Large law associates rake in cash as more firms match Cravath pay

Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP are located in Manhattan, New York City
Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is located in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore is paying its most senior associates up to $415,000 in base salary
  • More large firms adopted Cravath pay rates this week

(Reuters) - Associates at more U.S. law firms will receive an increase in base salary as firms continue to match rates set earlier this week by Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which went beyond the market scale for midlevel and senior associates.

More law firms have joined the parade of large firms that rushed to match the new Cravath scale, which reached $415,000 for its most senior associates.

The fast-moving pay war between some of the largest U.S. law firms comes as the legal industry battles for talent, particularly for experienced associates. Firms saw high demand from clients for their work in 2021.

Firms have continued to raise base salaries and dole out bonuses to associates over the past 18 months in an effort to attract and retain lawyers.

Large law firms including White & Case, Vinson & Elkins, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Kirkland & Ellis, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Sidley Austin and Foley Hoag said in internal memos this week that they are matching Cravath's scale.

Hueston Hennigan, a California-based midsize litigation firm also raised salaries to Cravath's levels, according to an internal memo.

Cravath's scale surpassed compensation rates for midlevel and senior associates set last week by rival Wall Street firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell, which topped its scale at $396,500. Davis Polk's range exceeded that of Milbank, another New York-founded firm that unveiled its own raises in January.

Two other firms that matched Cravath, Debevoise & Plimpton and Latham & Watkins, showed in internal memos an extra salary tier of $425,000 for the associate class of 2013 and senior. Cravath topped out at $415,000 for the associate class of 2014.

Read more:

Cravath leapfrogs rival firms' pay, offering associates up to $415K

Large law firms rush to match Cravath's salary hikes for associates

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.