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Taking Pay to Stay Away

June 14, 2009

In the era of delayed start dates and alternative approaches to layoffs, this one probably takes the cake.  New York firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore announced that it was offering its incoming first year associates a paid deferral of $80,000.  This arrangement, which comes with $1,000 monthly stipends, is both optional for this year’s first years and does not appear to be contingent on obtaining substitute employment in public interest.

Essentially, the firm is giving its incoming first years a choice: you can come in and work for long hours your first year for $160,000+, or you can go away for a year, do whatever you want (travel, play golf, write legal treatises) at half that amount.  Granted, the paid deferral is anything but chump change, as it exceeds the starting pay of some first year attorneys.  Still, given the option, is it better to start off your legal career or essentially take a year off while getting paid to do so?

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