You’ve received an offer for an in-house role – congratulations!  You have probably been interviewing for months (we understand how long an in-house job search can take) and with an offer now in hand, you feel an instant sense of relief.  Unfortunately, that relief is too quickly stifled as you start looking over the compensation details.

Considering a job offer is challenging. And perhaps the most overwhelming situation is when you are first moving in-house from a law firm position.  At most law firms, compensation is composed of base salary + year-end bonus + a 401k match (maybe).  Cash is king when you are at a law firm and it can be difficult to change that mindset.  DON’T FREAK OUT.  Take a deep breath and look at the entire offer.

  • Bonuses– Unlike law firms, where bonuses can be lockstep or hours-based, corporate bonuses are often tied to company and personal performance.  Make sure to ask how bonuses have been paid out over the past few years.  An in-house bonus will usually be a percentage of your base compensation.  Many companies pay out full bonuses and, in good years, may pay out even more than promised.
  • Long-Term Incentives– Companies may offer some type of long-term incentive.  This can be in the form of more cash or stock options.  These often have specific vesting programs (anywhere from 2 – 5 years).  Depending on the type of incentive the company is providing, this can add up to significant additional compensation.
  • Pensions– Yes, some companies still offer funded pensions.  Like long term incentives, pensions generally have a strict vesting period.  The longer you are with the company, the more your pension grows.
  • Car Allowance– Yep, some companies still provide this!  Make sure you read all the fine print to determine how the allowance works. Programs can include mileage and/or gas reimbursement, or even a company-leased car.
  • Insurance– While law firms generally provide health insurance to full-time employees, the cost to the employee can vary greatly.  Companies will often cover the premiums for their employees (and, more rarely, their entire family), which can be a significant benefit.  Companies may also offer dental, vision, life and disability insurance that is more generous than what most law firms provide.
  • 401k (or equivalent)– While most law firms offer these, make sure to look at the matching contribution provided by your new employer.  This can add up to be another source of additional income that you don’t immediately notice.
  • PTO– Yes, that is likely a new concept for a law firm attorney.  Many companies offer “Paid Time Off.”   Days you are not in the office and still get paid.  Make sure to see if these days will roll over from year to year. In the same vein, if your new employer observes bank holidays, you will have additional paid days off as well.

Navigating the nitty-gritty details of a job offer can be difficult. However, taking the time to look at the whole offer, and not just base compensation, may uncover a more generous and enticing package than you thought.


Contact Denise Schwartz or Eynav Epstein at EpsteinSchwartz Legal Search to learn more, to discuss the legal market or to hear about current opportunities.

EpsteinSchwartz Legal Search is a Chicago-based boutique legal recruiting firm. EpsteinSchwartz does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic. All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential.