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Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison is offering to pay some first-year associates as much as $3,000 per month not to show up for work until January 2004. To deal with the decline in work over the last year, the San Francisco-based firm decided to push back the arrival dates for half its fall class of 60 attorneys. About 30 will start in October and the remainder have the option of starting in March 2003 or as late as January 2004. Those starting in March would receive health benefits. Associates who wait until January will receive a $2,000 monthly stipend to travel or pursue other interests. If they take a public interest job, they will receive $3,000 per month. “We decided we wouldn’t be able to use about half [the incoming class] as effectively as we wanted to right now,” said Brobeck firmwide managing partner Richard Parker. The delayed-start option is a way for attorneys “to use the time to do things they’ve always wanted to do.” New hires asked to come later cover most of Brobeck’s practice groups, though Parker said the majority are to join the business and technology group. Parker said it’s too early to tell the reaction of those who’ve been asked to delay their start date. “From the feedback I have gotten, people are professional about it, understand the situation and appreciate the opportunity to look at options,” Parker said. Recruiter Avis Caravello said Brobeck’s stipend provides a cushion for law firm grads but most would rather begin working right away and not have to worry about what the delay may mean for their future. “It can create some anxiety, regardless of what the firm says, about whether there will be a position in March.” While other technology-focused firms have cut in half the number of incoming associates, Brobeck is the only firm to delay arrivals until the spring. San Francisco-based Pillsbury Winthrop pushed back its start date to Jan. 6, 2003, for its San Francisco and Silicon Valley associates. They had been slated to report for work in October, November and December. While many top-grossing firms have cut their fall class, the biggest reductions have been at the technology firms. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati had 72 fall associates in 2001 and is bringing in 34 this year. Half will start the first week of October and half the following month. Cooley Godward’s fall class totaled 84 last year and 41 this year. The 2002 group will begin on Nov. 7. Brobeck’s fall class of 60 is down from 78 in 2001. Among other firms, Morrison & Foerster has 77 first-years this year, compared with 82 firmwide in 2001. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has 35 incoming associates this fall compared with 41 last year. And Thelen Reid & Priest has 21 first-years, one more than last year.

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