The question of salary comes up with every one of our candidates, but the discussions are very different depending on the candidate.
To begin with, 98% of the candidates we speak to tell us their salary. The 2% who won’t, we don’t work with. Why? Because we can only help professionals who trust us. I see it as similar to going to the doctor and not being willing to disclose your weight. Chances are high that the expert has a good idea what it is, but they still the need the “facts” to be most helpful to you.
Interestingly enough, I had two situations in the past month in which the candidates did not want to disclose their current salaries. In one case, the candidate did tell me but refused to disclose the information on the Firm’s application, which was required to proceed with the interview process. This candidate’s reasoning was that, “Women are harmed by disclosing their salary.” In this case, the candidate was making significantly more than the average salary for her level of responsibility and title and was also receiving a large bonus. I tried to convince her that if she did not disclose her earnings, and if the firm gave her an offer based solely on her years of experience, it would likely be only $5K more than she was currently earning.
More importantly, I had NEVER seen a firm underpay a candidate because she was a woman. As a matter of fact, I placed two female candidates in September who were below market (one had been with the same firm for 11 years, and the other had taken time off to earn a Masters degree); in both cases, when the offer was extended, it exceeded what we had requested upon submitting the candidate! Law Firms are not looking to low-ball a candidate; rather they aim to pay them at market—this is reflective what I have seen in the 20 years and over 800 placements we have made.
In the second case, the candidate had finally made the transition into a law firm marketing role, after taking time to raise a family. With interspersed consulting roles over 15 years, she was now looking for her next full-time role. She was afraid to tell me her base salary because she was indeed below market. I guessed her salary within $5K and convinced her that she had made the right decision to take a lower salary to transition into a full-time law firm role. Now that she had valued experience inside of a law firm, she could land a job that was in the right salary range.
The thing that I truly enjoy about my job is that 95% of the time, our clients want to pay a candidate at market or above market, and our candidates trust that we know the marketplace and will do the absolute best we can for them. This makes life good for the client, candidate and for me!