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In the battle for top-drawer associates in New Jersey, the firm long known as Dechert, Price & Rhoads has raised starting pay and bonuses in its Princeton office by $20,000 and has borrowed an idea from military recruiters: join Dechert and see the world. The pay hike at Dechert, the official new name of the firm following an overseas merger, is yet another example of the steady upward trend in associate pay, as firms compete with each other and with Wall Street for law school graduates with the best grades. The salary hike and bonus for September 2000 will raise starting associate pay at Dechert’s 30-lawyer New Jersey office from $90,000 to $110,000. That compares with $95,000 at Morristown, N.J.’s Drinker, Biddle & Shanley and $90,000 at Morristown’s Porzio, Bromberg & Newman and Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler. New Jersey’s largest firm, McCarter & English, will pay $85,000 with bonuses, though McCarter recently announced that its new associates in September 2001 will receive as much as $116,250. “We were not a leader in this, and we recognized that we needed to bring in our best and brightest lawyers,” says James Marino, managing partner of Dechert’s New Jersey office. “I guess it was, in many ways, the same reason most firms were increasing their salaries.” Although Dechert’s newest associates in this state will be earning big salaries by New Jersey standards — and the same pay as colleagues in Philadelphia — they will earn less than counterparts in Dechert’s offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston. Dechert has raised starting salaries there to $125,000. Thanks to last month’s merger with the U.K.’s Titmuss Sainer, the firm is also offering associates a chance to spend time working in a training program in the London office. OK, so London’s not exactly the world, but it’s more glamorous than, say, Lawrenceville, N.J., which is really where Dechert’s Princeton office is located. In the cultural exchange, former Titmuss Sainer lawyers will train in Dechert offices in the United States, including the one in New Jersey. Dechert opened offices in Brussels in 1968 and in Paris in 1995. It formed a joint venture with Titmuss Sainer in 1994, and the alliance’s success led to a full merger this year, Marino says. For critics of multidisciplinary practice, the merger appears to be politically correct. Unlike many other European firms, Titmuss Sainer is strictly a law firm. The New Jersey office, located in a region where biotechnology is growing, fits in with Dechert’s international aspirations. Marino says one client is publicly held, Princeton-based Pharmacopeia, which acquired two British firms in the past five months — Synopsis Systems and Oxford Molecular — both makers of software that manage information for chemical and biological research. “You’d be surprised how many companies in a variety of different industries are doing business in Europe and internationally, very early on in their life cycle,” Marino says. Marino suggests that, like other firms undertaking overseas mergers, Dechert can sell its international clients on the notion that all their matters are being handled by one firm, not by an American firm dealing on an ad hoc basis with a foreign firm. Marino says of the firm’s overseas perspective: “It permeates so much of what we do.” Not that the firm is ignoring a chance to take advantage of lawyers with roots in central New Jersey. Of counsel to the firm is Richard Zimmer, the former congressman and Republican U.S. Senate candidate who is now trying to win back his old 12th Congressional District seat from incumbent Democrat Rush Holt.

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