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The first rollback: McGuireWoods to cut pay for new lawyers

Peter Vieth//March 16, 2009

The first rollback: McGuireWoods to cut pay for new lawyers

Peter Vieth//March 16, 2009

Law firms across Virginia, and indeed across the country, have announced a freeze on pay for associates. Some firm leaders wondered aloud if salaries should not be reduced. But the firms have watched each other, waiting for someone to make a move.

In a “next step” after freezing salary levels for its newest attorneys, McGuireWoods LLP confirmed last week that it will drop starting pay for new lawyers coming on board this fall.

The Richmond-based firm will cut first-year pay by 10 percent this year to ensure a pay gap between the class of 2009 and last year’s new associates.

A source close to firm management indicates the number of hires will remain about the same, around 47.

There are variations in new associate pay at the four McGuireWoods offices across the commonwealth. With the salary cuts, the newly minted lawyers will make $144,000 in Northern Virginia; $130,500 in Richmond and Norfolk; and $117,000 in Charlottesville.
To date, the firm has not had to lay off any attorneys, the source reports.

After the McGuireWoods announcement, Virginia Lawyers Weekly sought to contact leaders at 10 large firms throughout Virginia to see if, and how, they would answer. The inquiry produced few responses about possible cuts in starting pay. Officials at two Norfolk-based firms, Vandeventer Black and Kaufman & Canoles, said those firms had “no such plans.”

At press time, DC’s Venable announced that it was cutting 16 lawyers and 48 staffers. No word on how the cuts will be spread among the firm’s offices. Venable, originally a Baltimore firm that now has DC as its base, has a large office in Tysons Corner, employing about 60 attorneys there.

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