Salary and Satisfication in Your Law Job

In evaluating your law job, you may question whether you're being paid a fair amount, and when you should know when it's time to leave. Let our expert's answers help you navigate these questions.

How Do I Find Salary Data for Competitor Law Firms?

Q: I am up for review in August regarding a salary increase. The associates in my office are grossly underpaid. I need to find statistics showing how much the average plaintiff's attorney makes. Another associate tried to bring in stats to our boss but the boss argued that stats are always based on defense attorneys. Our firm is extremely successful yet we make $35,000, get no bonuses, no 401k, and no sick days. Please advise. Any websites or links to recommend.

A: From your description of your employer's situation and practices I am not sure if any salary statistics will get them to move in a more equitable direction.

Salary information, and much more, for lawyers can be found at the site for NALP- The Association of Legal Career Professionals. Founded in 1971, NALP is an organization of law schools and legal employers committed to the development and advancement of fair, effective, and efficient career services and recruitment practices.

Estimating Your Market Value

Q: I recently asked for a raise. My boss told me to give him proof that other law firms in the area pay their paralegals more money that I am being paid. How can I obtain this information?

A: My first reaction is why is your boss asking you to do this? I would think if he valued your work that he would take responsibility for it (if in fact he didn't already know).

Now there are a few steps you can take to help estimate your market value:

How long should you take to decide that your current firm is not right for you?

Q: How long should you take to decide that your current firm is not right for you? I am a new attorney and I have been at a law firm for almost 5 months. It's not what I expected. Although the people are great, the work is not very interesting or challenging. In addition, there is not much work in the practice area that I hope to develop a practice in. Other firms have expressed interest in me. I am considering pursuing other options, but I am concerned that I have not given my current firm a fair chance and that I am being disloyal.

A: If you have already discovered that the work at your firm is not challenging and that there is little work generally available in your preferred practice area, I think you're ready to move on. I would encourage you to continue pursuing the other firms that have expressed an interest in you, but I would perform a thorough "due diligence" review before you accept another position. I would check your information and perceptions against those of other lawyers who have been with the firm longer, but I don't think loyalty should keep you there. Legal employment is a business transaction rather than a family tie; there are risks involved for both parties to the deal, and you are always free to choose whether to stay or go. I say "go," but keep your eyes open to avoid a repetition of the same mistake.