Cadwaladers' huge wage hike sparks US pay war

NEW YORK lawyers' salaries are set to spiral following huge wage hikes by middle-tier firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. Its London-based associates have also been handed a bonus, with the promise of a big rise in July.

First-year staff at Cadwaladers, which, with 400 lawyers, is ranked 22nd among Manhattan-based firms, now enjoy a basic salary of $102,000 (£64,000), plus a guaranteed bonus of $5,000. The rise has leap-frogged Cadwaladers – not known as a big payer – over several top firms. For example, first-year associates at Davis Polk & Wardwell, traditionally one of the biggest payers, receive $3,000 less.

Cadwaladers denies the rise in associates' salaries will spark a wage war, saying it is simply to reward talented staff.

Cadwaladers marketing director Janet Zagorin told The Lawyer: “We are confident we have talented people and we believe you should treat them in a manner that befits their capabilities.

“This is not about beating other firms, and this is not about competition over money.”

Zagorin says: “The London package will be at the top end of the market.”

Cadwaladers enjoyed a particularly good year last year, according to Zagorin. She says the firm has taken on about 100 lawyers in little more than a year, making it, according to a recent survey, “the fastest growing law firm in the country”.

A recent US survey of hourly billings across the profession revealed that fees as well as salaries were rising (The Lawyer 8 March).