When A Benefit Is Not Really a Benefit

A law firm employment benefit is something of value that is conferred on or available to an employee or firm member by an employer and is a term of employment — either at the beginning of employment or added at a later date. It typically is something that the employee or firm member otherwise could only get or would have to pay more for.

Think health insurance. Although the employee or firm member has to pay the health insurance premiums, the employee or firm member typically is part of a large group and, therefore, “benefits” from lower premiums than if that employee or firm member went out and shopped other healthcare plans.

Also think flexible work schedules. No one but your employer can give that to you, and it can confer a huge amount of value to an individual employee or firm member.

An article earlier this year in Above the Law announced a new “benefit” from a top Big Law firm. Here is how the benefit was described:

It’s now easier for those at the firm to save for future education costs. The firm recently announced a new benefit for employees, a 529 College Savings Plan which allows folks to start saving for those educational expenses through automatic payroll deductions.

Sounds good. But wait a minute. Is it really a “benefit”?

529 education savings plans are ubiquitous and are available through many state-sponsored programs. If you are not familiar with these plans, which are named for the section of the IRS code that enables them, you should Google it. People in all walks of life and varied circumstances are able to participate in these plans through their state governments.

So, unless I am mistaken, the “benefit” announced by this Big Law firm, a program that employees and firm members can use to save for their kids’ educations, provides nothing more than what employees and firm members already have available through similar programs. And any “benefit” conferred is simply an automatic payroll deduction. Not much of a benefit in the large scheme of things.

Do your homework. Get savvy. Do not be fooled by things that are labeled “benefits” and do not confer true value to you. And for sure do not accept those things in lieu of compensation. It is not apples for apples.

Labeling things as “benefits” can be a shell game, and you do not want to play.

This entry was posted in Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer. Bookmark the permalink.

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