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September 26, 2013 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm a law student who has received an offer to clerk for a reasonably well ranked local firm. At what point can I ask how much they pay their associates?

Like this last question, I'm looking to the seasoned attorneys of Ask Metafilter to help me where my school's career services has failed.

Despite giving into my anxieties and skipping that networking session, I have managed to snag an offer to clerk at a local firm. It's the right size (dozens, not hundreds of attorneys), I really like the people and the atmosphere, they only practice in areas of the law that I am interested in, and I am sure I'd probably love working there long term (if I do well enough as a clerk to snag an offer).

The only caveat is that I can't figure out what their pay scale is. They don't have a profile on NALP or Infirmation/Findlaw, and LawFirmStats knows of them, but has no numbers.

They pay clerks pretty generously (>$40/hour) but I don't know if there is a standard scale up from clerk pay to associate pay.

It feels super presumptuous to ask about associate salaries before I've even accepted a clerk offer, but I'd like to know that this is a place that I can commit to (if I get a post-graduation offer) and I do have a minimum salary that I'm shooting for.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Do you have another summer offer in hand to choose from? If not:

1) Work there over the summer and work hard;
2) Get an offer;
3) Worry about comp and negotiating comp when offer arrives;
4) third year OCI/ job hunt if you're not happy with the comp.

Also, ask your career services counselors at school. They may have placed folks there before and be privvy to the comp scale and know the local scene. Try other law schools in the area as well- their career counselors may be in the know and willing to share that info with you.

If you have other summer offers to chose from, it's okay to straight up ask and be more ballsy. "I'm trying to compare summer offers. Looking forward, I am curious if your associate comp is at market. Also, what is your review, promotion and bonus system like?"
posted by slateyness at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd disagree--I think it's entirely appropriate to ask about all aspects of the job when considering whether to summer at a particular firm. If associate pay is the only thing you're concerned about, you might want to dress it up a bit by asking about opportunities for training, what the partner track is like, whether associates have opportunities to work with different partners or in different practice groups, oh what's compensation structure and do you match the market, what opportunities do associates have to run their own projects, etc.

The summer gig, in my experience, is a sanity check to ensure you and the firm are a good match; becoming an associate, and the terms of employment if you do, should not be a big surprise at the end. That's why so much of this information is public with NALP for those firms that participate.

Good luck, and congratulations on your offer.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Holy hell, jump on that clerkship and spin.

It's appropriate to ask what associates make when you're being considered for an associate position or if you're considering accepting one. Asking now could look mighty presumptuous in what's a very finicky, fickle and rather dangerous legal market.

Whatever they pay their associates, it's more than they're paying you. For reference: I'm an associate attorney and I don't even make $40 / hr.
posted by mibo at 12:36 PM on September 26, 2013

(Junior associate at a large firm): I agree with Admiral Haddock and strongly disagree with mibo. Your question is hardly presumptuous. It's perfectly relevant and appropriate. Lawyers are supposed to be (i) diligent and (ii) good at negotiating. If your firm is offended by you asking about associate salaries, then that is, in itself, a large red flag.
posted by ewiar at 12:53 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another attorney in the "it's okay to ask" camp here. If they're doing the interview/hiring process right, they may have already flagged either a junior partner or an associate as the person you're supposed to feel comfortable asking questions of; I'd start with that person if he or she exists.

And I'm with ewiar; if the response to the comp question is "Oh my god, I can't believe you asked that -- why do you want to know?" it's a red flag.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2013

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