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Success isn't a competition, it's a collaboration

With ongoing recognition of the firm’s commitment to diversity, Nilan Johnson Lewis hires new associates by looking at lateral associate candidates and clerks at the federal and state levels. We will, upon occasion and based on need, look at candidates directly out of law school, but we are no longer participating in on campus interviewing efforts.

Professional Development

Nilan Johnson Lewis is committed to the professional development of our associates on many levels. Below, please see the various programs in place to ensure a successful and satisfying career with our firm.

Our firm has an active Professional Development Committee (PDC) that leads all programming and initiatives in this area.  The PDC recognizes that both lawyering and business skills are integral parts of the private practice of law and provides training and mentoring opportunities to assist all members of the firm in achieving excellence.  Ongoing programs include:

  • Monthly lunch and learn programs on topics suggested by the associate committee
  • Pro bono opportunities that contain a development opportunity for junior attorneys
  • Annual attendance by two associates and two junior shareholders to the National Institute of Trial Advocacy
  • Associate participation in the city of St. Paul’s “Tipsters” program that includes prosecution of petty misdemeanors resulting in valuable trial experience.
  • Partnership with local law firm of like size to practice mock oral arguments and deposition exercises
  • Marketing training that includes, but not limited to business plan writing, individual coaching, and public relations training*

*Nilan Johnson Lewis holds one of the only marketing events in the region sponsored exclusively by the firm’s associates.  Invitees include clients and contacts that have been in their careers under ten years.

Nilan Johnson Lewis empowers associates to influence the direction of the firm as well as their own careers. All associates sit on the firm’s Associate Committee. The committee is led by an elected Associate Chair who meets regularly with the firm leadership to discuss upcoming firm initiatives and decisions and to provide feedback from the Associate Committee. The Associate Committee meets monthly to discuss firm business and the committee’s agenda, hear presentations on various professional and business development topics, and socialize. Annually, the firm president and COO formally present to the Associate Committee on the state of the firm. All associates are also members of other firm committees to ensure total integration into the firm culture. In addition, the Associate Committee sponsors one of the only marketing events in the region hosted exclusively by associates. Invitees include clients and contacts who have been in their careers under ten years.

The primary objective of our Attorney Mentor Program is to promote the success of new attorneys at the firm and to assist in their professional development, including not only substantive training but also career development guidance on a formalized basis.  The program is designed to be consistent with the firm’s core values and aims to:

  • Create a satisfying, support environment for all our attorneys and foster long-term mentoring relationships.
  • Develop professionals who embody the firm’s core values.
  • Identify and seek solutions for problems early in an attorney’s career.
  • Assist with professional development. Ensure that substantive skill development occurs for all associates consistent with our Skills Development Timeline and their own personal Goals Sheets.
  • Encourage business development.

New or lateral associates are given both a Shareholder mentor and an Associate mentor to guide and support their needs during the early years of their careers.  Having two mentors at different levels provides the Associate with more professional development opportunities and allows them to observe and learn from attorneys at different stages of their career.

Associate Compensation Policy

Our associate compensation policy is intended to attract and retain outstanding attorneys, cultivate dedication to excellence and exceptional service to our clients, and provide rewards, that encourage and recognize each associate’s development as professionals within the Firm. Our associates, much like our shareholders, receive a total compensation package that emphasizes both the financial success of the firm as a whole and the unique value of their individual contributions to the firm and its clients, against the background of the firm’s Core Values. While we acknowledge the competitive pressures of private law practice, we seek to reward our attorneys based on this unique value, rather than on trends set by other firms.

Associates’ total compensation package consists of salary, benefits, and discretionary bonus. The current range of base salaries begins at $115,000 for a first-year associate and ends at $130,000 for a seventh-year associate.

We are a business of professionals. We expect excellent work, dedication to the firm, and service to clients within a framework that assures the economic success of the firm and those who depend on it. We also expect associates to manage their work and personal lives so they are able to annually bill 1800 hours of the high quality work our clients expect. The base salary compensates associates for billable work performed on behalf of the firm’s clients and for non-billable activities beneficial to the associate, the firm, its clients, and the community.

Associates are also eligible to share in the financial success of the firm by receiving a discretionary bonus at the end of the firm’s fiscal year. The size of the associate bonus pool is based on the overall profitability of the firm in a particular year. Individual bonus determinations are based on the unique value of each associate’s overall contributions to the firm and its clients. They are not hours-based, and they are not lockstep. Instead, the Compensation Committee, based on associates’ performance evaluations, personal submissions, and other firm-generated data, makes informed judgments about each associate’s contributions by assessing the following factors:

  • Excellence of work product
  • Participation in career path planning and progress toward identified goals
  • Recognition or dependence by clients
  • Generation of new, or expansion of existing, client relationships
  • Personal sacrifice
  • Development of specialized expertise or reputation
  • Productivity
  • Profitability
  • Participation in management of the firm
  • Development of advanced professional skills or capabilities

Like bonuses for shareholders, discretionary bonuses for associates will depend upon and vary with the firm’s success, but it has been our practice to reward exceptional performance with exceptional compensation and, based on our history, we anticipate that total annual salary and bonus compensation will fall within the following ranges:

  • First – second year associates: $115,000 to $140,000
  • Third – fifth year associates: $122,000 to $165,000
  • Sixth – seventh year associates: $128,000 to $190,000

Neither the dollar amounts nor the class groupings outlined here should be viewed as guarantees or limits. The financial success of the firm as a whole and the unique value of each associate’s performance and contributions are the primary variables affecting the bonus amount.

Each associate is informed of the Committee’s bonus decision and provided with the general reasoning behind the bonus decision and its calculation. The annual review process is used to identify specific actions that may be taken in the future to increase bonus potential, and total compensation could be above or below the anticipated ranges.

Recognizing that associates with a variety of career aspirations make valuable contributions to the firm, and in the interest of attracting and retaining those associates, the firm has developed the Flex Program. Any associate, beginning in his or her fourth year (and after at least one full year of service with the Firm), is eligible to participate by requesting approval from the Firm’s Board of Directors. The associate and the Board of Directors will mutually agree upon a specific, reduced billable hour expectation and related base salary. The salary of an associate on the Flex Program will be adjusted to reflect the adjusted hours expectation. Bonuses for associates on the Flex Program are determined using the same factors as described above.

Requests to participate in the Program will be handled with a year-to-year assessment of the firm’s needs and the individual’s performance and workload. Given our objective of attracting, developing and retaining talented attorneys with diverse backgrounds, the firm will, as part of the Flex Program, consider any alternative proposal for flexible work arrangements that upholds our standards of excellence and client service, makes economic sense, and serves our Core Values. The duration of an associate’s shareholder track may be affected by participation in the Flex Program, but participation will not prevent an associate from becoming a shareholder in the firm.

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