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May 21, 2009 4:29 PM

Sonnenschein Announces Changes to Associate Pay

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal will implement a first-year associate salary effective June 1 as part of a broader effort to revamp several associate programs, reports the National Law Journal, an Am Law Daily sibling publication.

First-year associates in major cities will see their annual salaries reduced from $160,000 to $145,000 come June, chairman Elliott Portnoy said in a memo distributed on Thursday to all firm associates, the paper reported. Portnoy's memo also said broader changes to the compensation structure will come in 2010, with the firm moving toward a performance-based system that will result in cuts of 10 to 15 percent, depending on the associate, the NLJ writes.

"It's an effort to redefine our relationship with our associates and to bring the law firm associate model into a new era with benefits for all of our stakeholders, starting with our associates, but also for our clients," Portnoy told the NLJ's Lynne Marek. In addition to the compensation changes, the firm also is planning changes in staffing, training and mentoring programs for junior lawyers.

Current first-year associates affected by today's announcement will have the chance to recoup some of the money, and more, under a merit-based bonus program that will consider an associate's client development, marketing, and pro bono contributions, among other things. Those bonuses will be paid in January 2010.

Sonnenschein's cuts come after several other Am Law 200 firms have announced changes to their associate pay structure, including Nixon Peabody, Chadbourne & Parke, and DLA Piper.


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