Can I Ask About Salary During a Job Interview?

As a legal recruiter, I often find myself coaching my candidates about whether and when they can ask certain questions during an interview.  Specifically, I can’t express how many times a candidate has called me after viewing a posting on our website, and asks, right away, “Do you know what they are paying?”  While this is a perfectly acceptable question to ask the legal recruiter with whom you are working, it is an excellent example of a question you should not ask during an interview with a law firm.  If you do, it may well mean the end of the interview process for you.

Salary information may well be provided to you during the interview process by the law firm.  However, it is not appropriate for you to broach the topic during an interview.  I have often heard of interviewers or even law firm recruiting coordinators who will bring up salary and bonus structure right off the bat.  I have seen this happen particularly when a candidate is moving from a larger (read: higher-paying) market to a smaller market; sometimes law firms want to make sure a candidate understands that they would be taking a pay cut because the cost of living is lower in that geographic region.  This happens especially in law firms where salaries are lockstep.