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84ud9ei

negotiating first year associate salary

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The firm I'm articling at gave me a hire back offer a few weeks back, and I'm not sure whether or not I should negotiate. I am very grateful that I have been given an offer. 

I've been offered 75k, it's a boutique firm in a major Canadian city. according to my research, it's considered on the higher end of the range given the practice area. the firm itself is quite a high volume practice and the pandemic has also increased business quite a bit. there are 10 other lawyers.  

due to the nature of the practice area, clients are billed a flat fee. there are no billable hours. 

we are encouraged to keep track of our billing. I'm halfway through my articling term right now, and I have currently billed 200k. I anticipate that once I'm done articling I will have billed almost 400k. from my understand, I think I am billing the second highest at the firm. as an articling student, I am given the same level of responsibility as an associate and have complete independence over my files.  

my work has not gone unnoticed by the partners (have been given bonuses, good performance reviews). I am really glad to have been hired back, but I am thinking of negotiating a higher salary because of my performance. I'm not sure if it's inappropriate since I am an articling student. 

would it be in poor taste if I asked for a raise of 10k, or a compensation on a percentage per fee basis (20%)?

please be kind - I'm not trying to be dense/ignorant/ungrateful. I'm looking for some guidance and advice. 

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You are an articling student at a 10 lawyer firm and you think you are personally billing the second most at the entire firm? Reevaluate the math or the logic on that a dozen times before you make any moves. That just does not seem like it can be correct. 

 

 

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without giving out the specifics of the firm - the practice is structured in a way where the managing partners do not have a caseload and they just 'manage'/oversee everyone's files w/ minimal interference. they are more focused on getting new business. so they technically do not 'bill' like the other associates. 

the firm is new and is growing rapidly with new lawyers. I summered at the firm as well. I'm technically the 5th oldest employee lol. 

I take on a lot of files, and I bill a lot. billing information is also not hidden at the firm and is accessible. my math is not wrong. 

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It's hard to frame a more specific answer since your question is very specific, but your given location and practice area are not. You already acknowledged the offer is on the higher end of your expected range given your location and practice area. Do you honestly think you are worth $10k more than that amount? If you believe you can make a good case for why you should be valued as such, then it's only fair that you are paid as such, right? 

On the other hand, one wonders why the firm doesn't just fire every lawyer who's billing less than the student and pick up technology to clone you. Perhaps they're just terrible business people.

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39 minutes ago, 84ud9ei said:

without giving out the specifics of the firm - the practice is structured in a way where the managing partners do not have a caseload and they just 'manage'/oversee everyone's files w/ minimal interference. they are more focused on getting new business. so they technically do not 'bill' like the other associates. 

the firm is new and is growing rapidly with new lawyers. I summered at the firm as well. I'm technically the 5th oldest employee lol. 

I take on a lot of files, and I bill a lot. billing information is also not hidden at the firm and is accessible. my math is not wrong. 

I figured it was something like that. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have any leverage to negotiate with though; it doesn’t sound like you’re bringing in any business and you might be seen as more or less replaceable. Billables like you have calculated probably are not the correct measure of worth in your firm.

Anyway, that sounds like a healthy enough base salary but in most cases there is no downside to asking for more. A bonus on top of the base, maybe a % above a billable threshold, might work for everyone. Even if you just take the base you can always renegotiate down the road.

Edited by BringBackCrunchBerries
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Flat fee practice areas value is generated primarily from volume, these are necessarily routine uncomplicated matters where legal acumen is not valued. What is the exact practice area? Real estate? Corporate records?

You may be efficient and hard-working, but the money made in these types of areas is generally having lower paid staff funneling money to the lawyers bringing in business. 

I would be very careful in broaching this subject because you are fungible and the market for new calls is unusually difficult due to COVID (and it is usually rough).

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10 hours ago, 84ud9ei said:

The firm I'm articling at gave me a hire back offer a few weeks back, and I'm not sure whether or not I should negotiate. I am very grateful that I have been given an offer. 

I've been offered 75k, it's a boutique firm in a major Canadian city. according to my research, it's considered on the higher end of the range given the practice area. the firm itself is quite a high volume practice and the pandemic has also increased business quite a bit. there are 10 other lawyers.  

due to the nature of the practice area, clients are billed a flat fee. there are no billable hours. 

we are encouraged to keep track of our billing. I'm halfway through my articling term right now, and I have currently billed 200k. I anticipate that once I'm done articling I will have billed almost 400k. from my understand, I think I am billing the second highest at the firm. as an articling student, I am given the same level of responsibility as an associate and have complete independence over my files.  

my work has not gone unnoticed by the partners (have been given bonuses, good performance reviews). I am really glad to have been hired back, but I am thinking of negotiating a higher salary because of my performance. I'm not sure if it's inappropriate since I am an articling student. 

would it be in poor taste if I asked for a raise of 10k, or a compensation on a percentage per fee basis (20%)?

please be kind - I'm not trying to be dense/ignorant/ungrateful. I'm looking for some guidance and advice. 

On one hand you say clients are billed a flat fee.

on the other hand you say you have the 2nd highest billables of the firm. 
 

if clients are paying a flat fee, then your hours aren’t billables. 

 

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It's not uncommon to have a quarterly/annually bonus structure based on your collected fees. 10% over X amount collected, or something or the other. It really depends on how much you bill as a lawyer. My inclination is to go this route as opposed to a straight out salary increase. It could also be more lucrative depending on how much is collected from your work. Generally, 1st year associates don't have the billing background to justify negotiating. Go through your collected and verify whether all those numbers are actually attributed to you.

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1 hour ago, Ruthless4Life said:

On one hand you say clients are billed a flat fee.

on the other hand you say you have the 2nd highest billables of the firm. 
 

if clients are paying a flat fee, then your hours aren’t billables. 

 

I don't think the poster said s/he had the highest billables. Just the second highest collected based on the amount of flat fee matters undertaken I imagine. 

That said, i don't think the poster should conflate hours worked as necessarily being good at the task or even amount of files completed as being good at the task. 

Depending on lifestyle, (ie a strict 9 to 5), 75K is plenty fair. Wouild you really want an extra 10K if it meant you had to work 9-7 every day?

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Doing good work is great, but in a volume-based practice (at least the one I know), a good paralegal/legal assistant can complete the same job at a lower cost than a lawyer without losing much quality of work. What makes you stand out from a good paralegal/legal assistant? Have you been the one bringing in all the work that you have billed?

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