Sing Your Praises, or Hide Your Raises?

The way firms have handled news of the recent salary wars has ranged from assertiveness to secrecy. While some firms have publicly announced the raises and their strategy behind them, other firm leaders have refused to discuss the increases.

The first Los Angeles-based firms to announce the raises — Irell & Manella and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges — were open about the decision. Several months later, larger Los Angeles firms such as Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers were tight-lipped about the pay hikes.

Quinn partner Bill Urquhart said it was an easy decision to be forthcoming, especially since the word was already out that Irell was lifting starting salaries.

“With the advent of the Internet, once something becomes public, it seems everyone finds about it relatively quickly,? he said last month. “We didn’t want that firm to have a competitive advantage over us in the middle of recruiting season.?

While Urquhart acknowledged that clients pay attention, he said that, for the most part, they understand why.

“All of them exist in a competitive environment — when they go out and hire, they know what is going on in the marketplace,? he said. “What we’re dealing with is no different — it’s just a different industry.?

Consultant Peter Zeughauser agreed. “I don’t think it will be a client issue this time around. It was in the dot-com era when there were several years of increases, then the Gunderson raise. But now, they’ve been frozen so long.?

Consultant Richard Gary pointed out that some of the first firms that upped the salaries may have been keeping quiet to preserve the competitive advantage, even though, “you can never keep things like that secret for long.?

The tight-lipped approach could also be a response to internal debates on whether to up the salaries, Gary said last month.

“Who wants to be the market leader in associate salaries?? he said.

— Kellie Schmitt


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