September 20, 2005
Law Firm Salaries
Posted by Gordon Smith

Danny Sokol, who is here at Wisconsin as a Hastie Fellow, pointed me to this interesting passage from Marc Galanter & Thomas Palay, Tournament of Lawyers 24 (1991):

Starting salaries at the largest New York firms were uniform; the ‘going rate’ was fixed at a luncheon, attended by managing partners of prominent firms, held annually for this purpose.  Salaries rose from $4,000 in 1953 to $7,500 in 1963.  The era of the arranged ‘going rate’ and incremental raises ended abruptly in 1968 when the Cravath firm unilaterally raised salaries to $15,000 from a scheduled going rate of $10,500.

Just for fun, Danny adjusted the value of $4,000 in 1953 to present-day dollar using the Consumer Price Index and came up with $27,840.02 (or $29,423.22 here). Kaimi Wenger, who just left Cravath for academe, tells me that associates at Cravath now start at roughly $125,000 per year and receive a bonus of around $15,000.

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