The most talked about subject in the US legal market over the past few months has been the exponential rise in signing bonuses used to entice legal professionals to move firms. This competitiveness has led to some truly staggering numbers and even if some are inflated, they still tower over average ranges from recent years. Big firms are also diverting from their standard salary scales for certain candidates, offering a higher base salary than their associate class year would normally receive by effectively adding a year to their experience or negotiating a bespoke salary structure.

Bloomberg recently wrote a piece about the perils of signing bonuses for regional firms within this competitive market as those who delay increasing salaries or offering loyalty bonuses may lose their associates to Big Law who are becoming more flexible as to where their associates work.

This high salary and bonus trend will certainly pay off for some firms but comes with risk as well. Firms are bolstering their staff for the expected workload increase through the rest of 2021 and beyond, but there is a risk of practices becoming overloaded at certain levels. The increase within the M&A market, which is up around 7.2% from 2020 levels, will at some point subside and there will be many associates who will be fighting for the remaining work or having to retrain at their practice.

It is exciting that the edge on negotiations is now with the associates rather than the law firms. However, I would urge caution to make sure you are not chasing the money but rather making a move to a firm which will have the same amount of work in 6/12 months’ time. I’ve always preferred to think in the long-term versus the short and compel you to consider this when considering a new role.

I am working with multiple firms who are offering great incentives to join their firms currently and have long term pipelines with clients that they have worked with for many years. If you are considering moving it would be great to have a non-committal discussion about the market and to see if I can help you. My email is jack@dmjlegal.com.

Posted 22/06/2021 By Jack Horsbrugh

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