Davis Polk ups senior associate salaries in latest round of pay war

The logo of the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell is seen in their legal offices in New York City, New York
Davis Polk & Wardwell offices in New York City. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Davis Polk to pay most senior associates $396,500 per year
  • Large U.S. law firms continue upping compensation ante in battle for associate talent

(Reuters) - Davis Polk & Wardwell said on Tuesday in an internal memo it would raise salaries for mid-level and senior associates beyond the industry ceiling set last month by another large law firm, Milbank.

U.S. law firms in the past two years have offered increasingly competitive salaries and bonuses to associates, as legal industry leaders seek to attract and retain lawyers to deal with a surge in transactions work.

Fourth-year associates at Davis Polk will see the smallest salary bump on the new scale, as their pay will increase to $293,500 from $285,000, according to the memo. The largest increase in pay is for the most senior Davis Polk associates, to $396,500 from $385,000.

Davis Polk will match, but not exceed, Milbank's pay scale for lower-level associates, which starts at $215,000 for first years.

The new pay is retroactive to Jan. 1 and will apply to U.S. attorneys in good standing on March 15, according to the Davis Polk memo.

Davis Polk is the first law firm to exceed Milbank, which said in January it would increase associate salaries by up to $20,000. Several other U.S. law firms soon matched that pay scale.

Some large law firms are likely to follow Davis Polk's lead on salary in the coming weeks. But industry experts have said that while the highest-grossing firms have the cash to keep up with continually escalating pay, others may not be able to.

Another high-revenue Wall Street firm and frequent pay pacesetter, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday on the possibility of its own associate raises.

Read more:

Associate raises are back. Will fewer law firms follow this time?

N.Y. law firms raise starting salaries to $215,000 as lawyer pay race continues

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.