Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Arakawa asks raises
for his attorneys, citing
a two-year exodus

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The pay of deputy city corporation counsels needs to be equal to other government attorneys' salaries to stop them from leaving, Corporation Counsel David Arakawa says.

Arakawa yesterday urged the city Salary Commission to give raises to his 40-member staff, saying he's lost nearly 10 lawyers in the past two years.

A large reason for the exodus, Arakawa said, is pay disparity with both the private sector and with other government attorney jobs.

A recent survey showed the starting pay for a top law school graduate entering his first job is about $60,000, Arakawa said. "That's what I pay my supervisors ... that makes it kind of hard to recruit."

The disparity increases as the years go by, he said. "The longer you stay and the more experienced you are, the bigger the hit you take in terms of pay."

That's contrary to the private practice side of the legal field, where experience is rewarded by law firms, he said.

The pay for deputy prosecutors, whose pay is also approved by the city Salary Commission, is also higher, Arakawa said. So too is the pay of attorneys in the offices of the attorney general and public defender, both funded by the state.

Arakawa, who worked both civil and criminal law when he was in private practice, said he finds it particularly discouraging that prosecutors get paid more than attorneys in his office.

Civil attorneys generally make more in private practice than criminal lawyers "out in the real world" because of the money that is often involved, he said.

The corporation counsel's office annually handles cases and contracts involving millions of dollars of taxpayer money, he said.

City attorneys, both in Arakawa's office and the prosecutor's, received 2 percent increases in 1997 and 10 percent increases in 1993.

Also yesterday, City Council Vice Chairman John Henry Felix told the panel he doesn't think he and his colleagues should get raises next year in the face of a $130 million budget shortfall.

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