- 3 months ago
I received a job offer today that I was not anticipating. I am a junior associate at a law firm and have been practicing for three years. I was originally asked to a lunch to discuss a file we had closed. It turned out that was a pretense for a job offer. Your commentary, as well as feedback on questions I should be asking, would be really helpful (I asked a few questions, but wasn’t prepared given I didn’t realize what the situation was).
Currently I work for a small, boutique firm. There are five lawyers. I am a salaried employee and make $100,000/year. I have health and dental benefits. I really enjoy my work atmosphere and the people I work with. There is no drama and it is always pleasant. I have occasional out of work interactions with my bosses (i.e. have ran a 10k with one before) and actual friendships with the other two associates. They are relaxed about hours, and are not a typical law firm in that they actually believe in work/life balance. I work approximately one weekend per month (low for most lawyers I know). I usually leave the office by 6pm. I receive amazing mentorship. Both partners are free with their time and willing to assist me. They are more concerned about me becoming a good lawyer than billing an extreme amount. They have stressed they want to keep me on salary for another year so I won’t feel compelled to work more to earn more. Sometimes I will take a day off to go watch one of their trials or observe a Questioning. They have said they are willing to talk about a commission next year. A senior associate here told me her commission is 50% and she is responsible for all of her own law society, insurance fees, and continuing education (~$9,000 annually). I essentially have my own assistant. She is about 80% me, 20% reception. It takes me 20 minutes to walk here from my house. I have worked here for 2.5 years.
The offer. I have been offered a fairly lateral move to another boutique law firm. There are currently three lawyers there and I would be the fourth. I worked with one previously at the firm I articled with and adored her. She was a mentor and a mother figure for me. She was incredibly helpful as a mentor when I was starting out (more than my supervising principal). The position is 100% commission based. It starts at 50% commission and increases depending on your collected fees. I ran the numbers on my collections from last year, and would have made $137,000. They will pay all law society and insurance fees. They will pay for one continuing education course per year. I do not know if there are any health benefits. I have never heard about this firm having any drama, and they have had minimal turnover (the last associate who left moved to the east coast to be closer to family). I know their head assistant has been there for fifteen years. The partner stated he provides mentorship (and even took a call from the associate during lunch). He works one week out of this office, and one week at a time out of an office in another province. He said he is reachable by phone the majority of the time. There will be three assistants shared between the four lawyers. His pitch was that he is looking for a good fit. They are moving to a new office and will have more space. He said I can start any time from January to July next year and he is willing to work with me on start date because he thinks I will be good with their team. I have worked on the other side of a file with him, had him mediate two of my files, and see him socially at networking events. It will take me about 35 minutes to walk to work.
My questions/concerns so far are:
1. Health/dental insurance, if not, what would it cost to insure myself.
2. Slow months. I looked at my last 2.5 years of billing, and the slowest month I have ever had I brought in $14,000. Under this new system that would be $7,000 gross. This is my worst month ever, but I am a little worried about moving away from being salaried and managing different cash flows monthly.
3. Mentorship. It is great having two senior partners here. They spend so much time with me (which is why they justify the pay gap with my peers – because they lose money while developing me). I don’t know any other juniors who receive as much mentorship as I do.
4. Long term plan. I know one of the partners plans to semi-retire at my current firm in five years. They advised they would be willing to discuss partnership options at that time. I’m not hell-bent on becoming a partner, but don’t want to move jobs again in three years.
What are your thoughts? What should I be asking? I’m good at my job. I have received three other unsolicited offers earlier this year but thought the firms were too dramatic/not enough work/life balance to consider. All the job offers have been higher financial compensation than my current firm.
I live within my means, but have about $90,000 in student loans, and a mortgage of around $185,000.