For many lawyers, a mid-size firm offers an opportunity to practice law in the big leagues while avoiding the billable rat race at more profit-driven big firms. With the recent round of associate salary increases, though, mid-size firms are facing more pressure than ever to balance culture against competitiveness.

Two mid-size firms in Southern California believe they have come up with innovative plans that strike the balance. West Los Angeles’ Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp has bumped base compensation for first-year associates from $90,000 to $110,000. It also will add $15,000 for associates who bill 1,950 hours, and a further $4,500 for those who bill 2,075. The 125-lawyer firm counts all pro bono work toward billables, and up to 50 hours of administrative work toward the 2,075 target, says managing partner Deborah Koeffler.

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