Even as the number of large firms continues to multiply and as rumblings grow louder of yet another first-year associate salary raise among the profession’s giants, smaller firms may well lie at the forefront of big changes in the profession.

In recent weeks, some midsize firms have implemented drastic reductions to their billable-hour requirements for first-year associates in order to enhance training and to appease clients who are increasingly resistant to paying for new lawyers’ starts and stumbles.

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