You went to law school and hurdled the bar exam. While waiting for your bar results, you received a job offer from a top law firm and are to start working there immediately as a junior associate. What costs should you prepare for?
The top law firms in the Philippines are centrally-located in the Makati and Bonifacio Global City area. If you want to avoid the long commute and the horrendous Manila traffic, you should find a place to live in the area where the law firm is located. Makati is a city with a high cost of living so expect a higher than average rent. In Makati, you can find studio condos which rent for around PhP 15,000.00 or USD 300.00 a month.
Most major law firms have a strict dress code – corporate wear is standard. However, men and women seldom go the full blazer route due to the hot tropical climate. They wear suits when meeting with clients and when appearing in courts. Given the tropical heat, it is acceptable to forgo the coat when drafting pleadings inside the four corners of your office.
A nice blazer and pants or skirt set from a known fast fashion retailer will set you back about PhP 10,000.00 or USD 200.00. For men, a nice custom barong will cost about PhP 4,000.00 or USD 80.00.
Increased transportation costs
Costuming costs require lawyers to look professionally responsible. Concomitantly, lawyers must ride well. Thus, most law firms have an unwritten rule that their junior associates must not take the jeepney or the bus. This purportedly diminishes the prestige of the law firm. Personally I feel this is unwarranted* and have never observed this rule, especially in Makati where you can never get a cab at rush hour! The only time this rule may be warranted is if the law firm provides a car plan or some form of daily transport subsidy, which they do not. *Although rental car service is provided for out-of-town hearings.
Once you pass the bar, the regulatory fees must be paid. As a lawyer, you become a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and must pay yearly membership dues (about PhP 1,100.00). You are also required to pay your yearly professional tax to the local government.
As lawyers we must undergo mandatory continuing legal education (“MCLE”) every 3 years. Usually the cost of MCLE (about PhP 4,500.00 or USD 90.00) is shouldered by law firms, sometimes it is not.
Calculate your startup net monthly salary
As you can see, being a first year lawyer requires a huge upfront investment. The key is sustainability – whether your startup first year lawyer salary would be enough to maintain these costs. The law firm’s job offer and quoted monthly salary is usually stated in gross amounts (or pre tax ). Thus, you should expect a smaller net take home pay once the deductibles have been subtracted therefrom. Nowadays it is easy to calculate your net take home pay by using the app, Sweldong Pinoy.
Once you determine your net take home pay, it will be easy for you to know the sustainability of your monthly startup cost as a first year associate.
Any other startup costs that I may have missed?
20 something lawyer