C. area, many top-tier firms were only recently congratulating themselves for staying competitive with richer firms in New York and California by paying $100,000 a year to employees a few months out of law school.