Through no fault of their own, many lawyers in the hiring process avoid asking law firms the important questions that will impact their careers. It’s not just about what you ask, but also when you ask it, and a lawyer with some experience maximizes their bargaining power in the time between being offered a job and accepting it.
The most important thing you should aim to find out at this stage is how power flows through the organization. In negotiating your salary at the job offer stage and later, when you’re looking for a pay raise or promotion, your chances will depend on the firm’s power dynamics.
To collect key information, consider the five essential questions below.
- What’s the firm’s business plan, and how does firm leadership see the market and trends?
- Which is the most profitable department or practice area?
- Who makes decisions when it comes to job promotions and partnership offers? What about marketing budgets and support staff?
- What has driven the most recent decisions to elevate lawyers to the partner level?
- How is rainmaking rewarded? To what extent does the firm follow an “eat what you kill” model?
In asking these questions, don’t limit yourself to the firm’s current lawyers. Through platforms like LinkedIn, you can find former employees of the firm and pick their brains on these topics as well. Many people, women and minorities in particular, are socialized not to rock the boat by negotiating their starting compensation. But neglecting to ask questions and make your pitch at the job offer stage means wasting the precious leverage you have in this moment.