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Not all legal employers in Georgia played follow-the-leader on associate raises. Small-town lawyers, attorneys in government or public-interest work and insurance defense associates often found their pay virtually unchanged. Even some suburban firms didn’t post big raises. Marietta’s Brock, Clay, Calhoun, Wilson & Rogers, for example, pays its new lawyers $50,000 — the same as last year — although the firm added a new bonus structure. Principal Charles C. Clay says the firm is considering a raise because of a dire shortage of corporate lawyers, but adds, “We’re not trying, nor can we, nor will we compete with King & Spalding.” J. Mark Brittain, a principal at the 10-lawyer Smith, Welch & Brittain in Stockbridge, says his firm raised associates’ pay about 10 percent from last year as a cost of living increase. His firm, he says, wasn’t affected by the Atlanta raises. Hubert C. Lovein Jr., a partner at Jones, Cork & Miller in Macon, says raises in Atlanta didn’t have much effect on his firm, either, where starting pay rose by $2,000 to a salary of $45,000 this year. “It’s the ‘other Georgia’ phenomenon again,” he says. “There’s Atlanta, and there’s the rest of the state.” Not surprisingly, government and public interest lawyers’ pay hasn’t kept pace with private sector salaries either, and it is taking a toll on recruiting and retention. PUBLIC SECTOR LAWYERS According to Joe L. Chambers, director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, a survey of personnel files shows that out of 451 state-paid positions in district attorneys’ offices, nearly 100 assistant district attorneys had left. Chambers says he’s convinced it’s the pay, which hovers around $34,000 for new lawyers. DeKalb Public Defender Lawrence L. Schneider sees a similar phenomenon on the recruiting end. He says he’s not sure if private sector raises are the cause of a tougher recruiting season. But the number of resum�s that his office received dropped from 49 in the first eight months of 1999 to 35 in the same period this year. Still, he says, the quality of applicants has stayed high. “There’s always a few in every law school class that want to go in this direction and don’t care about the money. At least not until they’re older,” he says. And there’s the rub. About the time lawyers get experience and become proficient, they have families and start feeling money pressures. They “realize people they knew in law school are buying nice houses and taking vacations to Europe” and leave for better-paying jobs, he says. LOWEST IN THE SURVEY But low pay doesn’t always mean recruiting and retention troubles. Stephen B. Bright, head of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit that defends death row inmates and handles prison conditions cases, says recruiting is going great. That’s true even with pay of $28,000, the lowest in the survey. Bright says lawyers come for the mission, not the money. His new recruits include a University of Pennsylvania graduate with a federal clerkship; another is a former Soros Fellow. INSURANCE DEFENSE FIRMS Associates at some Atlanta insurance defense firms aren’t so sanguine. Two say they feel they’ve been left behind. A Drew Eckl & Farnham associate who asked not to be named says the firm did not raise associate pay — first-years start at $63,000. The firm did create a new bonus system, based on billable hours, billed dollars and collections. John A. Ferguson Jr., a member of Drew Eckl’s board of directors, declined to participate in the survey. He would say only that part of the pay and bonus information that the associate provided was correct and part was not, and that taken out of context, the information was misleading. An associate at Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers says his firm raised pay as usual, but didn’t give any big raises. First-year associates earn $62,500. Swift Currie’s managing partner, John F. Sacha, confirmed the starting salary for the class of 2000. He says it’s “basically true” that first-years have a billable goal of 1,800 hours, and that hour requirements increase as associates become more senior. But he says billing goals vary depending on the associate’s specific area of insurance defense practice. According to the associate, billing goals for more experienced associates are 2100 hours. “In general, I do not think the salary wars had much impact on insurance defense firms at all,” the associate says, explaining that partner billing rates are so much lower than those at other firms that there’s less money for huge raises. The associate says he has friends at big general practice firms who have lower billing requirements and earn $40,000 more. “As an insurance defense associate, you’ve got to ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ “

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