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As Texas firms mull over what to do about Vinson & Elkins’ late-year decision to hike associate salaries by an abundant 10 percent, a Silicon Valley firm with an office in Austin raised stakes even higher. First-year associates at Houston’s V&E who started work in the fall of 1999 will earn $95,000 during their first year of work, instead of the $90,500 they expected when hired. But first-year associates at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian will make $145,000 – and have a chance at a $5,000 discretionary bonus – instead of the $100,500 they expected. The increase in salaries at 663-lawyer V&E is likely to have an impact on pay scales at large Texas firms, but the leap by Gunderson Dettmer, which has 17 lawyers in Austin, is a clue some firms will pull out all the stops when vying for the nation’s coveted associates. “It’s a new ballgame,” says Brian Beard, managing partner for Gunderson Dettmer in Austin. “We thought, ‘Let’s just knock the doors off.’”

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