This post from January 2015 at Above the Law questions why solos and small firms pay associates so little. Initially, the answer seemed self evident to me: sadly, some solos and smalls are just plain cheap, while others need the help but simply don’t have sufficient resources to bring someone on board. (In case, you’re wondering, Lee Rosen says that the $300,000 mark is when a new hire makes sense financially).
Still, there are other reasons that firms may not want to pay associates much. Newer lawyers require training and once provided, the associate might move on to another position. Some firms may want to encourage associates to generate business, so they’ll keep the base salary low but offer bonuses for business to incentivize associates to engage in client development.
What I wonder is whether there’s some kind of a middle ground between paying newbie slave labor and attempting to match a big law salary. And so I toss the question out to readers. If you are a newbie – or even a more experienced lawyer looking for a position, what would make you seek out a small firm? Would it be the chance for hands-on experience? An opportunity to get in on the ground floor and advance? Or flexible scheduling and perks and benefits like paid CLE or free lunch? Perhaps if solos and smalls had an idea of what potential employees were seeking, they might be better able to accommodate those wishes.