Washington is still a pretty good place to be an associate, recession or not.
According to surveys of associates released recently by The American Lawyer and the National Association of Legal Professionals, salaries appear to be holding steady and mid-level associates at several Washington firms say they generally pleased with their jobs.
On this year’s Am Law Mid-Level Associate Survey, Ropes & Gray took top honors among Washington offices for workplace satisfaction among its associates, receiving a 4.57 on a 5-point scale with seven associates responding. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Morrison & Forester; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner rounded out the Top Five. To be considered, each firm had to have at least five associates respond.
Among the firms that have implemented layoffs, the recently departed McKee Nelson ranked No. 1 nationally for how management handled cutbacks and how they communicated the news. McKee, which merged with Bingham McCutchen earlier this week, received a 4.86.
Other firms with D.C. offices that received high marks for handling and communicating about layoffs were Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, Patton Boggs, Cooley Godward Kronish, Morrison & Foerster, Perkins Coie, and Proskauer Rose.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Winston & Strawn associates who responded to the survey ranked it as the nation's worst at handling layoffs. The firm received a 2.78 for its handling of cuts and a 1.56 for how it communicated them.
Other poorly ranked firms with D.C. offices included White & Case; Dewey & LeBoeuf; Sherman & Sterling; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Dechert; Kaye Scholer; Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough; and Schiff Hardin.
According to NALP’s 2009 Associate Salary Survey, $160,000 has remained the prevailing salary for first-year associates working at some the largest firms in the Washington area. But because some large firms have cut salaries in recent months, the $160,000 benchmark may be slipping.
Among firms with more than 251 lawyers responding to the survey, the average salary for first year associates went up about $5,000 over last year’s salary level, climbing from $151,974 to $156,400. It should be noted, however, that with 36 firms responding this year, two fewer firms have been tallied.
Nationally, the median starting salary was $130,000, and ranged from $70,000 in firms of two to 25 lawyers to $135,000 in firms of 501 to 1,000 lawyers, and $160,000 in firms of more than 1,000 lawyers.