Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

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Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:41 am

Do people negotiate compensation as an incoming first-year associate at biglaw firms that are not strictly lock-step? I can imagine people with multiple offers and relevant work experience might have some degree of leverage, but I could also see a law student attempting to negotiate a 160k offer being perceived as taboo. Does this happen?

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Desert Fox
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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Desert Fox » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:42 am

Anonymous User wrote:Do people negotiate compensation as an incoming first-year associate at biglaw firms that are not strictly lock-step? I can imagine people with multiple offers and relevant work experience might have some degree of leverage, but I could also see a law student attempting to negotiate a 160k offer being perceived as taboo. Does this happen?


How not lockstep are we talking?

Sometimes people try to get bumped up a class or two but only with relevant experience or sometimes a JDMBA

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:59 am

Desert Fox wrote:How not lockstep are we talking?

It's a general question. I'd imagine that negotiation is standard procedure at firms with fully individualized compensation, although possibly even at such firms, incoming first-years might not be so bold as to attempt to negotiate. My question would apply to those firms as well as firms that target the NYC lock-step scale but have a flex/merit component to base salary.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:How not lockstep are we talking?

It's a general question. I'd imagine that negotiation is standard procedure at firms with fully individualized compensation, although possibly even at such firms, incoming first-years might not be so bold as to attempt to negotiate. My question would apply to those firms as well as firms that target the NYC lock-step scale but have a flex/merit component to base salary.


I know a few people at my firm (non-lockstep bonus firm) that took especially long to accept their offer because they had so many. The firm knew that they had tons of other offers and was very happy to get them. I have a feeling that would bump them up come bonus time, but I don't think they even tried to negotiate a higher salary. That seems a bit crazy.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:How not lockstep are we talking?

It's a general question. I'd imagine that negotiation is standard procedure at firms with fully individualized compensation, although possibly even at such firms, incoming first-years might not be so bold as to attempt to negotiate. My question would apply to those firms as well as firms that target the NYC lock-step scale but have a flex/merit component to base salary.


I know a few people at my firm (non-lockstep bonus firm) that took especially long to accept their offer because they had so many. The firm knew that they had tons of other offers and was very happy to get them. I have a feeling that would bump them up come bonus time, but I don't think they even tried to negotiate a higher salary. That seems a bit crazy.

Would you mind explaining why it seems crazy to you? Would be interested to get an inside perspective as to why negotiating would be taboo. And is the firm lock-step for base salary?

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby kaiser » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:18 pm

Even the firms with individualized compensation schemes usually have a set 1st year figure, precisely to avoid that kind of situation.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby jarofsoup » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:28 pm

No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby mr.hands » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:19 pm

jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:30 pm

mr.hands wrote:
jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...


If every TLS user refuses to accept a big law offer lower the 190k, the firms will be forced to raise 1st year salaries.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:41 pm

mr.hands wrote:
jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...

To be fair, a candidate with multiple offers has similar leverage since they can go to another firm. In other industries, a candidate could leverage the fact that the firm prefers them over the replacement candidate to negotiate better compensation than the firm would pay the replacement candidate. But biglaw firms evidently don't act like businesses in this regard.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:47 pm

Please try this and report back.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby cookiejar1 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
mr.hands wrote:
jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...

To be fair, a candidate with multiple offers has similar leverage since they can go to another firm. In other industries, a candidate could leverage the fact that the firm prefers them over the replacement candidate to negotiate better compensation than the firm would pay the replacement candidate. But biglaw firms evidently don't act like businesses in this regard.


This is highly industry specific and biglaw is not an industry receptive to first year comp. negotiation.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby kaiser » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:12 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:
mr.hands wrote:
jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...


If every TLS user refuses to accept a big law offer lower the 190k, the firms will be forced to raise 1st year salaries.


Nope, they would just rely on the non-TLS crowd. Remember that junior associate hiring is just a matter of finding cogs to stuff into the machine, grind them out until they wear away, and then replace them again. Its not like the firms would be any worse off.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:17 pm

Slightly tailored hypothetical: Let's say you have substantial work experience that's directly on point. Say you're looking at patent associate positions and you worked as a patent agent before starting school. Would it be crazy to ask for a class year bump in consideration of your prior work experience?

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Slightly tailored hypothetical: Let's say you have substantial work experience that's directly on point. Say you're looking at patent associate positions and you worked as a patent agent before starting school. Would it be crazy to ask for a class year bump in consideration of your prior work experience?


In most industries, salary negotiation is standard, so I'm not sure why law should be different. If you have offers with higher comp (either in law or something else), it makes sense that you should bring those to the table. In my own experience, sometimes companies will find creative ways to get around the appearance they're giving you favorable treatment (when I moved firms in the financial industry, the new firm gave me a "relocation package" as well as an annualized 20k "guaranteed bonus" paid monthly...so they didn't have to technically pay me a salary above others with my seniority, but in essence that's what they were doing).

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby BearLaw » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Slightly tailored hypothetical: Let's say you have substantial work experience that's directly on point. Say you're looking at patent associate positions and you worked as a patent agent before starting school. Would it be crazy to ask for a class year bump in consideration of your prior work experience?


In most industries, salary negotiation is standard, so I'm not sure why law should be different. If you have offers with higher comp (either in law or something else), it makes sense that you should bring those to the table. In my own experience, sometimes companies will find creative ways to get around the appearance they're giving you favorable treatment (when I moved firms in the financial industry, the new firm gave me a "relocation package" as well as an annualized 20k "guaranteed bonus" paid monthly...so they didn't have to technically pay me a salary above others with my seniority, but in essence that's what they were doing).


Highlighted the relevant part for you. Law is not generally one of those areas where there is salary negotiation at the higher levels. Big firms pay market. Market will not budge for you. Regardless of prior experience, there will be someone else that can do a first years job as well as you for market.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby BeenDidThat » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
mr.hands wrote:
jarofsoup wrote:No. You can't. It's lock step and they don't care about you that much. lateral maket is more competitive.


This. What kind of leverage do you think you have? They'll can find someone else to come in as a junior associate...

To be fair, a candidate with multiple offers has similar leverage since they can go to another firm. In other industries, a candidate could leverage the fact that the firm prefers them over the replacement candidate to negotiate better compensation than the firm would pay the replacement candidate. But biglaw firms evidently don't act like businesses in this regard.


Lol, yeah, biglaw firms do act like businesses in this regard...businesses in their industry, with same hiring context. They don't let chumps with no true leverage (there are 100 other potential 1st years and they don't have good ways to discriminate between candidates for talent aside from shitty proxies like grades...and there are still tons of potential 1st years with good/great grades from good/great schools) tell them how to spend their money.

Other industries' candidates aren't necessarily as fungible. MBA students generally have more diverse backgrounds (some consulted, some K-MBA, some in management for some time before MBA). Probably more negotiation there.

At 90+% of biglaw firms, if you were to mention this, you'd get laughed at, at best--unless you have some very rare set of skills (e.g. PhD elec. eng. going into IP lit).

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby philly33 » Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:39 am

It amazes me how quickly law students are to just fall in line and accept things as impossible. If you were torn between two or three firms and one of them wasn't lockstep, it's not crazy to think that the firm might at least enterain paying you slightly more if you're an attractive candidate. I know of someone who was able to use a summer associate scholarship at one firm to leverage another firm that doesn't usually give scholarships to match it. Yeah most candidates probably shouldn't take this approach, but if you're a particularly attractive candidate for some reason (work experience, diversity, IP, etc) it's possible.

There may be plenty of bodies available, but competition for the top candidates is much more intense than people acknowledge.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:55 pm

It might be helpful to filter out the speculation from students. Would be great to hear from current associates at non-lockstep firms (biglaw or boutique) about how attempting to negotiate would be perceived. There was a mention earlier in the thread of candidates bargaining a class year bump -- was that first-year or lateral bargaining?

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:06 pm

At my firm, and at most firms, there is zero way this would fly for a first-year associate straight out of law school.

I can imagine a few circumstances where an incoming lateral associate might be able to negotiate compensation:

1. Supreme Court clerks;
2. Associates with portable business;
3. Associates with very rare skill sets (technical degree in rare/specialized field; niche government/regulatory experience; first-chaired multiple jury trials at a boutique; stuff like that).

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Slightly tailored hypothetical: Let's say you have substantial work experience that's directly on point. Say you're looking at patent associate positions and you worked as a patent agent before starting school. Would it be crazy to ask for a class year bump in consideration of your prior work experience?

I think when I interviewed at Frommer, they mentioned having a scientific adviser/patent agent program where:

1. You work (bill) 40 hours per week as an agent.
2. You go to law school at night.
3. They pay you a salary while you're in school.
4. They pay your tuition.
5. You start as a 3rd year associate after you graduate/pass the bar.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby worldtraveler » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:04 pm

I do know someone who did this, but it was a patent attorney with 2 PhDs in the hard sciences and spoke fluent Japanese and Mandarin.

You are probably not that person, so I wouldn't count on that working.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Slightly tailored hypothetical: Let's say you have substantial work experience that's directly on point. Say you're looking at patent associate positions and you worked as a patent agent before starting school. Would it be crazy to ask for a class year bump in consideration of your prior work experience?


Yes they usually will bump you to second or third year salary if your agent and associate are in the same firm. And some firms will even pay for your tuition. But not sure how it plays out the agent and associate are different firms.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:57 pm

At my firm they are willing to give increases if you've already passed the patent bar. But I haven't heard of any of our other first years ever getting above market.

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Re: Negotiating BigLaw First-Year Associate Compensation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 28, 2015 4:05 pm

A lot of patent firms give class years upgrades for being an examiner or for being a "student associate" full time.

Kirkland gives a year upgrades for JD/MBA.




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