First-Year Associate Salaries Are Up: Time For Another Raise?
September 22, 2022
What’s Raise the average first-year associate salary Raise? As of 2014, it’s about $83,000, according to The American Lawyer’s annual survey of top-grossing law firms in the U.S. Is it time to ask for another raise? Just because salaries are up doesn’t mean that you should ask your boss for more money — but what you can do is prepare to be better positioned than ever before to negotiate your salary when you negotiate your next position in the future, according to LegalZoom CEO Tom Morneweck.
2018 Big Law Bonuses
Much has been made about the historically low bonus for first-year associates. The reasons for this have been hotly debated and are not my focus in this piece.
What is worth noting, however, is that these bonuses are up significantly from last year’s measly $10,000 average. It is quite an improvement from last year’s 10% which translated to an average of just $1,100 per person. This is not a little bump up either.
This year, mean first-year bonuses were up to $25,679. The figure was much higher for larger firms with more than 1,000 lawyers with a mean of $82,325. Meanwhile, medium-sized firms had an average first-year bonus of $23,934 and small firms had an average of $18,217. At every firm size, there was an increase from last year’s numbers.
Update Bonus Amounts Every Year – Third Paragraph: Keep in mind that while bonuses are up from last year it is no time to rest on your laurels or become complacent.
The problem with first-year associates raises
One of the most common ways that law firms raise salaries is by setting first-year associate salaries to reflect an even steeper fall in subsequent years. However, this strategy seems to be having a more negative impact than anticipated.
In many instances, new hires are not signing up for work as quickly as projected and this has led to either a drastic change in hiring policies (less experienced candidates) or mass layoffs at smaller firms. All told, it doesn’t seem like raising first-year associate salaries is going to lead to much good for any party involved and may do more harm than good.
Raises are based on your performance
Performance is the biggest variable in determining salary for the year. Associates who hit their performance targets will earn a $2,000 bonus on top of their already up 3% raise;
those who exceeded their targets will receive a $4,000 bonus on top of their already up 4% raise. The best way to maximize your compensation is to know and understand your goals and set aside time every day to work towards achieving them.
How to get another raise if you’re already at the top of your class
To get a raise, first, take stock of your accomplishments. Take a look at how you’re measuring up to other members of your class, what new skills you’ve learned since last year, and which projects you’re working on that are crucial to the firm’s success.
Doing well in these areas will show management that you deserve more money for all the hard work you put in. It also doesn’t hurt to have allies in the office or ones
higher up than you advocating for increased responsibilities. Most importantly, time is on your side. Waiting until a fiscal quarter closes may seem like jumping the gun, but considering that bonuses are typically calculated four times a year, there may be an opportunity soon enough!
I deserve more than a $10k raise
In the past, my raise was based on my performance. I did well and I got a 10% raise. Last year, it was based on the deal market and firm size.
I outperformed and got another 10%. This year it looks like it’s all about base salaries. Again, I will outperform but not by enough to get a meaningful increase – about $10k. Shouldn’t this be based on my actual performance or should we just assume that more is better in an economy with a stagnant wage growth rate of 1% per year?
3 tips on how to negotiate a better salary
Negotiating a better salary is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are some tips to help you prepare and stand your ground.
Learn the company’s compensation philosophy before starting a conversation — read their employee handbook or talk to human resources.
Even if you don’t find what you’re looking for, learning about the types of salaries they offer will give you ammunition. Knowing how they’re structured (salary versus commission) can help determine whether there’s room for negotiation in the first place.
Find out what salaries other employees in similar positions make — it might seem shady, but it’s usually legal to ask them how much money they earn in a typical week or month depending on the type of position you want.
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