Money Can Be Overrated – Other Factors to Take Into Account When Considering a Move
The lawyers we work with often struggle to assess whether taking a new role is the right move for them. While salary is important, it’s not the only consideration – and may not even be the most significant one. For example, I recently placed an associate who accepted an offer with a salary equal to his current compensation. He took the role because his job satisfaction would increase significantly, and to him, that was priceless. In determining whether to take the position, we looked at three factors: people, practice, and pay.
You spend most of your waking hours at work. The people you work with can make your life pleasant – or not. Although it may be hard to tell after only a few interviews, it is possible to evaluate fit. Ask yourself:
- Based on what I’ve seen, are my potential colleagues people with whom I’d enjoy working long hours or up against a deadline? How do they appear to get along with each other? (Tip: Try to meet prospective colleagues both 1:1 and in groups and in/outside the office.)
- Do we share the same values?Is the firm a good cultural fit?
- Was it a collaborative environment – did I hear consistent messaging from home-grown attorneys as well as laterals?
- Will I be working with attorneys from other offices? Have I met those people as well as the attorneys and staff who support them?
- Did I speak with attorneys who found mentors internally?
Satisfaction with practice focus, type of work, client interaction and common growth opportunities is critical. This was the most important factor to the candidate I placed recently. He wanted to be at a firm where he could spend 100% of his time on specialty litigation, as opposed to 50% general litigation and 50% in his chosen specialty, and where he knew his opportunities for partnership were increased. Ask yourself:
- Will I be able to practice the type of law I want?
- Will I have a path to advance at this firm?
- Will I receive the training I need?
- Is there a realistic path to partnership/a leadership role or a common transition to Inhouse?
- Does it offer any assistance with marketing and business development?
- If I do make partner, does the firm have a platform that will enable me to be successful?
- What is the firm’s leverage (associate to partner ratio)? Tip: Lower leverage will most likely mean you will have more substantive work and better interaction with partners and clients.
Working for a law firm requires a significant investment of time and effort. You should be compensated appropriately so you feel motivated and valued. That said, the importance of money varies from person to person. For some lawyers, money is a gating item, while for others it is lower on the priority list. When evaluating a job offer, ask yourself:
- Is this salary commensurate with the time and effort I will be putting into the job?
- What, if any, quality of life considerations might I be giving up in exchange for the higher salary (or what improvements in work-life balance might I gain in exchange for a lower base salary)?
- Will taking a pay cut now help to advance my career prospects in the long run?
- If I take a pay-cut, is it sustainable for the long-term?
Overall, it is critical to assess your highest priority needs in a new role, determining your “must haves” vs. “like to haves.” Once you decide what’s crucial, vetting an opportunity will become less of a struggle and more of a forward-looking plan for your future.
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Randy Steinberg, Esq.
Associates, Counsel, and Partners