While working with legal professionals looking for a new job, compensation is of course one of the primary things we discuss. Unless you’re a lawyer working for a big AmLaw firm with stair-step salaries, it’s important to do your homework and have all the facts before you accept an offer, or a counteroffer is made. Maybe they did “hit you with their best shot”, putting significant thought and consideration into your offer. If you’re working with a recruiter, they should be able to offer insight into their client about “wiggle room” in the budget, additional equity or that available corner office. But, before you accept or a potential insult is delivered and a counteroffer ill received, know the facts.
These offer broad strokes and will typically give you a ballpark figure. Annual salary guides and compensation reports like those from PayScale, Randstad, Robert Half, and others may also give you some insight into general salary trends.
Consider geographic differences
With a large influx of job seekers from the tech-rich Bay Area to Texas (especially Austin) and many from NYC, Seattle and other cities with a higher cost of living and salaries to match, we often have the “Texas salary adjustment chat” with prospective candidates. It usually starts with, “I’m making X in Palo Alto – what can I expect to make in Dallas”? The answer is “probably less”, but not always significantly less. Weighing other factors like cost of living, state taxes and others, the compensation may be more comparable than most would think.
Your own performance and value
Be prepared to show the value you’ve created in past jobs. Whether you’re negotiating for more pay with your current firm or proving your worth to a prospective employer, be ready to discuss how you’ve gone above and beyond in your job, the significant case you worked on, the skills you’ve added, or accolades from a client.
Look beyond base compensation
What’s the firm’s bonus history? Guaranteed or discretionary? Performance? Billable hour requirements and are they attainable? Also, benefits have become a hot topic. 10+ years ago, the vast majority of law firms would pay 100% of the employees’ portion of the healthcare premium. Not anymore. Although not always a significant amount, but many firms require the employee to contribute 10-30% of their premium. Paid parking or transportation stipends can vary by hundreds of dollars, 401k matches, or contributions also vary. PTO is one area that’s tough to negotiate, especially for staff (non-attorneys). We’ve had very little success in negotiating additional vacation (even when the potential hire will take less compensation). Firms don’t want the HR nightmare of having a new hire with more PTO than a tenured employee.
Consult those in the know
Whether you’re seeking information for your current job or a new one, seek out an experienced legal recruiter for assistance and guidance.
Momentum is comprised of 5 legal recruiters with over 100 years of combined legal experience between them. Follow Momentum Search on LinkedIn for the latest in news in legal jobs, Texas economy and job search & interview advice.