how much to ask for?

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how much to ask for?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:28 am

there is an opening at a national (7 offices, mostly in major cities) law firm to do complex litigation. it has about 60 attorneys total. posting says clerkship required (doesn't specify fed, though). one of the posting's stated requirements is for the CL to request a salary. i have no idea where to begin. i will be applying to a branch in a major, fairly high COL city.

i will be coming off a fed clerkship (no work experience prior), but i like the idea of having a better work-life balance so I am at least intrigued by this posting.

how much should i be requesting? would a firm of this size give a clerkship bonus?

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 2:23 pm

Perhaps you should worry about compensation once you have an offer. It's generally not something you talk about unless you have an offer or an offer is imminent.

Additionally, they may have hired someone of your education and experience once before (maybe), so they probably already have a good idea of a starting salary. I would ask what someone of comparable education and experience would get. Maybe $90k? Maybe $110k? Maybe $125k?

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 3:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Perhaps you should worry about compensation once you have an offer. It's generally not something you talk about unless you have an offer or an offer is imminent.

Additionally, they may have hired someone of your education and experience once before (maybe), so they probably already have a good idea of a starting salary. I would ask what someone of comparable education and experience would get. Maybe $90k? Maybe $110k? Maybe $125k?


This would be nice. But many (most?) smaller firms and midsize firms will ask you outright about salary requirements to determine whether you're someone they might hire. It's kind of a bullshit practice, imo, because it wastes your time (e.g. you might not have applied to the firm if you knew that they were looking to pay around $60k /year, but the firm failed to ever mention that, and the practice areas/representative matters on their website didn't indicate that they were really looking for someone to do auto negligence bullshit, which is a small part of firm's practice). It's can be difficult to determine what the pay should be. It depends on what they mean by "complex litigation," the city the firm is located it, who its clients are, what it is able to bill their clients, etc. Personally, I deal with these by just leaving off the salary altogether, and try to deal with it in the interview (at least there you have the potential for an exchange, as oppose to just having applied followed by a rejection letter, without knowing whether it was related to the salary requirement).

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:58 pm

anon OP here


not only do they require salary reqs, but they say that applications will be discarded if they don't have it.


does the very nature of this practice mean it's a firm that I probably shouldn't be applying to? Im coming off a USDC clerkship, so not exactly vale status.


can I get some more precise ballpark estimates please? I need something.

fairly high COL city, coming off this clerkship, they say judicial clerkship req'd, "complex civil" lit and there's nothing shitlaw sounding in their practice groups.

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Desert Fox
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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Desert Fox » Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:10 pm

160K + MARKET bonus

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rpupkin
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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:26 pm

Desert Fox wrote:160K + MARKET bonus

If you're going to go the "big law market" route, you might as well ask 170K + Market bonus. Big law firms will give you service credit for a one-year A3 clerkship.

By the way, I think that the OP really should ask for that salary. For complex commercial litigation in a high COA city, 170K is market rate for someone coming off a clerkship.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Fri Mar 13, 2015 9:02 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:160K + MARKET bonus

If you're going to go the "big law market" route, you might as well ask 170K + Market bonus. Big law firms will give you service credit for a one-year A3 clerkship.

By the way, I think that the OP really should ask for that salary. For complex commercial litigation in a high COA city, 170K is market rate for someone coming off a clerkship.


Highly unlikely he's going to get $170K + biglaw market bonus at a 60 attorney "complex litigation firm." If it was Barlitt Beck or something like that, then maybe (but still probably not quite that much). Honestly, if OP is set on the $170K + biglaw market bonus, he might as well just not apply to this firm and apply to biglaw firms that will pay him that. The firm's persistence on asking for a salary range upfront in the cover letter makes me think that this firm probably isn't worth his time altogether--firms that pay $170K + biglaw market bonus would not require you to include your salary requirements in the cover letter (or otherwise discard your application).

OP, what type of "complex litigation" does the firm do, and what are some of its average clients? Also, is the market NYC, SF, or DC? I think the answers to those questions probably sheds more light on pay than anything. But, as I noted above, this firm probably isn't worth your time if you're looking to make $160k+ your first year out of your clerkship.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:15 am

OP here

that's the thing. I'm not terribly intrigued by biglaw because i don't have loans and i have heard horror stories. i'm probably leaning towards govt, actually, but throwing some firm aps out there for the hell of it

the city is the tier is right with those cities.

definitely not going to ask for standard big law range plus biglaw bonus. assuming that was a joke

practice areas named on website include class action, appellate, construction

thinking asking for 95k. thoughts?

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby BVest » Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:00 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here

that's the thing. I'm not terribly intrigued by biglaw because i don't have loans and i have heard horror stories. i'm probably leaning towards govt, actually, but throwing some firm aps out there for the hell of it

the city is the tier is right with those cities.

definitely not going to ask for standard big law range plus biglaw bonus. assuming that was a joke

practice areas named on website include class action, appellate, construction

thinking asking for 95k. thoughts?


It's very hard for anyone to say without knowing the firm, though it's understandable that you can't reveal that. That said, asking for $95 is almost certainly selling yourself very short. Is there absolutely nothing about the firm's salaries on NALP or GlassDoor? If not, come up with a list of 4-5 peer firms and search for them.

Is the firm in the region of your law school? If so you need to be talking to your CSO to find out what that firm's range is for freshly minted graduates and then asking for ~20% more.

If your eye is really on gov't, then what you first need to ask yourself what salary would be worth giving up the gov't route. And don't forget to calculate in what you'd expect as a raise after a year.

If you're looking for actual numbers, ithout knowing more, I'd likely be asking at least 120 if the firm doesn't have that high a profile, and certainly not less than 108.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:24 pm

BVest wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here

that's the thing. I'm not terribly intrigued by biglaw because i don't have loans and i have heard horror stories. i'm probably leaning towards govt, actually, but throwing some firm aps out there for the hell of it

the city is the tier is right with those cities.

definitely not going to ask for standard big law range plus biglaw bonus. assuming that was a joke

practice areas named on website include class action, appellate, construction

thinking asking for 95k. thoughts?


It's very hard for anyone to say without knowing the firm, though it's understandable that you can't reveal that. That said, asking for $95 is almost certainly selling yourself very short. Is there absolutely nothing about the firm's salaries on NALP or GlassDoor? If not, come up with a list of 4-5 peer firms and search for them.

Is the firm in the region of your law school? If so you need to be talking to your CSO to find out what that firm's range is for freshly minted graduates and then asking for ~20% more.

If your eye is really on gov't, then what you first need to ask yourself what salary would be worth giving up the gov't route. And don't forget to calculate in what you'd expect as a raise after a year.

If you're looking for actual numbers, ithout knowing more, I'd likely be asking at least 120 if the firm doesn't have that high a profile, and certainly not less than 108.


Also depends on the city. Those numbers are probably around the salary range I would expect in NYC (although that even depends on the type of work they do---class action, appellate, and construction could mean a lot of different things---and who their clients are). But not in a place like Des Moines, Iowa. $95k is definitely selling yourself short, though, if it's NYC, since you'll probably be able to get boutique firm that pays much more to hire you. Fed govt via the honors programs can be more of a black box.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby lacrossebrother » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:38 pm

if there's 60 attorneys, surely 1 of them will have something in common with you (alumni of school or judge) and you can ask to talk about the firm "in a more casual way over a beer." and then towards the end of the convo say --"did you think it was weird requesting a salary"

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby smaug » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:50 pm

You're way better off asking for something, indicating that you're willing to negotiate, and coming down than to give up and ask for exactly what you want.

I get that a lot of people are uncomfortable negotiating for salary, but what's the real downside here? If you say "I'd like 170k plus market bonus but am willing to discuss salary" I doubt they're going to laugh you off entirely/push you out, or at least they shouldn't.

Don't set your anchor too low.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby BVest » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:48 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:Also depends on the city. Those numbers are probably around the salary range I would expect in NYC (although that even depends on the type of work they do---class action, appellate, and construction could mean a lot of different things---and who their clients are). But not in a place like Des Moines, Iowa. $95k is definitely selling yourself short, though, if it's NYC, since you'll probably be able to get boutique firm that pays much more to hire you. Fed govt via the honors programs can be more of a black box.


From OP's reply, the city is in "the tier" of NYC, SF, DC.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby lacrossebrother » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:57 pm

The very fact that they ask you to make a closed auction bid for your salary means they're not "market" though.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:47 pm

Jason Taverner wrote:You're way better off asking for something, indicating that you're willing to negotiate, and coming down than to give up and ask for exactly what you want.

I get that a lot of people are uncomfortable negotiating for salary, but what's the real downside here? If you say "I'd like 170k plus market bonus but am willing to discuss salary" I doubt they're going to laugh you off entirely/push you out, or at least they shouldn't.


Lol, yeah they will. If they're looking to pay closer to $100k, and you're asking for closer to $200k, it shows that you're in different ball parks, and that it would be a waste of everyone's time to even interview that person. If, on the other hand, you ask for $110k and they're looking to pay closer to $100k, there's probably room for negotiation. I honestly don't think there's even any point of OP wasting his time on this job if his expectations are $170 plus biglaw market bonus, because it's highly unlikely that this firm will be paying anywhere near that amount (or will even take his application seriously if he puts that). Just to be clear, this was just an example and I'm not saying OP should ask for $110k (or any particular number), since there's not nearly enough information here to make an estimate about what the firm likely pays.

OP, try to look a little more into the firm's practice areas, typical clients, and representative matters. Salaries are a derivative of what the firm is able to bill. For example, if they are representing major pharmaceutical companies on billion dollar cases, it's probably safe to assume they would be billing you out at a pretty high rate, meaning the firm will be able to pay you a lot more. On the other hand, if they are representing insurance companies on work-related construction injuries, then they are probably billing at a pretty low rate, where they aren't going to be able to pay you jackshit. Alternatively, you could figure out what the lowest amount you would be willing to accept (after considering what you're alternatives are---i.e. salaries you would be giving up at other jobs you might want at other firms and/or in the government), and ask for slightly more than that. This method might waste a little more of your time in that you might wind up applying to firms that aren't going to hire you (i.e. you're asking for too much), but there's really no point to selling yourself short and accepting an offer at a firm that pays you significantly less than another firm/organization that you want to work at equally as much or more, which would be willing to pay you more.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:30 pm

I agree with the posters who say to try and figure out a ballpark figure based on similar firms. The only thing I would add is that I'm of the impression that somewhere between 120 and 145 is not uncommon for small but relatively sophisticated below-market-paying firms in a city like DC. If you ask me to offer examples, I can't offer any off the top of my head, so take this with a grain of salt. Similarly, salaries in that range are not uncommonly the market salary for good firms (excepting of course the big, national firm offices that often pay market salary if not bonuses) in second-tier cities.

Anyway, the point is that somewhere in that range might be a good negotiating starting point that neither puts you unrealistically outside the firm's range nor sells yourself short.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby smaug » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:40 pm

I think it's a matter of framing—you could even say "I know that market in biglaw, for someone with my experience, would be 170k—I understand that as a boutique you have a very different business model and that interests me. I think that [x] is a reasonable number, but am open to hear what the typical compensation package for someone with my experience would be &c."

I haven't done this so I don't want it to seem like I'm saying I know exactly what to do here, but I wonder how many folks on this bort have any experience negotiating for compensation/whether those who did whether they actually tried to set a somewhat high anchor.

I don't think OP will get biglaw comp. I think that if you start at 90k, they'll probably say yes and think they just got a steal, though. No need to kill yourself by asking for exactly what you think you deserve at the outset. That's just poor strategy.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby Desert Fox » Sun Mar 15, 2015 5:16 pm

It also matters if complex litigationreally meana complex insurance defense.

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby baal hadad » Sun Mar 15, 2015 5:39 pm

Desert Fox wrote:It also matters if complex litigationreally meana complex insurance defense.

60 attys in 7 offices around the counry seems like plainiffs

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Re: how much to ask for?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:14 pm

baal hadad wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:It also matters if complex litigationreally meana complex insurance defense.

60 attys in 7 offices around the counry seems like plainiffs


Could be asbestos defense at an ID firm.




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