Legal Career Resources

Why the Law Firm Associate Salary Increase Is a Bad Thing
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dancing in money

Summary: With the happiness of a bigger paycheck come repercussions for many of the law firms that can’t afford to keep up with the top law firms.

Read the Top 10 Reasons Why High Junior Associate Salaries Are Destroying the Legal Profession to learn more.


When law firms raise their salaries, especially by a drastic amount, a dangerous cycle begins. Harrison Barnes explains how “increased salaries lead to mass layoffs, make the careers of partners, counsel and others within law firms less secure, result in more people going to law school and more competition for jobs, result in tension between associates and partners, create more demand for billable hours and less loyalty, result in less training for associates, less client satisfaction, more turnover inside of law firms and more.”

The salary wars do not accurately depict the current state of practice areas. The reason rates are increased for corporate attorneys is because “the idea is that raising salaries will keep the most talented (and profitable) corporate associates around, motivate them to work very hard and hopefully prevent them from going in-house.” In other professions like medical, when the doctor is interested in making the most money, they go into a specialty that pays the most. The legal industry is not like this and every specialty is paid the same.

Read Top 10 Reasons Why High Junior Associate Salaries Are Destroying the Legal Profession.

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Salary wars force law firms to increase their cost of doing business when they should be focusing on other things. The top firms can afford to raise their salary rates but many firms simply cannot honestly afford to pay their associates such high numbers.

Salary wars result in the firms that cannot actually afford them to giving mass layoffs. The practice areas that are not high in demand get squeezed out so that the salaries can be paid to the associates working in the hot areas.

Salary wars make the jobs of every other person working at the firm less secure. Partners, counsel, and other employees at a law firm are able to ride along without having to contribute as much but when the work slows down their lack of contribution is noticed.

Read Be Happy as an Attorney or Find Something New.

Salary wars force junior associates to learn the reigns of the job faster and with less error. Law firms can no longer afford to write of some of the billable hours from new attorneys that may not have learned how to be efficient in their time yet. Reviews become harsher and more hours are expected out of the attorneys to make up for their high salary.

See Law School Enrollment Continues to Shrink.

Salary wars cause law school enrollment numbers to go up as future attorneys anticipate big paychecks but end up trying to find a job after graduation with a crowded and competitive market. With the attraction of big paychecks, people not truly interested in the job are choosing to attend law school. Attorneys need to be concerned with the well-being of their client and not their paycheck.

What do you think about the law firm salary raises? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about the law firm raises, read “Cravath Effect” Takes Place with Several Firms Upping Salary Rates.





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