How to Negotiate Your Salary (without offending anyone)

By Hillary Mantis

You ponder the job posting in front of you. “Please list your salary requirements,” it says. What should you answer?  It’s very difficult to navigate the salary requirements question. Name a number too low, and they might have offered you more. Name a number too high, and you risk losing the offer. Here are some ideas for how to handle this sticky issue:

Be Flexible
Some listings ask for salary requirements, others demand them (as in ads that say “No response without salary specification.”) For the former, applicants will often just indicate that they are flexible about the salary, and very excited about the position. Sometimes that’s enough.

Give a Range
But what if the posting specifies that you must indicate a salary? Applicants will sometimes handle this by giving a broad salary range, rather than just naming a number. For example, you could give a ten-fifteen thousand dollar range, based on what you think the position might pay. This affords you some degree of protection, if you are not sure what to ask.

Do Some Research
Rather than just guessing what you think they might offer, check out sites such as www.nalp.org for associate salary information. NALP gives salary breakdowns by location, and by year, in some of their resources. Also see if there is an alum of your school who is working there currently, who might be able to tell you more about the position, as well as the salary.

Ask for Other Benefits
If, after receiving an offer, and negotiating the salary, you are still disappointed, don’t despair. There are still a few strategies that might help you. Always remember to thank them for the job offer and reiterate your enthusiasm before negotiating. One tactic is to try asking for additional benefits, in place of a higher salary, such as an additional week of vacation time, or reimbursement for your transportation costs. You might also ask if your new employer will pay for you to attend industry conferences, or pay for your continuing legal education. Finally, you can always request an early review. Instead of waiting for an annual salary bump, you can ask if the employer would consider conducting your review after three to six months on the job.

Hillary Mantis is a Legal and Pre-Law Career expert, who works with law students, lawyers, and college students applying to law school. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and a Director of the Pre-Law Advising Program at Fordham University. You can write to Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.

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