First year associates starting with Husch Blackwell this fall are going to see a bump in their starting salary — including a $20,000 bump for D.C.-based associates.
The firm announced Wednesday that associates in eight cities across the country will see an increase in starting salaries starting September 1. In Washington, that means new associates will be earning $150,000 per year, up from $130,000.
Chicago-based associates will pull in the most, earning $160,000. First-year associates in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb.; Phoenix, Ariz. and St. Louis also will see increases.
Gregory Smith, the St. Louis-based CEO and managing partner of Husch Blackwell, said in an interview that the firm's starting associate salary in Washington had not increased in more than four years.
"We continually evaluate our competitive position for associate talent in all markets," Smith said. "This is primarily a reaction to that. Good times, bad times, we are always going after the best talent."
The Association for Legal Career Professionals issued a report in September 2011 that found that the median starting salary for associates in Washington at firms with 251-700 attorneys hovered around $160,000. According to data from the 2012 NLJ 350 survey, Husch Blackwell has 520 attorneys.
At Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the starting salary for 2012 associates is $160,000, according to the firm's website. As of 2007, Legal Times reported that starting associates at Williams & Connolly were hauling in $180,000.
Smith said that associates are also eligible for merit raises on top of the base salary. Additionally, the firm will increase other associates' pay on an individual basis. He said he hopes that the pay increase will help level the playing field with other law offices in D.C., and give potential associates another reason to consider joining the firm.
"It's not just about money, but I do think that it would be naïve to not recognize that our young lawyers have economic pressures like everyone else," Smith said. "We think at $150,000 we have effectively taken the money issues away from the dialogue."
Jordan Rosenthal, vice president of Empire Search Partners, said that the $150,000 starting salary was competitive for the D.C. market, but $10,000 lower than the New York market. “Aside from the DC offices of New York-based firms (and the more prominent DC-based firms), most DC offices of other firms are going to be below NY market,” Rosenthal wrote in an email.