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Firms Paying Junior Lawyers to Work in Public-Interest Jobs During Downturn

March 23, 2009

In During Downturn, Some Firms Paying Lawyers to Do Good Ashby Jones writes “as law firms cope with a drop-off in their business, some are testing out a novel strategy: paying junior lawyers to work in public-interest jobs. Some are even paying their associates simply not to come in for a while.” 

For example, Jones notes:

Morgan Lewis, for instance, has delayed the start date for 68 incoming lawyers by one year, until the fall of 2010. But the firm will pay the lawyers up to $70,000 each if they take on such jobs as litigating at a public defender’s office or providing corporate-law advice to a nonprofit organization. Pillsbury Winthrop has extended a one-year offer to pay salary and benefits to each of 55 laid-off lawyers who takes on a public-interest job.

Skadden has offered all of its associates and incoming lawyers the option to take a year off to pursue “personal or professional interests” at one-third of their salary plus benefits. And Latham & Watkins has offered $75,000 to any incoming lawyer who wants to take the year off and start in the fall of 2010.

Jones further notes:

Of course, most big firms aren’t taking this approach; opting instead for layoffs. And those that are can articulate cold, hard business reasons for such moves, like buoying their reputations or making sure they have enough lawyers around if and when the economy improves.

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