According to NYT journalist, Catherine Rampell, in her May 23, 2011 story: At Well-Paying Law Firms, a Low-Paid Corner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, WilmerHale and McDermott Will & Emery are "creating a second tier of workers, stripping pay and prestige from one of the most coveted jobs in the business world".
Catherine goes on to comment on the increased challenge of debt repayment: Lower salaries make it even more difficult for newly minted lawyers to pay off their law school debt — like the $150,000 in loans that David Perry accumulated upon graduation from Northwestern University School of Law in 2009.
My Opinion: I understand completely why these and other firms need to cut costs in order to meet the demand from clients to reduce fees. In a way, this is eminently sensible — move the commodity end of the practice of law to lawyers well-equipped for the task at lower salaries. In my view, this is not nearly enough. Law firms must rethink how they do their work and must re-engineer their work in harmony with their clients. My Edge International partner, Pam Woldow, is working at an unprecedented level of sophistication with top corporate law departments (including some of Fortune’s Top 10) and AMLAW 100 law firms to help them learn Legal Project Management and how to set (genuine) Alternative Fees . If the Partners think they can sit back and sustain their historic incomes indefinitely by lowering junior lawyer salaries or creating new classes they are sadly mistaken. They need to create sustainable new models that change how we think about the practice of law.