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While candor is the rule at law firms when it comes to associate pay, partner compensation is normally cloaked in secrecy and rarely comes to light. But here’s a case that has opened the doors on pay rates and procedures.

While candor is the rule at law firms when it comes to associate pay, partner compensation is normally cloaked in secrecy and rarely comes to light. But here's a case that has opened the doors on pay rates and procedures. 3

Duane Quaini, former chairman of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, took the witness stand last week and had to answer questions about a subject most people would find uncomfortable: his salary.

He testified in a case in a Washington, D.C., court brought by a former partner who is suing the firm over inadequate pay.

The trial, which began this month, has shed some juicy morsels about Sonnenschein’s compensation. While candor is the rule at law firms when it comes to associate pay, partner compensation is normally cloaked in secrecy and rarely comes to light. The trial also has highlighted conflicting views about how partner compensation is set at Sonnenschein, whose inner workings are probably not much different than most big law firms.

Douglas Rosenthal sued the firm shortly after leaving it in July 2005, claiming he was underpaid by about $8.5 million from 2003 through 2006 for his work on two high-profile cases that paid $37 million in fees to the firm.

Douglas Rosenthal sued the firm shortly after leaving it in July 2005, claiming he was underpaid by about $8.5 million from 2003 through 2006 for his work on two high-profile cases that paid $37 million in fees to the firm.

In the first suit, he helped secure a $2.7 billion settlement for the families of the 270 victims in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The other was a $2 billion settlement in Sun Microsystems Inc.’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp.

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