Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett announced Jan. 22 it was raising the salary for its New York-based first year associates to $160,000 from $145,000, setting off a domino effect among other big law firms in major cities.
During the next seven days more than 41 additional firms matched the increase, and the following month several more firms caved in.
The in-house bar wasn't happy, especially since these rookie lawyers were making more money than some of the GCs and senior in-house attorneys they served. In addition it was pretty clear that law firms expected their clients to foot the bill for this newest round of law firm salary wars.
At the same time that law firms announced the associate salary increases, reports were surfacing that some partners at big firms were billing their clients $1,000 an hour.
"General counsel have had enough," says Susan Hackett, senior vice president and general counsel at the Association of Corporate Counsel. According to Hackett, GCs might be willing to pay $1,000 an hour for experienced lawyers but not $400 an hour for recent law school grads.