The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

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The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:02 am

A few people revived an old thread on a NC law firm yesterday, and there hasn't been much talk about NC firms around here in the last few years. I propose this be the place for Q&A on NC firms, discussion of NC firms, etc. that isn't 3-4 years old.

My first questions of interest:

(1) how would you rank the top 5-7ish law firms in NC?

(2) If you were a law student looking to work at a large (for NC standards) law firm, which city seems the most promising/the best option: Charlotte/Raleigh/Greensboro-Winston?

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:43 pm

I've actually spent time at several firms in both Charlotte and Raleigh, and have good relationships at a lot firms I haven't. I don't know much about Winston Salem or Greensboro, but given that I've spent my entire life in NC I would say they are definitely second tier to Charlotte/Raleigh. I do transactional work so that may skew my opinion, but I think you divide NC into four categories: biglaw, regional biglaw, midlaw and other.

BIGLAW: Charlotte has national firms which pay NYC market and you work NYC hours (Dechert, Winston & Strawn, Cadwalader etc). The work is usually more sophisticated and on a national scale, few local clients in my experience. Partnership prospects arguably worse since you're at a satellite office. Churn and burn philosophy. NC ties less important, but can help. Biglaw basically doesn't exist in Raleigh. There are V100 firms in Raleigh, but I'm not aware of any which pay NYC market (for example, K&L Gates).

REGIONAL BIGLAW: This exists in both Charlotte and Raleigh, although more so in Charlotte. Typically HQ'd outside NC but with a good presence here. Examples include Womble (NC HQ and offices all over mid-Atlantic), Alston & Bird (ATL with Charlotte and RTP office), King & Spaulding (ATL with Charlotte office), McGuireWoods (offices in both Charlotte and Raleigh), Hunton & Williams (offices in both Charlotte and Raleigh) etc. I would probably put the V100 firms that don't pay NYC market here. Mostly national clients but some large regional and middle market work as well. Partnership prospects are a little better than biglaw, but still far from likely. Usually starting salary around $155,000. Hours obviously vary across firm/group but generally targets are around 2000. NC ties are more important here. Moore Van Allen arguably fits in this group, but I actually associate MVA with...

MIDLAW: Here you find your MVA and Robinson Bradshaw for top tier in Charlotte. Top tier in Raleigh is Smith Anderson. Second tier across NC includes Wyrick Robbins, Brooks Pierce, Poyner Spruill, probably others. These firms are usually HQ'd in NC, between 90 and 200 attorneys and have a starting salary around $150,000. A lot of this work is still sophisticated, but very much middle market and sourced from around NC. Hour targets 1800-1900. Partnership is almost guaranteed. NC ties are very important here.

OTHER: Everything else?

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby trmckenz » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:54 pm

This is spot on ^^^ here are my thoughts.

MVA is the top firm in Charlotte (maybe the Carolinas?). It has offices in RTP and Charleston too, but is definitely Charlotte-centric. I would argue that MVA gets the best bank work.

Robinson Bradshaw, Alston and Bird, and King and Spalding are also in the upper echelon. Womble is good too, and it may have the largest presence in NC. McGuire Woods is probably good as well. These firms don't typically pay NYC market ($180k), though IP/patent folks might get a boost.

There are also some biglaw satellites in Charlotte (Cadwalader, Winston & Strawn, etc.) that might pay $180k.

Charlotte is much more of a "city" than Raleigh. RTP can be good for IP/biotech. I know Kilpatrick has a Raleigh office. Those two are way more in the game than Greensboro/Winston-Salem...
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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby HangingAround » Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:43 pm

Good call on this thread

For some more perspective here are my impressions from spending too much time on these things for a few years, some of this could be very wrong, I'm always trying to learn more about it:

Raleigh:

At UNC's OCI we had Smith Anderson, Wyrick Robbins, K&L Gates, Poyner Spruill, Brooks Pierce, Ellis & Winters, Troutman Sanders, Smith Moore Leatherwood, Nelson Mullins, Williams Mullen, Womble, Nexsen Pruet maybe a couple others.

E&W is a really well regarded litigation boutique but is only in Raleigh and Gboro. Brooks Pierce is highly regarded as well but is only in Raleigh/Gboro/Wilmington. Parker Poe is a highly regarded regional firm with Charlotte and Raleigh offices. Womble has a substantial presence in Raleigh but it wasn't clear at OCI if they were willing to let you start in Raleigh - they seem to encourage people interested in Raleigh to move from the Winston office to Raleigh after a couple of years and I don't know anyone starting in the Raaleigh office. McGuireWoods has a decent-sized office there, didn't do OCI for that office though. SA is well regarded, especially for transactional, and is the largest in Raleigh. Wyrick is well regarded, especially for transactional. Poyner has ~50 attorneys there doing a range of things. Nexsen I don't think is a great spot to be a summer at currently, as I pointed out in the other thread in more detail. Don't know much about the others. MVA has a small RTP office and RBH has a small CH office - I think the RBH one has a SCOTUS clerk associate and the MVA one has no associates - they didn't interview for either.

Also both K&L and McGuire don't follow lockstep comp, so even though much bigger than some of the other firms the comp might follow Raleigh market. I have no idea. But the internet says they both start at 145. I think a few of the NC-centric places would pay in that ballpark though I think the midlaw may start at 95-100 and vary place by place.

A lot of these places will have a summer or two so it's tough.

Charlotte:

We had the big NY firms - Winston, Cad, Mayer, and Dechert. Though they pay the most, most people aren't gunning for these - it's heavy securitization/capital markets work except for Winston that has some lit, etc, and it's viewed as pretty transient. Katten I guess is grouped in there too.

I'd say most people targeting Charlotte would want to work at MVA, RBH, or McGuireWoods, with the idea being that even if the hours aren't that much better (another thread mentioned a 2000 hour requirement for MVA) you're not set on securitizations and have a better chance to stick around. Each has their strengths - you can look at Chambers and Partners website for some generalization for what that's worth. Parker Poe seems strong and interviewed here too. We also had Troutman, Alston & Bird, Johnston Allison & Hord, and a smattering of others. A&B is a large presence in Charlotte doing a range of things though they were specifically interviewing for a securitization-type spot, so they wanted you to come in in a specific practice group as a summer. K&L came too. I know older people got Womble Charlotte, and I imagine that's a strong office. Poyner may have a summer here. King&Spalding is around but didn't interview for Charlotte. Bell Davis and Pitt may have a summer and does lit. James McElroy may have been here too. We had a few smaller boutique-feel type tax places come interview, but I don't know much about them and they didn't seem to hire often. I think MVA/RBH, etc are paying 150 starting, and your raises would be a lot slower than at the securitization shops. Hunton interviewed here too. Bradley takes a person or two and does 1L hiring.

A lot of people at these various firms are shootoffs from Kennedy Covington which before a merger with K&L was a well regarded NC firm - I get the impression it didn't go so hot and a lot of people left or never joined the combined entity - so now the really well regarded debt finance group at mcGuirewoods and the folks that started the Troutman office and I imagine folks all over the place come from that Kennedy Covington regional-firm background so may make even larger firms have a bit different feel in the Charlotte office

ETA: I wouldn't sleep on the sophistication of the work some of the top NC-based transactional firms are doing - they're regularly working with public companies based in NC in M&A, securities, etc that I can't imagine is much different than biglaw. Though I do think it's true that'll balance with mid market as well.
Last edited by HangingAround on Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby devilblue » Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:56 pm

My opinion would be that the 2nd post above provides a good summary of the general landscape. However, I'd caution law students considering NC against thinking "oh the Charlotte biglaw firms are probably the best option because they have the national scope." The big firms in charlotte just so happen to be some of the firms that seem to be having trouble as of late -- both Cadwalader and Dechert have had major red flags/question marks come up in the last year or so nationally, so hesitate before jumping in to bed with one of those.

The better options in my opinion are the Robinson Bradshaw, Smith Anderson, MVA's. Better partnership prospects, lower hours, more job certainty, and probably better reputation in the southeast. And, if you're choosing to be in NC, national reputation doesn't matter so much because you're choosing to craft a career regionally.

I would argue that the best firm from a reputational standpoint in NC is Robinson Bradshaw. But, it's certainly not easy to get a job there. Their litigators tend to clerk (e.g., 2 supreme court clerks) and their lateral hires tend to come from the top schools and national firms with strong reputations. They do, though, have a good pipeline for UNC students as they hire a few of those each year, but I'm pretty sure those are near the top of the class.

Smith Anderson is the RBH analog of Raleigh, but attracts fewer T14-types and has more of a corporate tilt. Whereas at least 1/2 of RBH people are from T14 schools, at least 1/2 of Smith Anderson is from UNC. Very heavy UNC tilt. Probably cares the most about NC ties and a desire to specifically be in Raleigh.

Generally, students considering those firms like RBH, Smith Anderson, Brooks Pierce, etc. had better count on getting good grades, even from a T14. For example, from Duke it seems RBH tends to hire top 10% law review kids and Smith Anderson hires top 25% type kids with NC ties.

Surprised to hear someone say they think MVA is the top firm in the region. Also surprised nobody has mentioned Ellis and Winters. They've got a top tier boutique as far as NC goes -- would certainly be a place I would consider if I was a lit associate lateraling to NC. It isn't somewhere that is really feasible for students straight out of school, though, as they are too small really to support a real summer program, etc. They may have 1 or 2 students per year. Also I'm pretty sure the NC Solicitor General came from Ellis and Winters.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby HangingAround » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:01 pm

devilblue wrote:My opinion would be that the 2nd post above provides a good summary of the general landscape. However, I'd caution law students considering NC against thinking "oh the Charlotte biglaw firms are probably the best option because they have the national scope." The big firms in charlotte just so happen to be some of the firms that seem to be having trouble as of late -- both Cadwalader and Dechert have had major red flags/question marks come up in the last year or so nationally, so hesitate before jumping in to bed with one of those.

The better options in my opinion are the Robinson Bradshaw, Smith Anderson, MVA's. Better partnership prospects, lower hours, more job certainty, and probably better reputation in the southeast. And, if you're choosing to be in NC, national reputation doesn't matter so much because you're choosing to craft a career regionally.

I would argue that the best firm from a reputational standpoint in NC is Robinson Bradshaw. But, it's certainly not easy to get a job there. Their litigators tend to clerk (e.g., 2 supreme court clerks) and their lateral hires tend to come from the top schools and national firms with strong reputations. They do, though, have a good pipeline for UNC students as they hire a few of those each year, but I'm pretty sure those are near the top of the class.

Smith Anderson is the RBH analog of Raleigh, but attracts fewer T14-types and has more of a corporate tilt. Whereas at least 1/2 of RBH people are from T14 schools, at least 1/2 of Smith Anderson is from UNC. Very heavy UNC tilt. Probably cares the most about NC ties and a desire to specifically be in Raleigh.

Generally, students considering those firms like RBH, Smith Anderson, Brooks Pierce, etc. had better count on getting good grades, even from a T14. For example, from Duke it seems RBH tends to hire top 10% law review kids and Smith Anderson hires top 25% type kids with NC ties.

Surprised to hear someone say they think MVA is the top firm in the region. Also surprised nobody has mentioned Ellis and Winters. They've got a top tier boutique as far as NC goes -- would certainly be a place I would consider if I was a lit associate lateraling to NC. It isn't somewhere that is really feasible for students straight out of school, though, as they are too small really to support a real summer program, etc. They may have 1 or 2 students per year. Also I'm pretty sure the NC Solicitor General came from Ellis and Winters.


Definitely agree with all of this, except I do think MVA is among the best - especially agree that the places paying the most in Charlotte are not the most pursued. I'm not going to RBH but I've always considered it to be the best. From what I've seen for that small group of NC firms (including E&W here) you'd want to be at least top 10% at UNC and maybe even top 5%. It gets more flexible with the other firms, but I still think the people getting them had really good grades. It honestly seems harder to get a job at a decent-sized NC firm then to get random NY biglaw coming from UNC (and I don't think those chances improve by going to any other school, it's just a small, oversaturated, and sought after market). I also think it's more difficult than snagging the few true biglaw spots in Charlotte.

An interesting distinction b/w RBH and MVA is that RBH has new associates rotate through the firm's four broad practice areas for the first 12-18 months while at MVA even as a summer I believe you come in straight to transactional/litigation. Something to think about for interviews.

A good number of NC firms do do 1L positions though. A larger number do minority 1L positions through Raleigh and Charlotte-specific programs (especially the Charlotte program seems pretty substantial). Either way if you can get a 1L spot it seems like the offer rates are really high.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 15, 2017 5:03 pm

The only thing that I'd add is that MVA is not necessarily easier on hours. My brother's been there for many years in debt finance, and he works an absolute ton. Finance deals are very national, and also international, so you have calls at all hours (and also many deals to juggle).

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 15, 2017 7:30 pm

For regional biglaw, in addition to Alston & Bird, King & Spalding, McGuire Woods, and Hunton & Williams, I'd also add Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. They also have offices in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby rem1984 » Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:44 pm

Is there anything good in Asheville? I love visiting, seems like it would be an incredible place to live. But can you make a good salary/do interesting work?

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 16, 2017 1:08 am

As a 2l, who is originally from NC, with an SA at a national firm that has offices in Charlotte, but at a non-NC office what are the transfer opportunities like? Can I work for 4-5 years in the other market and then pretty easily transfer to Charlotte? Or will it be difficult because their Charlotte offices are so small and have niche practice groups? I will be doing financial services work, I am not exactly sure what this entails, but I assume the Charlotte offices will at least overlap with this kind of work.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby HangingAround » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For regional biglaw, in addition to Alston & Bird, King & Spalding, McGuire Woods, and Hunton & Williams, I'd also add Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. They also have offices in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem.


Yea they came to UNC OCI and said they were interviewing for Raleigh and Winston in NC, along with Atlanta and other bigger markets, but I haven't heard of anyone going there (or even doing a callback) in the 2L or 3L class, while I have for the other firms discussed ITT. Think they were focused on IP backgrounds and the Atlanta office. I'm probably just out of the loop on that one though.
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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby HangingAround » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:31 pm

rem1984 wrote:Is there anything good in Asheville? I love visiting, seems like it would be an incredible place to live. But can you make a good salary/do interesting work?


Ward&Smith has a small office there. They're the biggest firm (in terms of # of attorneys) in eastern NC. Probably 100 or so. The Asheville office does some interesting work with breweries though I imagine it'd be difficult to land that office. Also, they have all their summers in the Raleigh office and you spend a couple of days over the summer in the other offices (Wilmington, the HQs in New Bern, Greenville, and Asheville). You get placed in an office after the summer if you get an offer - though I think the Raleigh office is (unsurprisingly) the one growing.

Asheville is a great place though - only a 2 hour drive from Charlotte!

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby flashdril » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:52 pm

FWIW I've heard that E&W has like some insanely hyper-competitive internal atmosphere.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby deadpanic » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:01 am

rem1984 wrote:Is there anything good in Asheville? I love visiting, seems like it would be an incredible place to live. But can you make a good salary/do interesting work?


Certainly not an expert on NC law but know a bit about Asheville. It is a small market with no true big law. You are going to have to have great connections, ties, and a whole lot of luck to land a gig there.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:35 am

Anyone know anything about Kilpatrick Townsend or Womble's Winston-Salem offices? Pay, hours, partnership opportunities, etc.?

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:59 am

what is the compensation scale like at MVA and RBH (and similar firms)?

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby HangingAround » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:what is the compensation scale like at MVA and RBH (and similar firms)?


In leaner times (2010) MVA was 125k starting with 5k raises a year

https://abovethelaw.com/2010/03/nationw ... -universe/

Before that they were at 145k with larger yearly raises. That thread also contemplates bonuses even in those years from below 5k to 50k so who knows.

I think both start at 150 now (anecdotally from people heading there and if I remember right both were on NALP but now seem to be off of it) - I imagine MVA has gone above 5k a year raises - surely nothing at all similar to a NY scale though.

ETA: both are still on Nalp and say 150k starting, just wasn't getting them through my google search

To a point someone made earlier about partnership chances at these firms, MVA was reported in 2015 to have 8% of ALL associates (not just those at the end of whatever the partnership track is there) promoted to partner per year.

https://abovethelaw.com/2015/08/which-b ... rtnership/

RBH has a sweet/unusual for firms profit sharing program - "In each of the past 25 years, the firm has contributed to each participant’s account an amount equal to 10 percent of the employee’s regular cash compensation." Fully vested immediately.
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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby cdotson2 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:35 pm

HangingAround wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:what is the compensation scale like at MVA and RBH (and similar firms)?


In leaner times (2010) MVA was 125k starting with 5k raises a year

https://abovethelaw.com/2010/03/nationw ... -universe/

Before that they were at 145k with larger yearly raises. That thread also contemplates bonuses even in those years from below 5k to 50k so who knows.

I think both start at 150 now (anecdotally from people heading there and if I remember right both were on NALP but now seem to be off of it) - I imagine MVA has gone above 5k a year raises - surely nothing at all similar to a NY scale though.

To a point someone made earlier about partnership chances at these firms, MVA was reported in 2015 to have 8% of ALL associates (not just those at the end of whatever the partnership track is there) promoted to partner per year.

https://abovethelaw.com/2015/08/which-b ... rtnership/

RBH has a sweet/unusual for firms profit sharing program - "In each of the past 25 years, the firm has contributed to each participant’s account an amount equal to 10 percent of the employee’s regular cash compensation." Fully vested immediately.


I believe RBH is below 150 starting out. Vault currently has them at 130 which might be a bit low, but I talked to one of their partners a few times before and after the Cravath raise and they originally wern't going to raise at all from about 125K stating I think. They eventually raised the next year though, and I don't think they went all the way to 150. I am not sure though.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:44 am

Anonymous User wrote:Anyone know anything about Kilpatrick Townsend or Womble's Winston-Salem offices? Pay, hours, partnership opportunities, etc.?


Summered in the WS office of KTS. Last I heard pay is $135,000 (below market post $180k bump, which would be $155,000 for NC firms) for non-patent, $160,000 for patent, bonuses are pretty standard. Hours are 1750, pro bono counts up to 50. Not sure about partnership opportunities, but they don’t have a lot of lateral partners, more internal promotions. IP groups are more highly leveraged than corporate or lit

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:01 am

[/quote] I believe RBH is below 150 starting out. Vault currently has them at 130 which might be a bit low, but I talked to one of their partners a few times before and after the Cravath raise and they originally wern't going to raise at all from about 125K stating I think. They eventually raised the next year though, and I don't think they went all the way to 150. I am not sure though. [/quote]

I think RBH is at $150,000. Their NALP page states 150k and appears to be updated for 2017. Smith Anderson starts at $141 (had to get that extra thousand) so I would guess RBH is at least $140 so them stating $150 on NALP seems dispositive.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:Smith Anderson starts at $141 (had to get that extra thousand)


Smith Anderson starts out at $150,000. Salary of $141,000 plus $9,000 profit share. I believe RBH is the same, but not positive.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Summered in the WS office of KTS. Last I heard pay is $135,000 (below market post $180k bump, which would be $155,000 for NC firms) for non-patent, $160,000 for patent, bonuses are pretty standard. Hours are 1750, pro bono counts up to 50. Not sure about partnership opportunities, but they don’t have a lot of lateral partners, more internal promotions. IP groups are more highly leveraged than corporate or lit


The hour requirement is incorrect. First year hours are 1400, subsequent year hours are 1900. 50 pro bono hours count toward this requirement. Would agree with the rest of the assessment.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:49 pm

Probably already posted, but Womble is $155 (1900 hours for bonus, 1850 for good standing) in NC - https://abovethelaw.com/2016/09/the-big ... ead-south/ - like many Southern firms, the raises are not lockstep and bonuses/raises are well below major markets... it's also getting harder and harder to make equity partner and non-equity does not seem to be a huge pay raise.

Like many in NC, I started in a major market. Contrary to some other posters, I think that there is a huge difference in the training, quality and type of work done by the average local NC firms (Robinson, Womble, Wyrick, Smith Anderson, Parker Poe, etc.) vs. the average major market vault-ranked firms. But, if you want to be in NC and do not want to be in Charlotte, then a local firm is your best bet.

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Re: The Definitive Thread on NC Law Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:57 pm

I believe Parker Poe is 130k starting out. Friend of mine is summering there and his/her pay works out to 2500 a week, or 130k a year. Though I've heard from an attorney there that they revamped their compensation structure to raise first year pay (and allow for more hours from training/pro bono/recruiting to count towards the billable requirement), so maybe it is higher than that. I've always gotten the impression they pay a bit less than MVA/RBH




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