Top-tier US firms mull associate pay freezes

The US legal market is divided, with top-tier firms split on whether to freeze associate pay in response to the worsening economic conditions.

After Latham & Watkins announced in December that it would be holding associate salaries at 2008 levels, DLA Piper and Orrick ;Herrington ;& ­Sutcliffe among others ­followed suit, with salaries remaining ;at ;levels of ;between ;$160,000 (£105,301) and $280,000 (£184,277).

Other firms, such as Cleary ;Gottlieb ;Steen & Hamilton, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton ;& ;Garrison, ­Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Weil Gotshal & Manges, have vowed to go ahead with their annual associate pay rises.

Falling in the middle are Bingham McCutchen and Shearman & Sterling, which are yet to decide on associate pay structures.

Meanwhile, Reed Smith said it will be providing associate pay rises based
on performance and at a reduced rate from previous years.

Reed Smith’s chief people officer Nicky Dingemans told The Lawyer: “Most of our associates will receive an increase in pay, though in amounts lower than in previous years. We approached our annual salary review process fully aware that going into 2009 would not be business as usual.”