Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273479
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:54 pm

I've got better than average, but not good enough for a journal, grades at a T20 in flyover country. I desperately want a BigLaw job in a certain mid-sized market on the coast. The firms in this city pay $110,000. I've been wondering whether it would help my chances to, at some point, offer to work for a lower-than-standard starting salary. On the other hand, I've never heard of anyone doing this.

Here's my thinking: say I get callbacks at 2 firms and there's a 10% chance of getting an offer at one of the firms. If I don't get an offer, I'll work a state gov't job that pays $45,000. I'd have an 18% chance of getting a job worth $110,000, otherwise I'll work for $45,000, so my EV is $57,350. On the other hand, perhaps I'd have a 50% chance at landing an offer if I tell them during my calback that I'd work for $80,000. That gives me a 75% chance of getting an offer somewhere, otherwise I'd do the govt job, so my EV would be $71,250. That's certainly an advantage, and it actually understates the true difference, which is larger because of the disparate advancement prospects between biglaw and govt. And if I'm over-estimating my chances for "playing it straight" and/or under-estimating my chances for bidding myself down, then the difference would be larger as well.

Surely I'm not the first person to think of this, so why don't more people do it? I can only think of two reasons not to do it, one of which doesn't apply to me: (1) if your chances of landing at least one offer "playing it straight" are very high or (2) if this type of gambit doesn't increase your chances of getting an offer at all, perhaps because offering to work for less signals to employers that you yourself don't think you're sufficiently qualified to land the job. Or am I missing something else here?

HyeMart
Posts: 227
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:43 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby HyeMart » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:06 pm

wut

Anonymous User
Posts: 273479
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've got better than average, but not good enough for a journal, grades at a T20 in flyover country. I desperately want a BigLaw job in a certain mid-sized market on the coast. The firms in this city pay $110,000. I've been wondering whether it would help my chances to, at some point, offer to work for a lower-than-standard starting salary. On the other hand, I've never heard of anyone doing this.

Here's my thinking: say I get callbacks at 2 firms and there's a 10% chance of getting an offer at one of the firms. If I don't get an offer, I'll work a state gov't job that pays $45,000. I'd have an 18% chance of getting a job worth $110,000, otherwise I'll work for $45,000, so my EV is $57,350. On the other hand, perhaps I'd have a 50% chance at landing an offer if I tell them during my calback that I'd work for $80,000. That gives me a 75% chance of getting an offer somewhere, otherwise I'd do the govt job, so my EV would be $71,250. That's certainly an advantage, and it actually understates the true difference, which is larger because of the disparate advancement prospects between biglaw and govt. And if I'm over-estimating my chances for "playing it straight" and/or under-estimating my chances for bidding myself down, then the difference would be larger as well.

Surely I'm not the first person to think of this, so why don't more people do it? I can only think of two reasons not to do it, one of which doesn't apply to me: (1) if your chances of landing at least one offer "playing it straight" are very high or (2) if this type of gambit doesn't increase your chances of getting an offer at all, perhaps because offering to work for less signals to employers that you yourself don't think you're sufficiently qualified to land the job. Or am I missing something else here?


while I have never heard of anyone trying this, I believe without a doubt that it wouldn't work. biglaw does not have a problem finding "warm bodies." Skadden could offer jobs at 45k a year and they could still fill their their SA class easily. why? because of the oft quoted 30/45 ratio (30k jobs for 45k graduates). either they will offer you a job or they won't. but the amount they are paying you is almost irrelevant. indeed, many firms just do it to keep in lock-step compensation for the "prestige" that comes with that.

think about it this way, firms spend $13 per minute of westlaw use. money is not the issue.

User avatar
IAFG
Posts: 6665
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:26 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby IAFG » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:12 pm

All kinds of no.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8448
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:13 pm

ololololololololo

User avatar
IAFG
Posts: 6665
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:26 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby IAFG » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:21 pm

This post inspired a Celine Dion It's All Coming Back to Me joint sing-a-long w me and HGL... ah yes, posts like this, why I stopped TLSing.

User avatar
englawyer
Posts: 1270
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:57 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby englawyer » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:22 pm

I think associate salaries are governed not by what it takes to hire fresh grads (which is minimal), but what clients will pay for "important" legal work (IE corporations paying for mergers, bet the company litigation, etc). There is only a limited amount of this work available, and thus a limited number of associate jobs.

Partners have an incentive to put associate salaries at the highest amount they can get away with that deep-pocketed clients will pay because they get to charge correspondingly higher rates and get a higher cut. and if they pay only $25/hr to associates and bill at $400/hr it might not pass the giggle test (both clients and associates will be pissed off).

what this all leads to is extremely high associate salaries and intense competition for the few jobs available from law students. this artificial scarcity also lets firms say"we hire only the best of the best" which allows for even higher rates.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8448
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:24 pm

IAFG wrote:This post inspired a Celine Dion It's All Coming Back to Me joint sing-a-long w me and HGL... ah yes, posts like this, why I stopped TLSing.


OMG I KNOW YOU IN REAL LIFE WEIRD

This thread is now about $1 pizza.

User avatar
KMaine
Posts: 862
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:57 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby KMaine » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:26 pm

Just start talking percentages and EVs during your interviews. They will think that you are so cool that they will hire you at higher-than-market salary.

User avatar
IAFG
Posts: 6665
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:26 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby IAFG » Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:56 pm

thesealocust wrote:
IAFG wrote:This post inspired a Celine Dion It's All Coming Back to Me joint sing-a-long w me and HGL... ah yes, posts like this, why I stopped TLSing.


OMG I KNOW YOU IN REAL LIFE WEIRD

This thread is now about $1 pizza.

Dude should have sprung for the $2.50 pizza. Bitches love $2.50 pizza.

MrAnon
Posts: 1615
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:08 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby MrAnon » Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:38 pm

Ideas like this are why you didn't make the cut. You show a poor understanding of market forces and a poor understanding of the organizations you are hopeful to join.

User avatar
omninode
Posts: 405
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:09 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby omninode » Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:51 pm

I wouldn't hire someone who wants to work for less than I normally pay. Here's why:

Imagine you start working for this firm at 75-80% what they normally pay. After a year or two of good work, another firm offers you a job at the market rate. You would be crazy not to take it. Knowing this is a possibility, why would I hire somebody who has every incentive to leave me as soon as they get good at their job? Makes no sense from the employer's side.

User avatar
KibblesAndVick
Posts: 541
Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2010 5:29 am

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby KibblesAndVick » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:11 pm

Biglaw pays high starting salaries because they want the best people. If you come to them and offer to take less than market it's a sign that you're not the highest caliber applicant (basically by your own admission).

Also, consider how Biglaw is structured. There are a small number of partners directing a large number of associates. The partners earn several times more than what an entry level associate makes. You're offering to save the entire firm like ~40k a year. That's not really tipping the scales one way or another. By forgoing the 40k in savings they can hire someone they actually like.

What the f.supp?
Posts: 137
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby What the f.supp? » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:26 pm

This was a great thread to read. Definitely not by the question posed, but by the very well-reasoned posts. Props folks.

User avatar
gwuorbust
Posts: 2087
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:37 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby gwuorbust » Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:08 pm

Image

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby reasonable_man » Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:09 pm

I actually interviewed a potential law clerk that made just this offer. He offered to take the position at half the salary. It didn't work and frankly, it kinda freaked me and the other associate interviewing the kid out.. We immediately went on a 10 minute diatribe about how he should never do that ever again.

Long and short, don't ever do this... It just makes you sound seriously pathetic. The kid had no shot anyway, but it was just embarrassing and awkward for everyone in the room.

What the f.supp?
Posts: 137
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby What the f.supp? » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:21 am

My little brother and I were shooting the breeze over a couple of beers and this topic came up. Would it be different if the candidate offered to work for free for, say, two weeks as a sort of trial period, and then if his/her performance was as great as promised, an offer would be extended. If, for any reason it wasn't, both would go their own ways. This would seem to ameliorate the concerns mentioned above, as this would seem to exude confidence (and not sounding as pathetic), and because the candidate, if hired, would be at full-salary, this would ameliorate the flight risk. Though the firm would incur not insignificant costs in training the person, you'd think this person trying out would be able to at least bill for something during the brief stint that could defray those firm losses.

Though I would never recommend for anyone to do this, it is still fun to think about!

Black-Blue
Posts: 279
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:46 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby Black-Blue » Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:11 am

Actually, the lower-salary associate position exists already

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/busin ... .html?_r=1
http://www.orrick.com/careers/career_as ... /index.asp

reasonable_man wrote:I actually interviewed a potential law clerk that made just this offer. He offered to take the position at half the salary. It didn't work and frankly, it kinda freaked me and the other associate interviewing the kid out.. We immediately went on a 10 minute diatribe about how he should never do that ever again.

Long and short, don't ever do this... It just makes you sound seriously pathetic. The kid had no shot anyway, but it was just embarrassing and awkward for everyone in the room.

If applicants are like true contractors (with actual bargaining power), then employers might welcome them to outbid other applicants, and the employer would weight the skill vs. cost. Unfortunately, all job applicants are commodities rather than contractors, so a lower priced applicant would be automatically seen as unworthy, just like a lower priced commodity.

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby reasonable_man » Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:37 am

What the f.supp? wrote:My little brother and I were shooting the breeze over a couple of beers and this topic came up. Would it be different if the candidate offered to work for free for, say, two weeks as a sort of trial period, and then if his/her performance was as great as promised, an offer would be extended. If, for any reason it wasn't, both would go their own ways. This would seem to ameliorate the concerns mentioned above, as this would seem to exude confidence (and not sounding as pathetic), and because the candidate, if hired, would be at full-salary, this would ameliorate the flight risk. Though the firm would incur not insignificant costs in training the person, you'd think this person trying out would be able to at least bill for something during the brief stint that could defray those firm losses.

Though I would never recommend for anyone to do this, it is still fun to think about!



I could see this working at a very small firm, where the thought of "hiring" an associate is a HUGE undertaking and the risk of a poor investment is huge. I know my firm would not go for it, but some lower level firms certainly might bite (especially a newer personal injury shop or something of that ilk).

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:43 am

Don't do it. This is not like a below median LSAT scorer having to pay full tuition while those above median get scholarships except in the respect that your proposed offer suggests that you are less qualified & might produce a lower quality work product while less likely to work like a slave to keep your job.
This may work, however, with some government positions that are under a budget freeze. Articles have been published during the last few years detailing experienced, unemployed attorneys working for free in prosecutors' offices in order to stay sharp, get exposure & expand experience.

Futuretense
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Apr 11, 2009 10:54 am

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby Futuretense » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:43 am

The correct advice has already been given: Don't do it!.
However, in answer to your question, "Am I missing something here?" I'd say you are missing even a basic understanding of what Biglaw is all about. Corporations and a few super wealthy individuals spend obscene amounts of money on the services of Biglaw because they are willing to pay for prestige. It's the same reason that people drive Bentleys and Maseratis. It feels good to drive what you think is the very best car on the road (whether it actually is the best is a separate question). If Maserati had a half off sale on all of its cars, they'd lose customers, not gain them.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8448
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jun 25, 2011 12:04 pm

Futuretense wrote:Corporations and a few super wealthy individuals spend obscene amounts of money on the services of Biglaw because they are willing to pay for prestige. It's the same reason that people drive Bentleys and Maseratis. It feels good to drive what you think is the very best car on the road (whether it actually is the best is a separate question). If Maserati had a half off sale on all of its cars, they'd lose customers, not gain them.


That's a terrible analogy. What clients are REALLY willing to pay for is expertise, particularly on transactions and litigations which are of a size that they are 'can't lose.' In an expert service industry you have no way to accurately price a service, so you pay for somebody with a proven track record. Nobody thinks hiring Cravath is a fucking status symbol, they just think they actually know how to issue high-yield debt without getting everyone involved sued into oblivion.

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby reasonable_man » Sat Jun 25, 2011 12:57 pm

thesealocust wrote:
Futuretense wrote:Corporations and a few super wealthy individuals spend obscene amounts of money on the services of Biglaw because they are willing to pay for prestige. It's the same reason that people drive Bentleys and Maseratis. It feels good to drive what you think is the very best car on the road (whether it actually is the best is a separate question). If Maserati had a half off sale on all of its cars, they'd lose customers, not gain them.


That's a terrible analogy. What clients are REALLY willing to pay for is expertise, particularly on transactions and litigations which are of a size that they are 'can't lose.' In an expert service industry you have no way to accurately price a service, so you pay for somebody with a proven track record. Nobody thinks hiring Cravath is a fucking status symbol, they just think they actually know how to issue high-yield debt without getting everyone involved sued into oblivion.



Or, publicly traded companies hire attorneys that cost $800 an hour and work at large established firms because it gives the board/C-level decision makers cover if and when something does go wrong because they chose the best counsel available (i.e. the most expensive), and therefore cannot be held accountable for a fuck up made by the lawyers.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8448
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:00 pm

Sure. Also not a "status symbol" though. There are plenty of reasons why the system has worked out the way it has, but it's just not because people enjoy the PRESTIGE and STATUS that comes with having an expensive law firm do their work.

notanumber
Posts: 485
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:28 pm

Re: Negotiating for lower BigLaw salary?

Postby notanumber » Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:26 pm

I'm going to suggest that you go against TLS wisdom and try this.

Make sure to come back here and tell us all how it goes.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.