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Instead of raising base pay for associates as some San Francisco Bay Area firms have done, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe will reward all associates with a $10,000 bonus for reaching the firm’s minimum billable requirement. Orrick’s decision comes more than a month after Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison announced that base salary was being bumped by $10,000 firmwide. Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, Pillsbury Winthrop and Perkins Coie’s Bay Area offices have since matched Brobeck, but other firms — among them Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Cooley Godward — elected to keep base pay at 2000 levels. Although Orrick’s base pay for associates remains the same — starting at $125,000 for first-year associates — associates at Orrick can potentially earn as much as Brobeck associates. First-year Orrick associates can make up to $178,000. At Brobeck, associates can earn $170,000. Consultants say the firm appears to have targeted a happy medium: The firm isn’t yoked to paying associates across-the-board raises at a time when the economy has slowed, but the firm has also ensured that its associates don’t feel slighted. “They want to send a message that if you work really hard, we’ll take care of you on par with your counterparts,” said legal consultant Anna Marie Armstrong, at Major, Hagen & Africa. “What Orrick is doing is realistically looking at the legal market.” Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. said that a compensation package tying the $10,000 bonus to the firm’s 1,950 hours minimum encourages an even distribution of work. “In this day and age, our clients expect a lot out of us. And we as a firm expect a lot out of each other,” Baxter said. “We don’t want some associates working too hard, and having others with nothing to do.” The firm continues to offer discretionary bonuses. And its investment fund, begun last year, has been expanded. But as another way to encourage consistency among its associates, the firm has changed its hours-based bonus program. Now, associates will be paid more for reaching 2,250 hours than for reaching 2,400 hours. For instance, a third-year associate earns a $20,000 bonus for reaching 2,250 hours, but only makes an additional $11,000 for 2,400 hours.

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