According to this Law.com article, Simpson Thacher and Bartlett is sending fifteen associates to work for nonprofit organizations for one year as part of their pro bono initiative. The firm expects the attorneys to return to the firm when the year is up.
Simpson salaries start at $160,000 – par for the course for a large firm in a large city. But it sounds like associates who spend the year with a nonprofit will only make $60,000. (I don’t know anyone who works for a firm that has this kind of pro bono program so I don’t know if the difference is made up for at some point.) The associates won’t be considered employees of the firm while they’re away, although they get to keep their insurance benefits – so the year away may impact seniority as well.
As much as I believe in serving the public, I just can’t see taking a $100,000 pay cut for a year. That’s a lot of money to give up, especially since most lawyers I know have student loans that need to be repaid – and the associates going out are only first to third-years, so it’s unlikely that they’ve paid off their loans already. Even though $60,000 is a decent salary, it’s not that easy to pay off $1,000 in student loans each month when it’s 20% of your gross pay, and close to half of your take-home pay.
What would you do?