Law Firm Associates

WHAT IS AN ASSOCIATE ?

The most common way to work as a solicitor is to work in private practice for a law firm (rather than ‘in-house’ in the legal department of a business, or for the government or other public function).

Traditionally law firms were set up as partnerships but this is no longer the norm, with many firms operating as limited companies or limited liability partnerships.

A law firm operating as a partnership, or continuing to use the terminology of a partnership, has a strict hierarchy of staff – usually divided into fee-earning and support staff.

Essentially, you can view the associate as an employee of the partners. They will be paid a salary or wage, and may be offered the opportunity to become a partner at a future point in time.

Associates start as newly qualified or ‘NQ’, and then progress per year of experience. For example, a solicitor who has worked as an associate for five years would have five years PQE (post-qualification experience).

The ability to ‘make partner’ is based on job performance, hours billed, experience with the firm and other factors.

Although eligible for bonuses, associates in profitable companies tend to make much less money than partners, since their salary is predetermined based on their own performance or that of the firm as a whole.

WHAT IS AN ROLE OF AN ASSOCIATE?

An associate will carry out the day-to-day legal work for their clients as directed by the partners.

They will work under the supervision of a senior associate or partner, usually within a team. This supervision will change as they gain experience.

Depending on the size and function of the team, the associate may have trainees or paralegals to assist with some of the more research- and admin-based legal tasks.

The work carried out will vary greatly depending on the size of the firm and area of law. All associates are generally expected to take care of the work required by their clients without constant supervision, although there should always be more experienced lawyers available from whom to seek guidance.

An associate should expect to manage their own time and workload, to progress matters and bill the required time.

ELIGIBILITY TO BECOME A LEGAL ASSOCIATE?

A candidate must have the necessary qualifications and abilities to work as a Legal associate. A Trial Lawyer can only be effective if he or she has the required legal knowledge and personality attributes. The eligibility conditions that must be met are mentioned below:

Education Qualification

  • To work as a Legal Associate, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in law.
  • A Legal associate might also be a candidate with a diploma or certificate.

SALARY

he average income for a Legal associate is roughly INR 4,05,016 per year; while the entry-level salary could be around INR 1.7 lakhs, median-sized salary around INR 4.5 lakhs, and a senior-level legal associate can earn up to INR 9 lakhs per year.

In this blog, we discussed the roles and responsibilities of a legal associate, the skills required, and the salary trend one can expect after becoming an associate.

WHAT KEY SKILLS MUST AN ASSOCIATE HAVE

All solicitors must undertake annual continuing professional development (CPD), in accordance with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) current guidelines.

Up until 1 November 2016 that meant carrying out a specified number of CPD-accredited hours of training. After that date, the SRA says that solicitors must ‘reflect on the quality of [their] practice and identify any learning and development needs… [and] address these needs to make sure [their] knowledge and skills are up to date and that [they] are competent to practice.’

Associates can expect to carry out work much as they did as a trainee but with reduced levels of supervision and increased client contact. Day-to-day work might include:

  • Research
  • Drafting
  • Providing advice
  • Conducting meetings
  • Progressing matters

Associates will also bill work, and may also manage budgets and finance depending on their area of work.

Those working in litigation may need to prepare costs budgets and project-manage large litigation, including managing and analysing vast amounts of documents/data.

HOW TO BECOME AN ASSOCIATE

To become an associate you will need to complete your training contract and professional skills course, be admitted to the roll of solicitors, and have an up-to-date practising certificate (the fee is usually paid for by the firm on your behalf).

CHOOSE THE TYPES OF FIRM THATS SUITS YOU BEST

Before you begin applying for a legal training contract, you need to do your research and decide what kind of firm you want to work for.

Practising family law in a small regional firm will be very different from handling billion-pound mergers and acquisitions.

If you have no interest in the corporate world, be realistic and don’t apply to corporate firms. If corporate law is what you’ve always dreamed of, most applicants start by considering the so-called ‘Magic Circle’.

This is the informal name for London’s five most prestigious law firms (widely accepted to be Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May), before considering other tiers of firms.

Broadly, law firms fall into the following categories:

  • International firms
  • Major city firms
  • Medium city firms
  • National firms
  • Regional firms
  • Specialist/niche firms
  • High street
  • In-house legal departments of corporates and large organisations.

The Government Legal Profession and the Crown Prosecution Service also offer training contracts.

Think about the culture of the firm/organisation in question and whether you would fit into it. Don’t let glossy websites or brochures sway your judgement.

The best way to find out what is right for you is to embark on work experiencework shadowing or, for the larger firms, a vacation placement.

CONCLUSION

All solicitors will be associates once they have qualified and will remain at associate level until such a time as they ‘make partner’ or move to a different type of firm.

Some firms may distinguish between junior and senior associates, or use other job titles.

Remuneration is usually dependent on the number of years of experience the associate has post-qualification. It is typically a set rate, although bonuses may reflect the firm’s performance as a whole.

Associates are typically well paid in comparison to the national average wage, particularly if they work for larger national or global firms based in London. In return, the associate would be expected to bill a large number of hours to retain their position in the firm.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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