As several of you have reminded us, associates aren’t the only people who work at big law firms. Hence this quick shout-out to staff attorneys. From a reader email:
You’re forgetting about Staff Attorneys. We’re lawyers, but not associates, so we don’t get the associate pay or bonus.
While we are paid significantly less than a first year (think around 50%) to work a 40 hour week, putting in only 40 hours a week would be looked down upon. But if we put in overtime, we get questioned as to whether or not it was necessary. We’re damned either way.While we do get paid for the OT, working OT is the only way to survive in NYC on the base.
[The firm I work for] pays staff attorneys a DISCRETIONARY, bonus on par with that of the ADMINISTRATIVE staff — roughly 3% of the already low salary. However, the bonuses are PURELY discretionary, at the whim of one person, who determines how much each person shall receive. So the “lock-step” system [the firm] prides itself on does not apply here.
The bonus is in the range of one to two weeks’ pay. When the base pay is alrady insanely low for an attorney at a major firm, one or two weeks’ pay is not that much.
So as you Biglaw associates complain about your bonuses, take a moment to reflect upon the staff attorneys. Sure, this year could have been better for you; but then again, it could have been worse.
(Yes, we know what you’re going to say: The staff attorneys don’t have your credentials, don’t work as hard as you do, don’t get in trouble the way you do when things get screwed up, etc. Tell us all about it in the comments.)