Work + Growth

The DO’s and DON’Ts of Negotiating a Job Offer

  • Of tangible benefits, salary generally ranks No. 1 for attorneys, but you should consider negotiating for other benefits like vacation or flexible working hours as well
  • Coming armed to negotiations with knowledge of the marketplace, your worth, and the organization can ease anxiety and help you make your case
  • Remember that nothing is final until you’ve signed on the dotted line. As such, it’s important to remain confident yet polite during the course of negotiations

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve just received a job offer or are expecting one.

If that’s the case, congratulations! A lot of work goes into being offered a job in the legal world, so make sure to take a second to feel good about your achievement.

Of course, it’s also important to remember that you’re not quite done yet. Negotiating the terms of your offer—whether this is your first job out of law school or you’re an experienced attorney headed to a new firm—is imperative.

Asking for more can make even the most seasoned lawyer anxious, so to help out, we’ve collected some of the top DOs and DON’Ts for lawyers embarking on job offer negotiations.

Do: 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 much employees in the position you’ve been offered are generally paid, as well as salary ranges for similar roles at other firms 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.

Don’t: Accept a Job on the Spot

Yes, it’s exciting to be offered a job you really want … but you still should never accept immediately, even if you’re pretty sure you’ve just been handed your dream job at your dream firm. Why? It’s imperative to review an offer in writing first, to ensure you’re comfortable with everything included in your contract. Express your excitement about the offer, then take some time to make sure all of your questions have been answered and decide whether (and for what!) you wish to negotiate.

 Do: 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-provoking experience. When it comes to negotiating an offer, however, 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 $100,000?” 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 $100,000.” On the flip side, it’s also important to remain polite at this point, and to refrain from negotiating before you officially have an offer, as you don’t want to do anything to make an organization re-think its decision to hire you.

Don’t: Accept an Offer Based on Salary Alone

While salary is often the No. 1 consideration for attorneys evaluating job offers, a high salary shouldn’t be the only reason to accept an offer. Instead, make sure you consider whether the role will provide the other opportunities you’re looking for. Conversely, don’t end negotiations immediately if the salary offer is lower than ideal and can’t be increased. Instead, consider other ways the firm might be able to make their offer more enticing. A company car? An office with a view? An assurance that your compensation will be re-evaluated sooner than is standard?

Do: 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 easy 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 even make those who do it for a living uncomfortable. However, according to a study from employer review site Glassdoor, the average U.S. 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?