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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try raising associate compensation again. This is apparently the mantra at Buchanan Ingersoll, where for the second time in three months the firm has increased potential pay for first-year associates. This time, though, the Pittsburgh-based firm has raised its first-year salaries from $90,000 to $105,000, a figure matched in the Philadelphia area only by Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Drinker Biddle & Reath and Morgan Lewis & Bockius. When those other firms announced their base salary raises in March and April, Buchanan decided to stay put at $90,000 in favor of implementing a new bonus package under which associates could earn as much as $60,000 extra. But Philadelphia office managing partner Steve Braverman said even though the firm management felt the bonus setup made Buchanan competitive with other local firms, the lower base salary made the firm a tougher sell during the recruitment season. “We felt there was some confusion in the marketplace,” Braverman said. “When you look at grids and NALP forms, the first thing a recruit sees is the [base] salary. And we could have been losing out on some people who might just look past us because of that number.” The new salary, effective June 1, is predicated on a firm budget that calls for associates to bill an average of 1,950 hours. But Braverman said that average is an expectation rather than a requirement. And the firm’s partners will pick up any additional costs created by the latest raise, he said. The enhanced base pay does not replace the bonus system, under which first- through fourth-year associates can earn as much as $55,000 extra – which almost doubles last year’s bonus pool. The first potential bonus, which will be issued either quarterly or at the end of the year, can be as much as $25,000 and is based on reaching a 2,250-billable hour requirement. The second possible bonus can reach $30,000 and is based on overall contribution to the firm — including assisting recruiting and summer program initiatives, community visibility, hours and performance. Almost all other associates will receive what amounts to $15,000 raises. Braverman, though, said the current group of associates did not complain about the base salary inequity between Buchanan and other firms. “I think they generally had faith in the bonus system,” Braverman said. “They’re happy about the raise, but they’ve seen how we’ve handled bonuses in the past, and they know we’re more than fair.” Aside from Philadelphia, the firm’s Pittsburgh, Princeton, Miami, New York and Washington, D.C., offices will also be affected by the change. Buchanan’s London, Tampa and Harrisburg sites will see associate salary dictated by the individual market, Braverman said. As for the Philadelphia large-firm community as a whole, the aforementioned four firms also offer a $105,000 starting salary. Eight others are at $100,000 (with two more planning to move there in September), and two predominantly IP firms moved to $115,000. Several other firms made more modest changes while one decided to stay put.

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