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Each month for the past several years, administrators from New York’s largest law firms have quietly gathered together to ensure that they are up to speed on the latest in fringe benefits for attorneys. At a time when associate salaries have stalled after a meteoric rise in the recent past, the assurance of sound benefit packages becomes more important, suggested Don R. Cox, manager of benefits and human resources at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. “I look at this [benefits group] as an avenue just to make sure that we’re going to be competitive,” he said. The Legal Benefits Group, as it is informally known, consists mostly of human resources managers from roughly 30 big firms, including Cadwalader Wickersham; Kelley, Drye & Warren; White & Case; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Shearman & Sterling; Davis, Polk & Wardwell; Latham & Watkins; and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Details of benefit programs specific to individual firms are not discussed. Instead, the benefits group concentrates on personnel matters common to all shops. “We’ll come up with a couple of issues of the day,” said Cox. “We’ll send out an e-mail asking for input and consensus.” Cox said associate committees at the various firms are welcome to contribute ideas to the benefits group as well. General issues discussed in the past include long-term care and disability benefits, compliance with amended legislation under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, and developments in the very new area of online benefit programs. Host locations for the meetings rotate among participating firms. Cox will host the May meeting. This month’s meeting, he said, will be held at Milbank Tweed. “You may be sitting in your own office and thinking you’ve hit everything,” said Cox, speaking of the value to him of the benefits group. “But when you get into these meetings you get a chance to see where you are.”

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