Here’s just one example: At Arent Fox, Chairman Marc Fleischaker says senior associates can earn as much as $280,000 in base salary and — if they meet targets for generating business — an additional $100,000 in bonuses. Total: $380,000. First-year nonequity partners start off with a pay rate of $310,000. But they subtract $20,000 to cover their own benefits. Their total: $290,000.
Actually, it is not a mistake, and there is a "good" business reason for the dichotomy. Anyone who wants to be partner is willing to invest for the long term, so, if you are a higher ranking partner, you have an opportunity to take a cut out of their income and they are very unlikely to complain (or not to seek partnership) because they want to end up in the same position you are in.
The problem, as I see it, is that you guarantee everyone at the firm sees their relationship in purely business terms, with no real sense of loyalty or commitment but rather a standard market transaction. Far be it from me to bemoan the loss of professionalism at corporate law firms — I doubt corporate firms from decades past had any stronger sense of communalism — but I don’t think unbridled intraoffice competition is a good business model in terms of professional satisfaction or professional service.