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DLA Piper plans to revise its traditional route to partnership

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has initiated a firm-wide review of existing career paths. Midway through a planned reorganization, the firm is exploring the viability of adding a new position to bridge the gap between associate and partner, which is likely to be called ‘director’.

The international giant is the latest in a line of major firms to remodel the traditional partnership track. DLA Piper’s national rival Addleshaw Goddard has already implemented a legal director position as an additional step on the route to partner. In December, Allen & Overy revealed plans to alter its career structure by introducing the new job titles of managing associate and counsel.

The issue of career progression has become imperative in recent years, as lawyers look to strike a work-life balance. DLA Piper managing partner Nigel Knowles commented, “You could hardly describe [DLA Piper] as a sweatshop. We fully expect people to have an independent life and plenty of interests outside the firm.”

DLA Piper’s review, which is headed up by global chief people officer Robert Halton, includes regional managing partners and practice group heads. It is expected to be completed by the summer. The review comes shortly after DLA Piper followed the current market trend of hiking pay rates for first-year associates. Starting salaries at the firm’s US offices will now jump to $135,000, marking an increase of $10,000.


Pressure mounts on East Coast firms to raise associate salaries

The recent rash of associate salary hikes on the West Coast has put the pressure on New York law firms to remain competitive by offering higher associate salaries.

After West Coast firms Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers increased entry-level salaries from $125,000 to $135,000, numerous law firms, including Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Latham & Watkins followed suit. Their leading New York counterparts have yet to raise their associate pay rates. Washington, DC-based Hogan & Hartso, however, recently increased salaries for senior-level associates but decided to hold first-year associate salaries at $125,000.

Industry experts speculate that many firms will increase bonuses, rather than base rates. National firms Bingham McCutchen and Sidley Austin have already begun offering larger associate bonuses in place of salary increases.


U.S. law firm presence growing overseas

Overseas offices of top U.S. law firms are steadily increasing in number. According to data collected from The National Law Journal, the nation largest 250 law firms have more than doubled their ranks of attorneys in Europe.

The number of U.S. attorneys in Asia has increased by 60%, a fact attributed to the rapid growth of the Chinese market. Brad Hildebrandt, chairman of legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International, states that more large and mid-size firms are trying to compete with the largest international national firms. As a result, they are opening or enlarging overseas offices. The largest firms, meanwhile, are strengthening their presence in the top foreign markets, while expanding into the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

“Most firms want to be in three major financial spots,” said Hildebrandt. “It's a really different model; you have the Baker & McKenzies, DLAs [Piper Rudnick Gray Cary] and Clifford Chances doing a lot of work around the world, then you have the large American firms with offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt, maybe Tokyo.”


McGuire Woods to merge with Gordon & Glickson

After a prolonged period of contemplation, Chicago-based Gordon & Glickson has agreed to merge with Virginia-based McGuireWoods. This will be McGuireWoods’ second Chicago-area merger, the first being with Ross & Hardies in 2003.

After last year’s ousting of partner Ted Tetzlaff, McGuireWoods hopes this merger will bring in new business. McGuire Woods representatives say Gordon & Glickson will not only help them develop a base in Chicago but also improve their national standings.

Gordon & Glickson has built a reputation for serving clients in hi-tech industries. McGuireWoods plans to establish a new technology and business department around them.

According to reports, Gordon & Glickson will begin moving into McGuireWood’s new office by mid-February.


Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP ties up with leading Italian law firm Studio Legale Tonucci

With the recently announced alliance between international law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP and leading Italian law firm Studio Legale Tonucci, access to top-tier legal services in key geographic business centers around the world is assured. Both firms are well respected for their insurance and reinsurance practice and their advice in the employment, energy, competition and antitrust, intellectual property, real estate, tax, and technology sectors.

The recipient of Rome’s “European Personality 2005” award for its accomplishments in the legal sector, Studio Legale Tonucci’s more than 200 lawyers across its offices in Italy and Eastern Europe serve clients across the continent. It will form a natural complement to Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP’s existing European network. Together the two firms will work closely together across all areas of legal advice to clients.

Mario Tonucci, Senior Partner, Studio Legale Tonucci, added: “Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is a firm with enviable market reputation, partner expertise, and global capabilities. We are eager to embark on this formalized relationship with one of the most respected international law firms in the world, to be able to offer our clients access to consistent high quality legal advice in key European and U.S. jurisdictions. We have been great friends with Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw for a number of years and I see this as a logical development for us.”

Ty Fahner, Chairman, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, added: “This development clearly increases our European footprint, adding to Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw's extensive network, including its operations in Europe, the US, and close ties into China and South America. This has been a clear objective since our combination in 2002. Italy is a highly competitive market with a number of global household names in the business world. It is dynamic and exciting to have a formalized relationship here, where all parties stand to gain.”


New Associates at Bryan Cave, Thompson Coburn to Earn Six Figures

The wave of associate salary increases is hitting the Midwest. Two of St. Louis’ largest firms, Bryan Cave and Thompson Coburn have announced a $10,000 increase in base level salaries. First year associates at both firms will receive $100,000 per year.

Other local firms including Armstrong Teasdale LLP and Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale PC have announced a new $90,000 figure for their base-level associates, as opposed to their previous $80,000 and $85,000 salaries, respectively.

Additionally, Thompson Coburn will hire 16 new first-year associates this fall. While other big firms in the area have increased the size of summer associates working for them, others are reducing their numbers according to workload and other factors.


Touchstone Bernays' lawyers quit to form a new firm

Several attorneys with Dallas-based Touchstone, Bernays, Johnston, Beall & Smith have announced plans to leave the firm at the end of the month to open their own practice. These 24 lawyers, chiefly insurance defense litigators, will form Walters, Balido & Crain. Touchstone Bernays partner Gregory Ave will serve as Walters Balido’s managing partner.

Many of the 24 departing partners have devoted their entire legal careers to Touchstone Bernays and will reportedly bring several large Touchstone Bernays clients with them to Walters Balido.

Expressing shock over the sudden departures, Touchstone Bernays’ managing partner Sidney H. Davis Jr. says the firm may reduce the amount of space it leases in in downtown Dallas because of its reduced headcount. Walters Balido representatives claim the firm is undecided on where in Dallas to lease office space.


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