New York law firms raise starting salaries to $215,000 as lawyer salary race continues

  • Milbank and Cadwalader will increase associate salaries by $10,000 or $20,000, depending on seniority
  • The pay hike comes seven months after major U.S. law firms raised starting salaries past $200,000

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(Reuters) – Major U.S. law firms could be set for another round of partner pay rises, with New York-based firm Milbank raising annual salaries by up to $20,000 on Thursday based on seniority.

Within hours, rival New York firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft said it would match Milbank’s new wages.

The two companies said first-year associates would see their base salaries rise from $205,000 to $215,000, while eighth-year associates would see their salaries rise from $365,000 to $385,000.

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Milbank Chairman Scott Edelman said the company had just had a record year for revenue and profit, although he declined to elaborate. The company and its employees are also experiencing the same rise in inflation as the rest of the country, he said.

“A dollar doesn’t go as far as it did last year,” Edelman said. Consumer prices in the United States rose in December, contributing to the strongest annual inflation growth in nearly four decades.

Cadwalader managing partner Pat Quinn said in a statement that the firm is committed to paying its attorneys “at the top of the market.”

Earnings for attorneys at top U.S. law firms have skyrocketed over the past year, thanks to both pay raises and bonuses. Many companies have struggled to meet customer demand for mergers and acquisitions and other services, leading to a war for talent.

“We’re always focused on recruiting,” Edelman said in an interview. “Compensation is one piece of that package and that puzzle.”

Seven months ago, a string of top US law firms said they were increasing partner compensation, with first-years seeing their base salaries top $200,000. This wave of pay rises was also launched by Milbank, followed quickly by Cadwalader, and a similar cascade of increases now looks likely.

Edelman said he wouldn’t be surprised if Milbank’s decision prompted other companies to follow suit.

The Milbank and Cadwalader salary increases are retroactive to January 1. Milbank said they will apply to business associates in the United States, London, Asia and Sao Paulo. Cadwalader said they apply to lawyers in good standing.

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information on pay rises at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.)

Read more:

Consumer prices in the United States show the strongest increase in nearly 40 years; inflation close to peak

The legal talent war that erupted in 2021 shows no signs of abating

Milbank raises associates’ pay again, catching rivals

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David Thomas

David Thomas reports on legal activity, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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