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West Coast Law Firms Raising Associate Salaries

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

High-paid, high-stressed attorneys rejoice:

Struggling associates who were scraping by on lowly six-figure incomes will soon be able to live a bit more comfortably on higher six-figure incomes.

That's right, pay increases are being announced for West Coast associates.

Most of the pay increase can be attributable to the increase in M&A and IPO work in Silicon Valley. As the economy slowly rebounds, the influx of work for corporate, litigation, patent, and licensing attorneys in the Valley is picking up. No longer are associates sitting idly at their desk, nary a contract to review in sight.

Amongst the firms increasing salaries are Silicon Valley-based Gunderson Dettmer, and other nationwide firms including Cooley Godward and Wilson Sonsini, the WSJ Blog reports. These bumps aren't necessarily "raises." Some salaries are simply being increased to their pre-recession status quo or to match the salaries of their counterpart NYC offices.

Still, it's certainly nothing to sneeze at. A fourth-year associate at Cooley and Wilson will be raking in $210,000 a year, up from a previous salary of $185,000 a year.

Why the raise? Firms want to win in the perennial race to stay on top of the legal employment market. "In order to stay competitive with peer firms, now was the time to do it," says Cooley hiring partner Sally Kay told the Recorder.

Firms are also battling it out against companies and corporations with in-house positions that are poised to steal away more senior talent.

With pay increases and higher hiring levels, the legal job market appears to be showing some more glimmers of recovery. In the meantime, the associates who benefit from this hike in salaries can tentatively rejoice, breathe a sigh of relief, and cash in their higher paychecks.

Alas, junior attorneys and soon-to-be law school graduates should not start celebrating just yet. All signs still indicate that entry-level attorneys and those with less experience will have a tough road ahead. Sorry, kiddos.

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