One prominent in-house corporate counsel, Thomas Sager, chief litigation counsel at E.I. du Pont deNemours and Co., has let it be known he is NOT happy with what has been occurring with associate salary increases. And he doesn’t even mention the recently announced  “double bonuses” to be paid by year end (see my post of Tuesday last).

In an article “Down With Associate Pay! Seriously…” (free registration) published in yesterday’s New York Lawyer, that apparently also appeared in Corporate Counsel, Sager appeals to other general counsels to take action against the “appalling increase in starting salaries for first-year associates at big-city firms." He suggests:

  • Restrict the use of associates
  • Require minimum associate experience
  • Use temporary legal staff
  • Use more paralegals
  • Use alternative fee arrangements (AFAs)

It is disappointing that he doesn’t include small or mid-sized firms as part of the solution, but heck send him a meaningful letter detailing what your firm can do to help DuPont at lower rates. Don’t send a brochure. Do an unsolicited proposal that shows you’ve done your homework, to wit: that demonstrates that you know your stuff about DuPont’s issues (e.g., research cases filed against the company)  and your approach to help solve them. Heck you may even get yourself added to their “preferred provider list.” 

If it doesn’t work with DuPont, try other Fortune 1000 companies that you know could use your niche experience. I expect there is a lot of other large corporations out there that are just as upset over the associate salary increases and bonuses issues.  IMHO BigLaw will continue to ignore in-house counsel when it comes to associate pay.

Again, the situation presents business development opportunities for small to mid-size law firms. What have you got to lose?