Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

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Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:50 pm

Hello,

As the post states, I need help figuring out what the heck I should be looking for in my situation. Any advice or opinions are appreciated.

Background: I am a 3L in my final semester currently clerking for a very small boutique firm that mostly does construction defects, bad faith insurance claims, and some products liability cases. There are two partners here and they've both told me they want me to come back after I take the bar and that they think I would be a good attorney and have no issues passing the CBX. We've agreed we will finalize talking about this for sure in the next few months as I will be taking a small break (2 months or so) to do my bar prep/take the bar. It seems like they want me to stick around, and their associate attorney just left the firm a few weeks ago, so there is an opening.

Info about the firm: 2 partners, SoCal big city market, 2 law clerks, 3 support staff.

My question: When myself and the partners talk in the next few weeks/months about me coming back for sure after my bar, I will be bringing up the idea of whether or not this is something that can actually result in full time employment as an associate attorney with them once I get my bar results in November. If not, then I likely will pursue other leads. However, they've already both said they want me to come back afterwards so I feel it is hopeful that this transition could happen.

So, how the heck am I supposed to know what is and is not acceptable in terms of a first year salary should we get this far? I had work experience before college and law school for 3 years, but I was doing basic jobs like retail and secretarial work before I really decided I wanted to go back to college. Since college, I went straight into law school and my only other jobs have been campus jobs and law clerk jobs where I make 15-20 bucks an hour so... not really a career and I've never had a salary. I am married with a small child and we live in a relatively expensive big city market, I also will have about 150k in law school debt when everything is said and done. I go to a higher ranked T2.

snowball2

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby snowball2 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:59 pm

This is obviously dictated by them, there's no 'standard" for a firm that size. It could be $35,000 or $70,000 (okay, maybe not that high) depending on how they value your contribution and how much they would pay to keep you.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:04 pm

snowball2 wrote:This is obviously dictated by them, there's no 'standard" for a firm that size. It could be $35,000 or $70,000 (okay, maybe not that high) depending on how they value your contribution and how much they would pay to keep you.


Sure, and I totally understand that. I am just trying to get my bearings for what is ludicrous and etc. Obviously with the amount of loans I have in the market the firm is in, I doubt I would feel comfortable taking anything less than 50k, but I don't know where I should draw the line.

snowball2

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby snowball2 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I doubt I would feel comfortable taking anything less than 50k, but I don't know where I should draw the line.


You just did. If they come in below that amount then explain thay you have to deal with the realities of your life, which include a substantial loan repayment obligation.
Last edited by snowball2 on Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

RaceJudicata

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby RaceJudicata » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:29 pm

Do you have an alternative? Being employed > being unemployed. See what their offer is, and try and negotiate up a bit. Do your very best to try and get them to put a number out first.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:45 pm

RaceJudicata wrote:Do you have an alternative? Being employed > being unemployed. See what their offer is, and try and negotiate up a bit. Do your very best to try and get them to put a number out first.


Ah, thanks, that's helpful. I guess perhaps I worded my question poorly, I wasn't sure if I should just give them my suggested number first an then go from there... I was afraid I might set the bar too low or too high and get low-balled or make a bad impression back I lack experience here. I'll try to get them to give me a number first and then negotiate it.

I agree completely about being employed. If their offer lower than what I was hoping for, I would of course still take it. I need the money etc.

As for other offers: I am currently in the process of pursuing another lead that looks hopeful, but it will depend on whether or not I actually receive an offer from the partner/owner (I was referred by the firm owner's mentor who gave me a glowing reference). So for the time being, no solid leads.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:04 pm

snowball2 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I doubt I would feel comfortable taking anything less than 50k, but I don't know where I should draw the line.


You just did. If they come in below that amount then explain thay you have to deal with the realities of your life, which include a substantial loan repayment obligation.


Nope.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:16 pm

Is this a plaintiff’s law firm?

Go on Indeed/ ZipRecruiter / etc. and look up job postings every day. There might not be a good sample size in any given day but if you check every day, you’ll sort of get an idea of what the pay is like.

FYI I haven’t been looking specifically at tort law firm postings but I've been looking at job postings for a good while now. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s USUALLY 50k to 90k (higher for many plaintiff’s law firms it seems but not always true).

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is this a plaintiff’s law firm?

Go on Indeed/ ZipRecruiter / etc. and look up job postings every day. There might not be a good sample size in any given day but if you check every day, you’ll sort of get an idea of what the pay is like.

FYI I haven’t been looking specifically at tort law firm postings but I've been looking at job postings for a good while now. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s USUALLY 50k to 90k (higher for many plaintiff’s law firms it seems but not always true).


Yes it's plaintiff's side.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is this a plaintiff’s law firm?

Go on Indeed/ ZipRecruiter / etc. and look up job postings every day. There might not be a good sample size in any given day but if you check every day, you’ll sort of get an idea of what the pay is like.

FYI I haven’t been looking specifically at tort law firm postings but I've been looking at job postings for a good while now. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s USUALLY 50k to 90k (higher for many plaintiff’s law firms it seems but not always true).


Yes it's plaintiff's side.


If so, depends on location but I would say 50k is low. 70-80k seems to be normal in LA at least, for some plaintiff firms. Note: A lot of these are employment law firms so I don't know how they compare to your type of practice.
Literally just saw a posting yesterday for 90k for a 1 attorney plaintiff's employment firm doing similar work for entry level.
not sure about SD or OC though. I've been looking mainly in greater LA

Even if it's ~60k I'd say you're in a good position. It's great experience and if you can get your salary tied to the contingency structure somehow later on, you can be making a lot. CA has tons of plaintiff's firms you can lateral to later on as well.

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:33 pm

My dad is a partner at a boutique firm in the LA-area and he typically offers first years anywhere from $65k to $75k. Not a plaintiff-side work so its possible that market is different.

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HillandHollow

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby HillandHollow » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:38 pm

I've seen small plaintiffs' firms in very small markets (town of <10,000) offer as low as $35k, and similar firms in top markets offer $65k-$75k (DC, Chicago).
In LA proper, I would expect to see $55k-$65k for a first year, but I would discuss the future pay structure as well. Some firms start you low, but bump quickly after the first year or two, or usually offer unexpectedly high bonuses. Others are less rigid, and sort of play it by ear, leaving it up to associates to request raises as they go. The latter seems less common, based on my experiences.

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TFALAWL

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Re: Need help judging what salary expectations should be for first year associate at very small firm in SoCal.

Postby TFALAWL » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:32 am

I know a few small firms in OC that start at 70-80k -- for OC, this strikes me as being on the lower end.



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