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Associates at Bingham McCutchen’s Hartford, Conn., office can go a little crazy in the spending department this winter. Actually, they can go a lot crazy. Effective Jan. 1, they received pay raises between $10,000 and $65,000 as the firm moves to bring local salaries in line with what its associates in Boston are making. Bingham’s first- and second-year associates in Hartford will still lag $10,000 to $15,000 behind what their counterparts in Boston earn in annual base pay. But for third-years and up, there will be no difference in base wages between Hartford and Boston, firm officials confirmed last week. Bingham associates in Hartford are handling the same level of work — both from a quantitative and a qualitative standpoint — as their peers in Boston, said Hartford partner Robert M. Dombroff, co-chair of the firm’s insolvency and financial services litigation practice. “It made sense to us that they ought to be compensated in a similar way,” as well, he said. The pay differential wasn’t a morale problem, added Dombroff, who instead referred to it as an issue of “fundamental fairness.” Bingham spokesman Hank Shafran said the Hartford raises are being made as part of a move to nationalize the firm’s salary structure. They also reflect that fact that Bingham is no longer a Boston-centric firm. In 1995, all but 20 of its 180 attorneys worked in Boston. Now, the Boston office is home to less than 300 of its roughly 850 lawyers, Shafran said. Firms with multiple offices across the country generally pay their rank-and-file lawyers according to the going rates in the particular markets they work in. Boston associates, in particular, largely command sharply higher salaries than those in a secondary market like Connecticut. That fact was never so evident as it was at the height of the dot-com boom when large Boston firms, attempting to stop the flood of new lawyers to nearby tech companies, racketed up associate salaries to unprecedented levels. The rash of associate layoffs among Boston firms in recent years has put a damper on upward salary pressures, to say the least. But in Bingham’s case, the economic downturn has produced a windfall of work for its Hartford office — a major source of the firm’s insolvency and restructuring practice that Bingham inherited through its merger with what was Hartford’s Hebb & Gitlin. That is only part of the Hartford office’s recent workload gains, Dombroff insisted. The firm’s local finance, real estate and litigation practices also have experienced a surge in business, he said. Associates there were told of the raises in mid-December. The more senior they are, the larger the pay increase. First-years, according to Shafran, will now earn annual base wages of $110,000, up from $100,000; second-year pay will jump from $100,000 to $120,000; third-years will earn $135,000 (up from $110,000); fourth-years $160,000 (up from $120,000); fifth-years $180,000 (from $130,000); sixth-years $190,000 (from $135,000); seventh-years $200,000 (from $140,000); and eighth-years $210,000 (from $145,000). Bingham’s Hartford office has 40 associates and 69 lawyers altogether. The pay hikes will likely prompt other local branch offices of out-of-state firms to reconsider their compensation levels. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker does so every January, and will so again this year, said David E. Snediker, chairman of its Stamford office. Lawyers there who joined the firm in the fall of 2002 currently earn $112,500 in annual base pay. Its 2001 class is paid $121,500. From there, base wages jump to $135,000 for third-years; $153,000 for fourth-years; fifth-years get $171,000; sixth-years $180,000; seventh-years $189,000; and eighth-years $193,000. Day, Berry & Howard, a traditional market leader among large Connecticut-based firms, isn’t making any dramatic salary adjustments this year, said James Sicilian, its executive committee chairman. Its Hartford and Boston first-year base salaries are staying put at $85,000 and $110,000, respectively, while first-years in Day Berry’s Stamford and Greenwich offices will receive $3,000 pay raises, bringing them to $98,000 a year, Sicilian said.

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