Asking for more can be uncomfortable. Here are a few tips to make it easier.
Finding the “right” job in the legal profession often requires an enormous amount of work and patience. Unsurprisingly, the wave of relief we feel when we receive a job offer leaves us wanting to accept and move on from the job search process. Even though you’re so close to the finish line at that moment, resist the urge to settle, and consider negotiating for the offer you feel you deserve.
Asking for more can be uncomfortable, and can make even the most seasoned lawyer anxious. To make it easier, here are some tips for lawyers embarking on job offer negotiations.
Do Your Research and Know Your Worth
Make sure you understand the marketplace, know enough about the firm or organization in question, and know your worth before engaging in any negotiations. Do as much reconnaissance as you can to determine how many employees in the position you’ve been offered are generally paid, as well as salary ranges for similar roles at other organizations in the area. It can also be helpful to come to the table with a range you’d be comfortable accepting even before officially receiving an offer. Either way, be prepared to explain what you know and why you deserve what you’re requesting in a fact-based manner.
Don’t Accept a Job Offer on the Spot
Yes, it’s exciting to be offered a job you really want but… you should never accept it immediately (even if you’re pretty sure you’ve just been handed your dream job). Why? It’s imperative to first review an offer in writing to ensure you’re comfortable with everything included in the contract. Express your excitement about the offer, then take some time to make sure all of your questions have been answered before deciding whether you wish to negotiate. In a 2019 article by CNBC, founder of Trade Context and SpeedUpTrader James Sixsmith noted,
“bosses always have a sense of whether the candidate is in a position of power. If your worth is clear to you both, then you have the advantage, and you won’t sound needy or have to fake your confidence.”
However, according to one study from Glassdoor, the average US employee leaves more than $7,500 on the table because they didn’t attempt to ask for more.
Be Confident but Polite
Even for lawyers who are adept at confrontation on behalf of their clients, standing up for themselves can be an anxiety-producing experience. When it comes to negotiating an offer, you’ll want to do your best to express confidence in why you deserve what you’re asking for. Instead of asking “Can I have $180,000?” you’re more likely to make headway by expressing the reasoning behind your request. “Based on my experience at my last firm, as well as what others are making in the market, I was hoping for something closer to $180,000.” On the flip side, it’s also important to remain polite and to refrain from negotiating before you officially have an offer, as you don’t want to do anything to make an organization rethink its decision to hire you. Once you have that offer, be sure to frame your negotiation from a mutually beneficial standpoint, as opposed to making demands.
Don’t Accept an Offer Based on Salary Alone
While salary is often the number one consideration for attorneys evaluating job offers, a high salary shouldn’t be the only reason to accept one. Instead, make sure you consider whether the role will provide the other opportunities you’re looking for, like paid time off or 401k matching. Conversely, don’t end negotiations immediately if the salary offer is lower than ideal and can’t be increased. Instead, consider other ways the organization might be able to make their offer more enticing. An assurance that your compensation will be re-evaluated sooner than is standard? A company car? An office with a view?
Know What You Want
There are other benefits to negotiate for besides salary, so come to any negotiation prepared to discuss them. These “soft” benefits are also generally easier to ask for than money. Can you request a few extra days of vacation? A flexible schedule that will allow you to save money on childcare or commuting costs? The opportunity to telecommute once a week? Generally, it can be easier to bring up these kinds of requests after an employer has given you a firm salary number that can’t be raised. Make sure you have an idea of what non-salary benefits would make your life easier before entering a negotiation.
Don’t Be Too Shy to Ask for More
As we mentioned above, negotiating can make even those who do it for a living uncomfortable. However, according to one study from Glassdoor, the average US employee leaves more than $7,500 on the table because they didn’t attempt to ask for more. That’s a significant amount of money to leave behind simply for being bashful. Remember, you have nothing to worry about as long as you remain polite throughout the course of negotiations. After all, the worst that can happen is being told “no.” And that’s not the end of the world, is it?