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September 28, 2009 5:13 PM

Townsend to Roll Back Associate Salaries, Break Lockstep

Posted by Matt Straquadine

Townsend and Townsend, a San Francisco-based Am Law 200 IP firm, intends to cut associate pay, a move that's in line with compensation cuts at other firms, according to The Recorder, a sibling publication. Townsend has confirmed that it will cut first-year associate pay from $160,000 to $145,000.

The change is in response to the flagging economy and a drop in business. For years firms had been competing to raise associate pay, so that they might attract the best and brightest. Now after a falloff in business many regional firms (and one megafirm -- DLA Piper) have reduced starting pay from the onetime industry standard of $160,000 to $145,000 or less.

Townsend also confirmed that it will do away with the lockstep compensation model in 2011, basing salary increases on performance alone.

Other law firms already have decided that guaranteeing lockstep raises is too costly. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Howrey both recently announced that they're abandoning lockstep increases in favor of a merit-based system.

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