It was almost the pay war that wasn’t.

In mid-January, Silicon Valley’s market leader, Palo Alto- based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, was poised to end the associate salary race before it even began. Wilson partners had eyed the 30 percent pay hike that Palo Alto’s Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian had promised associates — but had decided not to match Gunderson’s rates. Gunderson is a boutique — by Wilson, Sonsini standards, not a direct rival. Wilson was happy to give generous raises to its youngest associates, but not Gunderson-size raises. The Wilson partnership preferred to offer bonuses that, by the third year, could put its associates on a par with or even ahead of Gunderson. “We felt that we had come up with a plan that made sense,” says managing partner Alan Austin.

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