McKenna Long & Aldridge is reducing starting salaries for entering first-year associates by $20,000, according to a firm release. The firm says the reduction is meant to “reflect client needs and the current economic environment.”
McKenna chairman Jeffrey Haidet says: “We are committed to providing our clients with top-quality legal counsel at a cost that is appropriate to the market and economic conditions.”
McKenna has been adjusting associate compensation since 2007, when it moved to a merit-based promotion system of evaluating associates based on firm-defined core competencies. An associate’s compensation and billing rates are based on those competencies, rather than on the year of their graduating class.
(UPDATE: 4:16) McKenna Long & Aldridge chairman Jeffrey Haidet spoke with The BLT today about McKenna’s decision to cut associate salaries.
Haidet says the salary change will affect the “12 or 13” incoming associates who start at the firm in mid-October. He adds it will also affect the roughly 25 summer associates as well. At McKenna in D.C., first-years make $160,000. The salary drop will not affect any current associates.
“We spoke to our new associates after we made the decision and explained it to them. I think they readily understood,” says Haidet. “I think they were probably happy we were not calling to rescind any offers or delay start dates six or 12 months like some other firms."
Haidet says the inspiration for the decision came from seeing other similar-sized firms make cuts. Now-dissolved Wolf Block announced in February they would cut associate salaries by 10 percent. McGuire Woods said in March they would cut the salary of the entering associate class of 47 first-years by 10 percent.
"We were watching what our competitors were doing, and we thought we really needed to address [associate salaries]. And the current environment was begging us to address it. So, we did," Haidet says.