Law.com reports that a number of big law firms in Chicago have raised their starting associate salaries to $135,000. This move follows on the heels of increases by big firms in markets on the East and West Coasts, as well as some early movers in the Chicago market like KMZ Rosenmann, which hiked its salaries in January 2006. The Law.com article can be found here.
This increase means that, for better or worse, $135,000 is the new benchmark starting salary for blue chip firms nationwide. Some firms (notably in New York City and maybe on the West Coast) may pay more, as New York-based Skadden Arps is famous for doing. (Skadden is also famous for working its associates even harder than other big firms, by the way.) But $135,000 will be the new dividing line for recent law school grads choosing between elite firms and almost-elites.
Firms that pay less than this new benchmark will be perceived as not being in the upper echelon, which is disastrous when it comes to recruiting new hires. So any big firm that is not paying this rate will almost certainly move to it soon.
Some of my other recent posts on the topic of big firm associate salaries are as follows: