The question “What are your salary requirements?” is the interview equivalent of “Hands up!” In many cases, the question does not arise because large firms adhere to a “lock step” system. However, if you do need to field this question, there are several factors that you need to consider.
What Is Your Value?
Let’s assume for the moment that you are leaving “Big Law” to take a position with a small firm. You are certain that you want this position because you really like the firm’s environment, practice, people, and location. The only problem is that you have absolutely no idea about the salary range at this firm; and you are unsure how to respond to the question about your salary expectations. Where do you begin?
First, how much money is your time worth? In other words, are you going to a smaller firm because you will bill 1,700 hours rather than 2,100 hours? If so, you can begin by deducting the value of those hours from your current salary. Conversely, if you are moving from a firm with fewer hours to a firm where you will work much harder, what is the value of the increase in hours? There are many factors like the foregoing to consider. Are you joining the smaller firm because you will get much better experience, which in the long run will help your career? Are you joining the smaller firm because it does not have an “up or out” mentality, and you can establish a permanent “home” and a more secure future? Are you going to save time and money because the smaller firm is near your home? You need to consider what you are gaining and/or losing and place actual monetary values on such gains and/or losses. You will only be able to know your value if you truly evaluate the opportunity and its attendant advantages and disadvantages concretely.