IP Litigation Boutique Desmarais Tops Associate Salary Scale
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Desmarais LLP

Summary: New York IP litigation boutique Desmarais is the new ruler of the associate salary scale, raising the bar by $20,000 over what Cravath set earlier this month.

Desmarais is not going to be left behind. The New York-based intellectual property law firm announced their new associate salary rate, beating all the competition. Cravath, Swaine & Moore once again set a standard that Desmarais has squashed, according to


Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy made the first announcement this season that Cravath quickly beat. A number of law firms have matched the new associate salaries, starting at $190,000 but Desmarais wanted to stand out. Susman Godfrey previously held the top spot for a short time when they announced they would exceed Cravath’s scale by $5,000.

The law firm beat the standard by $20,000, putting first-year associate pay at $210,000. Founding partner John Desmarais, a former head of the IP litigation practice at Kirkland & Ellis, said, “We want to hire the best people available.”

Desmarais added, “We compete with Cravath and Kirkland and the other big firms at recruiting.” Salaries are “one of the things that differentiate us, [and] it allows us to make a very credible play for the toy people coming out of the top law schools.”

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The law firm, founded in 2010, has around 30 associates and just under a dozen partners. This is the second time they have decided to go above the top market rate for associate compensation. In 2016, when Cravath also set the high mark for Big Law associate salaries, Desmarais announced they were going higher by $20,000 for each associate level.

The salary increase is part of an effort by Desmarais to remain competitive, showing associates that they are committed to generous benefits. Desmarais said, “We’re treating the associates like part of the project and trying to build a feeling around the firm that is conveying to associates that we actually care about them and care about their development.”

While some firms are increasing billing rates to counter increased salary rates, Desmarais operates under a different model. The law firm negotiates a flat monthly fee with for services. He added, “We make money by handling matters efficiently with small lean teams, and its all that’s really necessary to have a successful practice. We get rewarded financially by efficiency, whereas the big firms get rewarded by armies of young lawyers doing tasks.”

Desmarais will also be giving summer bonuses to its 29 associates on June 29 just like Simpson, Thacher & Barlett and Cravath.

The new associate salary scale, effective July 1:

First-year associate: $210,000

Second-year associate: $220,000

Third-year associate: $240,000

Fourth-year associate: $275,000

Fifth-year associate: $300,000

Sixth-year associate: $325,000

Seventh-year associate: $345,000

Eighth-year associate: $360,000

Do you think another firm will step up and try to beat out the rest or is the new rate higher than most firms can handle? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the law firm salary announcements, read these articles:




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