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Associates

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 innovative associate compensation system 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. Additional objectives of the system include improved feedback regarding associate performance and better awareness and alignment of associate and shareholder goals and expectations.

Our compensation system supports flexibility while recognizing the correlation between that flexibility and profitability and seeking to reward our attorneys based on their unique contributions and needs, rather than on trends set by other firms.

This unique system provides the opportunity for our associates to play a large role in setting their billable hour goal annually to better manage their expected (and realistic) workload. By focusing on an individual billable objective (rather than a one-size-fits-all number dictated by the firm or big-law trends), the compensation system is tailored to each associate’s particular goals at work and beyond.

Associates’ total compensation package consists of a salary, bonus, and health & well-being benefits. The salary and bonus components will be determined based on the information in the relevant tabs below as well as an agreed upon annual billable expectation, also noted in the tab below. The current base salary for a first-year associate is $140,000; other base salary levels are reflected in the tab below. Our current benefit offerings are also reflected below.

An associate’s salary will be set based on the following schedule and modified, as appropriate, by factors outlined in the Billable Component portion of this policy.  Annual salary adjustments will typically be determined in December of each year and become effective as of January 1 of the following year.

Year Salary
Stub & First $140,000
Second $142,000
Third $147,000
Fourth $149,000
Fifth $151,000
Sixth $153,000
Seventh & beyond $155,000
  • Associates (with input from practice group leadership and the Board) will set a “Billable Expectation” annually in November. Absent unusual circumstances, the annual Billable Expectation will be between 1500-1800 billable hours (selected in 25 hour increments).
  • A Billable Expectation less than 1800 hours results in a pro-rated salary. For example, a fifth-year Associate with a Billable Expectation of 1700 hours would earn a salary of $141,611 ($151,000 x (1700 hours/1800 hours)).
  • The Billable Expectation election will be evaluated each year in June using production through May 31 (the mid-year point for bonus purposes), and the Billable Expectation (and resulting salary) may be revisited if an Associate is tracking substantially above or below their target. Any change in salary would be prospective only.
  • The Billable Expectation is 1800 in an Associate’s first full calendar year with the firm.
  • The Billable Expectation (but not salary) will be pro-rated for parental leave. Additionally, recognizing that ramp-down and ramp-up periods are a reality, the month before and after leave will have a 50% billable expectation included in the proration.
  • An Associate’s Billable Expectation is not a secret; in fact, it is helpful for everyone to be aware of the number.
  • Billable hours are an issue of firm profitability and Associate compensation, but not performance. Absent unusual circumstances, Associate performance (e.g., annual reviews) is evaluated based on the merit factors, not raw productivity. Thus, the Billable Expectation selected has no impact on performance. However, profitability is a consideration for Shareholder promotion, just as it is for existing Shareholders.

The Firm’s Compensation Committee will determine a discretionary, subjective, merit-based bonus for each eligible Associate at year-end. The Committee will evaluate all traditional factors (expertise, work product, marketing/business development, firm citizenship, etc.), without regard to productivity (i.e., billable hours), except as follows:

  • Associates who do not achieve their Billable Expectation are ineligible for a bonus. The Compensation Committee retains the discretion to make an exception in truly unusual circumstances, but the spirit of the compensation system, with its eye toward profitability, is such that exceptions should be rare. For example, the exception should not be applied to unanticipated – but not unusual – circumstances, such as the loss of a significant client.
  • Billable hours “substantially above” Billable Expectation should be taken into consideration in determining the bonus. What is “substantially above,” and the monetary impact of being “substantially above,” are left to the Compensation Committee’s discretion. However, 0 – 50 hours above Billable Expectation is akin to meeting hours, and expressly is not “substantially above.”
  • If the Associate’s Billable Expectation and salary are adjusted at mid-year, the Compensation Committee may consider productivity as a factor in its bonus determination.
  • A bonus for an Associate’s stub year is entirely discretionary.

We are a business of professionals. As such, we expect excellent work and a dedication to serving our clients. Concurrently, we support our team holistically, recognizing that we all have unique goals and commitments beyond the office. This compensation plan is designed to provide flexibility, transparency, and individuality within a framework that ensures the economic success of the firm and those who depend on it.

Health and Well-Being

Health insurance 2 plans; NJL contributes
Wellness program Employee earns credit
Short- and long-term disability NJL pays 100%
Basic Life NJL pays 100%
Dental NJL contributes
Vision Employee pays 100%
Pet Employee pays 100%
Accidental & critical illness Employee pays 100%
EAP NJL provided

Work/Life Benefits

Parenting leave Up to 14 weeks paid parenting leave (birth or non-birth parent), plus other disability pay for a birth parent.  Ramp down/up period immediately before & after a leave for birth or non-birth parent.  See Billable Component portion of policy.
Bar exam and review fees NJL pays
Bar dues and CLE expenses NJL pays
Mobile device data reimbursement NJL reimbursement for data service (excluding text messaging charges and/or cellular charges) up to $50/month; $150 device reimbursement every 2 years

Retirement and Savings Plan Benefits

401(k) 100% match on deferrals up to 5% of compensation
Profit-sharing Typically 1.5-3% of compensation
Pre-tax spending accounts Health and dependent care, transportation expenses

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