This time it started in Silicon Valley and spread to New York’s largest law firms faster than a computer virus. The meteoric rise in associate salaries in the past few months has law firm partners shaking their heads and associates marveling at their paychecks. Starting associates at many of New York’s largest firms have watched their salaries climb into the $125,000 to $160,000 range. When the dust finally settles, firms and associates will have to come to grips with the broader implications of this incredible salary boom.

It is usually a pretty safe bet that if your salary increases dramatically, more will be expected of you. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that associates may be under increased pressure to bill even more hours each year. A number of partners I have spoken with have been unequivocal about the fact that these raises will heighten the focus on associate billable hours. As this pressure grows, it may be increasingly difficult to strike a balance between work obligations and those things that do not go directly to a firm’s bottom line, such as professional development, training and pro bono work.

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