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According to the Fulton County Daily Report, Morris, Manning & Martin has joined the growing ranks of Atlanta-based firms cutting associate pay. The firm announced Friday that, effective Aug. 1, pay in the real estate, lending and tax groups will drop by 15 percent and pay for other associates will drop by 10 percent, according to its managing partner, Robert E. Saudek. Bonuses are not affected.

Saudek said a decline in legal work plus the readjustment of the associate salary market prompted the cuts. "Clients are not generating as much legal work, particularly in the real estate and corporate areas, as they do most years," he said in a voice mail. "Billable rates are receiving a lot of pressure, and billable hours are not as high as in prior years."

Saudek added that the market salary for associates is resetting at lower rates. He noted starting salaries increased 45 percent between 2005 and 2008, but now are declining by about 10 percent. "We feel we need to be with the market, but not above it," he said.

Starting pay at Atlanta's big firms jumped to $145,000 at the beginning of 2008. That has been followed by waves of layoffs this year.

Morris Manning has 156 lawyers, with 55 associates, according to the Martindale-Hubbell Web site.

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