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Rainmakers: Are you being properly compensated at the firm?

Legal Marketplace: Make sense as to the what you are worth.

Every successful negotiation is a with more than the sum of its parts. Compensation packages can be structured very simply or tiered with several incentives that get to your number. Your base salary should be a third of the annual billings for a senior associate.

Compensation is then negotiated based upon your book of business and considerations such as health insurance, travel expenses and other intangibles such as how the firm supports your practice with sales and marketing. All these factors can bring your final offering up or down accordingly.

Every proposal takes into account the attorney’s needs, practices and personal preferences. No two offers are alike. That said, all offers take into account several basic factors:

  • An originating attorney, billing attorney, working attorney or a relationship lawyer?
  • Realization rates impact the offering.
  • Collections.
  • Firm contributions and bonus pools.

Some firms have formulaic compensation packages that assign weight to the above factors while other practices take a more subjective approach. Many firms are transparent with their compensation structures. That said, there are law firms that do not disclose nor discuss what the senior partners make.

Don’t even consider putting your self on the market until you ask yourself what is your standing in the firm is? What is important to you and what are your strengths?. It’s all about what you bring to the table.

Clearly understand what type of compensation structures best reward you for how you practice law. Don’t start talking with a firm until you’ve worked out what will maximize your bottom line and where you would be leaving money on the table.

Know what you are capable of delivering and what aspects of compensation don’t work well for you. Consider how you are currently compensated and where you can gain advantage when you negotiate your new agreement.

Not all firm’s offer flexible terms, nor is every firm a good fit for you. It’s always about the money, Find a firm that is a good fit for you professionally and offer you the best compensation package.

Before starting a search, quantify what you bring to the table. Work with a strategic advisor or recruiter who can help you pull all the necessary documentation together. Here’s what you need:

  1. Business Plan: A comprehensive narrative of your past and current clients with revenues and areas of law practiced.
  2. Client & Non Client Referrals: Testimonials that site your skill set and success stories.
  3. Additional organizations, boards, etc. that showcase qualities such as leadership, community support, and associations that add credibility and integrity to your profile. Detail positions held as well as tenure.
  4. Compensation Verification: W2 an K1 Compensation Report for last three years minimum.
  5. Tax Compliance: IRS forms for last three years minimum.
  6. Office of Court Administration: Confirmation of present good standing as a registered member of state(s) bar and current compliance(s) with CLE requirements.
  7. Ethics Disclosure: Any complaints must be disclosed concerning malpractice or any professional ethics body. Be sure to include any pending cases or sanctions filed against you. As well as any complaints or letters of caution,, admonition or reprimand. Also any hearing from an ethics disciplinary council or panel.

Again, be transparent. Any or all of the sensitive issues that are not disclosed upfront can and will undermine efforts to get you the best offer. Work with an advisor to clarify the circumstances and present a sound response to potentially damaging issues.

Not sure you’re ready to make the move? There will never be a better time to take advantage of the current marketplace. Work with a trusted recruiter who will advise you as to whether you should stay put or make that move.

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About: On Balance Search Consultants

On Balance offers great insight and industry intelligence. Shari Davidson, president of On Balance Search Consultants, advises experienced attorneys at every stage of their career to take them to the next level. From making the lateral partner move to succession planning.

Shari takes a proactive approach to advising law firms on how to take a firm to the next level and helps rising talent make the transition to the right law firm. On Balance Search identifies opportunities that exist today, not down the road.

Contact us today. Call 516-731-3400 or visit our website at

Please note that the content of this blog does not constitute legal advice and is only intended for the educational purpose of the reader. Please consult your legal counsel for specifics regarding your specific circumstances and the laws in your states pertaining to social media and any legal restrictions regarding the law.


Ms. Davidson, a highly skilled human resources executive with over 20 years’ experience that specializes in finding top talent in the legal community. Shari has placed lateral partner attorneys, as well as group acquisitions & law firm mergers and has assisted several prominent clients in recruiting lateral associates, paralegals and internal professional administrative positions.