In another sign that L.A.'s largest law firms are surpassing pre-tech bubble compensation levels, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP plans to raise its annual salaries for first-year associates by $10,000, to $135,000, according to a source within the firm.


First-year associate pay is carefully watched because it helps firms in recruiting and marketing. Senior associates, whose pay levels are monitored less closely, would receive only $5,000 increases.


Gibson's decision follows earlier announcements by Irell & Manella LLP and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP to raise their first-year associate salaries to the same levels. However, Gibson's pay hikes are the first to occur among the city's largest law firms.


"All associate salaries have been flat for a long time, so it's overdue," said Peter Zeughauser, a legal consultant at the Zeughauser Group. "Once a firm like Gibson Dunn jumps into the fray, with Irell already there and Quinn Emanuel, everybody has to do it."


He said he wouldn't be surprised if other major firms, such as Latham & Watkins LLP and O'Melveny & Myers LLP, would follow suit within weeks of Gibson's announcement.


Gibson's managing partner and chairman, Ken Doran, did not return calls.


Toothache
The American Dental Association is preparing to go to trial in a defamation case against a Van Nuys lawyer who has sued the trade organization for allegedly exposing patients to high levels of mercury in fillings made of amalgam, which is an alloy of mercury and silver.


Shawn Khorrami, who has his own law office, had sued the ADA and other dental groups for allegedly endangering the public by encouraging its members to use mercury fillings. Statements made by Khorrami on his Web site and in press releases are false and defamatory, according to the ADA, which filed a federal lawsuit against the attorney in 2002.


Court documents filed by the ADA maintain that Khorrami falsely said the association had made efforts "to conceal the dangers associated with amalgam for the financial benefit of itself and those of organized dentistry" and had "exercised undue and unfair pressure on dentists not to warn their patients of the dangers of mercury." In addition, the suit said, Khorrami concluded that "amalgam fillings represent nothing more than a con on the U.S. population, orchestrated by the American Dental Association and its web of constituent associations."


Both parties are expected to meet for mandatory settlement discussions later this month. A trial, originally scheduled this month, was recently re-scheduled for April.


"The defamation case is based entirely upon statements made on his Web site about the ADA in which he was advertising for potential clients," said Melvin Avanzado, a partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP who represents the ADA.


Khorrami, whose Web site no longer includes the alleged statements but makes brief reference to the ADA's "illegal business practices in concealing the risks associated with such fillings," did not return calls.


Breakup Busts
Democratic members of Congress were not the only ones to praise a decision by House Republicans to eliminate a proposal that would have split the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


Mary Schroeder, chief judge of the 9th Circuit, said she was relieved that the proposal had been left out of a budget bill on Dec. 19. "It's been a very serious threat because the leadership of the House has pushed for it," said Schroeder, whose courtroom is in Phoenix. "The majority of our judges don't want the split."


She said a split would have overloaded bankruptcy courts and caused confusion at the Mexican border, where two separate circuits with different rules would have been in charge of handling immigration cases.


House Republicans had argued that the rulings of the 9th Circuit, which decided in 2002 that the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion because of the phrase "under God," are more liberal than those in the rest of the country.


The proposal would have split the 9th Circuit, which includes nine states, by creating a new 9th Circuit made up of California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. A new 12th Circuit would have encompassed Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona.


Comings & Goings
Frank Kaplan, a partner at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP, has been reappointed to the California Law Revision Commission by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The commission prepares reports on reforming the legal system. Kaplan has been a member since 2002 Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP has promoted five Los Angeles lawyers to become partner. Firm-wide, 18 lawyers received promotions Holland & Knight named three Los Angeles lawyers as new partners in the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP named one lawyer in Los Angeles as a new partner .A six-lawyer team lead by partner Tom Hopkins at Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP represented Jamdat Mobile Inc. in its proposed $680 million sale to Electronic Arts Inc.


*Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com .

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