Hmm, sorry, but can't give an educated opinion on specialist positions. For generalists, they start experienced hires at associate level to learn the "McK way" of doing things - but these people can progress through to the next levels very rapidly. Comp can increase pretty rapidly for generalists (annual % raises in double figures is pretty normal), so in the long run someone joining the Firm will often end up earning more than they would have in an industry position - that's what I meant by temporary.
I presume that the same logic is applied for specialists.
By the way, 7 Years experience is nothing unusual for an experienced hire associate - plenty of people who started with me were in their early thirties.