Firms Abuzz Over Salary Rumors

Rumors of associate salary increases at big L.A.-based law firms were swirling around Internet message boards this week, but so far there’s been no official confirmation. Message boards such as “Greedy LA” and “The Monkey Scribe” posted claims by purported Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher associates that first-years would see a $10,000 increase, from $125,000 to $135,000. That would put them on par with firms like Irell & Manella that announced salary hikes earlier this year. In dozens of postings, subscribers debated the alleged numbers for other Gibson classes.

Charles Woodhouse, Gibson’s executive director, said he was unaware of any such news.* Managing Partner Kenneth Doran would not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

One associate reached at the firm Friday said he’d heard first-years were getting a $10,000 raise and all other associates were getting a $5,000 raise. Compensation is being addressed in individual associate reviews, not in a firm-wide memo, he said — which could explain the fast-churning rumor mills. Another Gibson associate said Friday that she hadn’t heard official confirmation and wasn’t sure whether it was true: “Rumors are floating around, but we haven’t heard anything from management.?

Other law firm leaders around Los Angeles said they’re keeping their ears to the ground.

John Sherrell, chairman of Latham & Watkins’ associate committee, said his firm was still evaluating associate compensation. “One of the factors you always look at is the market,? Sherrell said. “We are very sensitive to being sure our associates receive top compensation. It’s obviously a fluid situation.?

At O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles office, Managing Partner Seth Aronson said he’d also heard murmurings of associate hikes at Gibson. “We’re continuing to study the market,? he said. “We look at variety of factors, not any one. We continue to strive to be competitive in the market.?

* UPDATE: The Dec. 20 Recorder confirms that Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is raising first-year salaries to $135,000. A few smaller firms, such as Irell & Manella, boosted first-year salaries to $135,000 earlier this year. But Gibson, Dunn is the first major California-based firm to do so, and experts expect it will force other large firms to follow suit after years of holding the line.

— Kellie Schmitt, Marie-Anne Hogarth

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