Post Authored By: Hannah Werner

Whether you pictured in-house somewhere, at a big firm, or a JD-advantage job, chances are, before you even started law school you started thinking about what role you would want to serve post-graduation. But when the time comes to apply and accept a position, things can get lost in the shuffle and you can forget to ask important questions. Here are some important aspects of any role that you may neglect to ask about in negotiations:  

  1. Billable Hours. Some law firms have a minimum amount of hours that you bill clients per billing cycle. It’s important to ask this minimum during interview periods so you know what is expected of you and the hours you might be working. I usually hear of average billable hours around 1800-2100 per year, but every firm is different so it is important to ask what the firms you are interested in have.
  2. Benefits. While this may not be as interesting as other elements of onboarding, health care, dental care, and other benefits are an important aspect of employment. If one firm is offering a higher salary but no benefits and another is offering great benefits but a lower salary, it may make more sense on paper to accept the position with a lower salary.
  3. Pay structure. Some firms offer a bonus for referring clients, while others will connect that with an annual merit-based bonus. Remember that you hold bargaining power as well, and the more clients you bring into the firm the more you should be compensated, whether it is upfront or kept in mind for future promotions.
  4. 401(k) Matching. Although attorneys are notorious for never retiring, planning ahead for the future is important for accepting your first position. Some firms offer matching for your 401(k) contributions, and this can make all the difference when it comes time to hang up your ABA and WestLaw membership.
  5. Other perks. Many companies offer phones to its workers, or other perks that students, especially, might not think of when signing on to a new role. Simply ask hiring managers what other perks you get with the role and see what else they will offer.

While it’s difficult to think of what might be important to you years from now, it’s important that law students know what benefits are out there when negotiating a new position. Many times, perks are based off of starting salary, so law students should use their newly-acquired negotiation skills and try to get the best salary possible off which to springboard future bonuses. Everything in life is a negotiation!

About the Author

In May of 2020, Hannah graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.A. in Psychology from Auburn University. After working at Ankin Law Office for almost a year, Hannah discovered an interest in law and joined the Chicago-Kent community. Hannah is currently a 2L representative for the Society of Women in Law, as well as a member of various organizations matching her passions, such as the First-Generation Law Student Association and the Chicago Kent Animal Legal Defense Fund. Following graduation, Hannah looks forward to a career in estate planning, real estate, or business law.