What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

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What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:33 pm

Third year attorney with no prior firm experience, potentially moving to a firm where I'll have a lot of experience in one area of their practice and only a little bit of experience in their "bread and butter." Firm is around 60 attorneys with fewer than 10 associates total, spread across three offices. The firm's clients consist almost entirely of typical biglaw clients, mostly financial services firms.

I have no idea what to expect for compensation and if they ask I'm not sure what I would say. I know Cravath scale would put a third year at $210 but I'm not expecting that both because of the firm's size and my lack of firm experience. That being said, given the firm's client roster (and I have it on good authority that partners have joined this firm "because they make more here than at bigger firms"), I do think it should be somewhat close.

Any suggestions?

edit: I'll be located in NYC fwiw

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Toni V

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Toni V » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:59 pm

Most firms will state what they pay from the get-go. Usually, not a negotiation (unless you pass because of compensation).
Last edited by QContinuum on Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Most firms will state what they pay from the get-go. Usually, not a negotiation (unless you pass because of compensation).


From the get-go as in when the offer comes? Certainly I would expect the offer to include compensation. I guess I'm asking because I want to ensure I'm not getting short changed. Not so much because I expect to have some negotiating power, but whether to accept it or not.

For example I'm in-house now and my total comp last year was $125, which is below market (at least amongst my peers). I want to know if this firm offers say $140 whether that is normal given the profile I described above or if that is well below what I should expect. Also tbf I had an interview with another company for a different in-house position and they asked what my salary expectations were, which caught me off guard because I assumed they had a number in mind and it'd be take it or leave it. Given that this firm has very few associates, I worry they might ask me the same.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Most firms will state what they pay from the get-go. Usually, not a negotiation (unless you pass because of compensation).


This advice is bad. Compensation is non-negotiable only for new grads joining lockstep firms as first-year associates. Other than that, compensation is generally negotiable, and if you don't negotiate you may very well be leaving money on the table. Even at lockstep firms, lateral hires can (and do) negotiate signing bonuses and year-end bonus proration. And of course, base pay itself is up for negotiation at non-lockstep firms (as well as non-lockstep roles within lockstep firms, such as staff attorney or counsel positions).

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 4:34 pm

Olshan is a midsize firm in NY similar to what you described (I think Olshan is larger, though).

Below is Olshan’s scale:

Class of 2017: $180,000
Class of 2016: $195,000
Class of 2015: $210,000
Class of 2014: $230,000
Class of 2013: $245,000
Class of 2012: $260,000
Class of 2011: $275,000
Class of 2010: $290,000

I have a friend at Wollmuth and the starting salary there is $150k (so presumably 3rd year would be in the 160s at least).

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Int'lshoe » Tue Sep 04, 2018 4:41 pm

Salary/benefits is always negotiable. My guess is around ~$160-180k depending on billable hour requirements. You have no prior firm experience and given their size/number of offices, likely pay at a sizable discount to market.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Olshan is a midsize firm in NY similar to what you described (I think Olshan is larger, though).

Below is Olshan’s scale:

Class of 2017: $180,000
Class of 2016: $195,000
Class of 2015: $210,000
Class of 2014: $230,000
Class of 2013: $245,000
Class of 2012: $260,000
Class of 2011: $275,000
Class of 2010: $290,000

I have a friend at Wollmuth and the starting salary there is $150k (so presumably 3rd year would be in the 160s at least).



OP here, these are both helpful data points thanks. Olshan is definitely larger and more established, Wollmuth may be comparable. Appreciate it.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:09 pm

Int'lshoe wrote:Salary/benefits is always negotiable. My guess is around ~$160-180k depending on billable hour requirements. You have no prior firm experience and given their size/number of offices, likely pay at a sizable discount to market.


OP here, this would have been my guess as well. I was told there was no billable hour requirement but I feel like that can cut either way. Agree on the lack of firm experience, but oddly my profile seems to be exactly what this firm looks for (govt and in-house experience), so maybe that will work in my favor. Suppose we shall see.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Int'lshoe » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Int'lshoe wrote:Salary/benefits is always negotiable. My guess is around ~$160-180k depending on billable hour requirements. You have no prior firm experience and given their size/number of offices, likely pay at a sizable discount to market.


OP here, this would have been my guess as well. I was told there was no billable hour requirement but I feel like that can cut either way. Agree on the lack of firm experience, but oddly my profile seems to be exactly what this firm looks for (govt and in-house experience), so maybe that will work in my favor. Suppose we shall see.


"Don't have a billable requirement" is code for "we have one for you, but are not going to tell you because we tell different people different things." This is known as black box compensation because no one knows how much each other makes or what their requirements are.

I do not doubt your experience is relevant and in-demand, hence why they want to hire you. But you will soon learn that law firms (and law firm lawyers) have this odd obsession/hierarchy with years' experience specifically at firms. You could be a 10-year AUSA coming in, but the person with 7 years of "firm experience" gets treated as more "senior." Welcome to firm life! :lol:

My advice is to come back at least 10% over whatever they offer you and see if they are willing to move. If not, you'll know you at least did not leave money on the table.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:59 am

Int'lshoe wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Int'lshoe wrote:Salary/benefits is always negotiable. My guess is around ~$160-180k depending on billable hour requirements. You have no prior firm experience and given their size/number of offices, likely pay at a sizable discount to market.


OP here, this would have been my guess as well. I was told there was no billable hour requirement but I feel like that can cut either way. Agree on the lack of firm experience, but oddly my profile seems to be exactly what this firm looks for (govt and in-house experience), so maybe that will work in my favor. Suppose we shall see.


"Don't have a billable requirement" is code for "we have one for you, but are not going to tell you because we tell different people different things." This is known as black box compensation because no one knows how much each other makes or what their requirements are.

I do not doubt your experience is relevant and in-demand, hence why they want to hire you. But you will soon learn that law firms (and law firm lawyers) have this odd obsession/hierarchy with years' experience specifically at firms. You could be a 10-year AUSA coming in, but the person with 7 years of "firm experience" gets treated as more "senior." Welcome to firm life! :lol:

My advice is to come back at least 10% over whatever they offer you and see if they are willing to move. If not, you'll know you at least did not leave money on the table.


Yeah I figured there would be some actual hour requirement even if it's not set in stone somewhere. Seems odd to have no expectations, especially for associates.

I like that advice, definitely taking that under consideration thanks.

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 15, 2018 11:51 am

OP here with an update:

The offer finally came - $150k.

I decided to take it, but at the end of the day compensation wasn't the only deciding factor. Area of practice, the current posture and growth plans of the firm, the work/life balance which sounds unicorn-esque for a firm of this caliber, etc.

I wasn't going to attempt to ask for more for the salary but I did open a discussion on a signing bonus, but ultimately it was going to delay things significantly and I just want to get out of my current gig and into this new role, so I dropped it.

All in all I'm thrilled. I'll be making a good amount more than I am currently and I'll be able to practice in a few areas that I've been wanting to focus on more. It also sounds like I'll have a good amount of support from the firm to build business which I know most associates tend to forgo but I'm actually pretty keen on building my own book (I think it can only help my partnership prospects which already look pretty good).

Wish me luck!

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Re: What should my salary expectations be for this midsize firm?

Postby Int'lshoe » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:39 pm

Congrats OP! Sounds like you were polite, but assertive which is exactly what is expected and appreciated.

Definitely use the extra time to build business. One of the greatest advantages at working at a smaller firm with less billables than big law is that you generally have more time for things like networking, lunches, etc. Those that can bring in business have all the power in law firm settings. Highly proficient technicians that cannot generate their own business are easily replaceable and do not reach the same earnings potential as the rain makers. Takes a long time, but in the end you will be much happier that you control your own destiny.

Good luck!



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