Pay gap widens at large firms

February 9, 2011 Interesting article here about the increasing compensation gap at some large law firms – where star attorneys can be earning up to 10 times the amount paid to other partners. In the past, equity partners were paid relitavly similar amounts in order to encourage a team approach and to militate against resentment.

According to Jeffrey Lowe, a managing partner at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, some rainmaker partners are earning $10 million or more a year – well in excess of the $640,000 earned by the average partner at a US firm.

Law firms are keen to attract high profile lawyers whose billings are less susceptible to economic downturns, and they are willing to widen the pay gap in order to afford them. For example, last year DLA Piper widened its compensation spread to pay top partners about $6 million - roughly nine times what it paid other partners. DLA Piper’s chairman, Frank Burch, said: "We are focused on making big, strategic hires, who can allow us to achieve greater stature and visibility in the business community.”

The pay gap, however, can be disruptive of the partnership and can severely test morale.

Read more at online.wsj.com.

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