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Starting pay for lawyers hits $180K; Pittsburgh firms feel the heat

The bar for new lawyers’ salaries has been raised to a new high of $180,000 and as the trend ripples through 77 of the country’s largest firms, the jury’s out on how Pittsburgh plays. There’s no doubt it will pay.

The acknowledged top starting salary paid in Pittsburgh is $140,000.

Raising starting pay is just the start. It also means increases for associates at all levels and begs the question how to justify the cost. The prerecession strategy of increasing rates to clients no longer works because corporate law departments are pushing back.

“It affects the entire legal ecosystem,” said Jacob Rooksby, assistant professor at Duquesne University’s School of Law. “It puts pressure on firms at all levels to analyze what they’re paying associates and how competitive they can hope to be. There’s a reputation-driven market for the national firms, and given how rate conscious clients already are, this can be unsettling to businesses.”

This does not necessarily mean rates clients are charged are going up.

“It’s a matter of what this will do to partner compensation,” Rooksby said.

“I think general counsels are too outspoken as to what they’re willing to absorb and right now, I hear it’s nothing,” said Lori Carpenter, president of recruitment firm Carpenter Legal Search. “They’re not willing to pay to train the associates, so firms are going to have to handle that and either do more work or absorb it at the partner level.”

Read More: Starting pay for lawyers hits $180K; Pittsburgh firms feel the heat - by Patty Tascarella, Pittsburgh Business Times

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