Should You Accept The First Job Offer You Get?

By Hillary Mantis

Let’s face it. Times are still hard. You need to do something this summer. You feel like you will be lucky to get any offers at all.

But what if you get an offer for something that really doesn’t interest you? What should you do? Accept it or hold out for another offer?

First, test your own personal risk level. Imagine that you have rejected that offer. How do you feel? Filled with anxiety, or filled with relief? I have found that there are huge degrees of difference in risk tolerance.

Second, think about a backup plan. If you need to earn money, how will you do that if you turn down the offer? Is there a place where you have worked before that would take you back if nothing else materializes?  

If it’s not crucial that you earn money this summer, consider other backup options. Could you do a law related summer study abroad program? Volunteer at a legal services organization? Help a professor do research?

Third, think about negotiating the offer. You may be able to make the offer a lot more appealing. In between offer and acceptance is when you generally have the most power. You have been learning about negotiation skills in law school, right? You may have more power than you think.

You can politely ask for more money, reimbursement for commuting expenses, vacation time, different hours, or whatever it is that would make the offer appealing to you. Once you have accepted an offer, it can be a lot harder to negotiate the terms.

Feel free to negotiate — at the same time, take care not to alienate the employer. This might be your future boss. Be sure to thank them repeatedly and express your enthusiasm not just once, but throughout the negotiation.

Consider asking for more time to decide whether to accept the offer. People often feel pressured to accept an offer right away. You can express enthusiasm, but still ask for more time to think about it. A week is considered a fair amount of time to consider an offer.

This is especially helpful if you are waiting to see if another offer is going to come through. I cannot tell you how often a student goes for months with zero offers, then suddenly has three interviews, and gets an offer from the employer that is not his or her top choice. If you run into that situation try to ask for a few more days to consider the offer. Get in touch with the other employer, and ask them if they can decide quickly. They might be able to expedite the process.

What’s the best way to accept the offer, if you have decided to take it?

With great enthusiasm and appreciation, even if you are not totally thrilled. Find something that you are excited about, whether it’s the practice area, the possibility of observing a trial, or the people who you will be working with, and mention it to your future employer.

If you have been able to negotiate a title, a salary, and/or a start date, send an email confirming the details rather than just discussing them on the phone. You are going to be a lawyer — you might as well start getting everything in writing.

An offer you might feel lukewarm about might turn into an opportunity of a lifetime. One of my former students reluctantly accepted a summer offer from a smaller firm, even though he really wanted a bigger firm. Guess what happened? The firm ended up merging, and became a much larger firm. He ended up working there after graduation.

You never really know what it’s going to be like until you get there.

--

Hillary Mantis consults with law students, pre-law students and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. For more information, you can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com