Salary Negotiation for Legal Professionals

When considering taking on a new position at a legal firm, salary negotiation can feel like a tricky process. On the one hand, you don’t want to appear overly greedy and cause the employer to pass you up for another candidate, but on the other hand, you want to have a strong and fair compensation package and not leave too much money or too many benefits on the table.   

Fortunately, there are some tips you can follow during salary negotiation that will help to ensure that you get a fair package.   

Negotiation tips for recent graduates 

New legal graduates have the least flexibility when it comes to salary negotiation. Large firms are in lockstep on salaries, so they typically have a set compensation for their first-year associates.   

Smaller firms are likely to have lower starting salaries, but there may be more room for new grads to negotiate – particularly if they have strong academic performance. With smaller firms, recent grads may have some negotiation room for their pay and various incentives and benefits. The main thing, though, is they should ensure that the firm is willing to cover their Law Society fees.   

Negotiation tips for more experienced lawyers 

More experienced lawyers will benefit from having more salary negotiation room with employers. Nevertheless, it is still important for them to do their research and know the typical market rate for a lawyer with their experience in a similar role.   

As with new grads, the large firms are in lockstep on salaries across their region for lawyers with up to six- or seven years of experience. Once a legal professional reaches this point in their careers, however, it becomes much easier to negotiate the salary they want.   

But this doesn’t mean that lawyers with less experience still can’t negotiate their compensation. It is important to look not just at salary but at the entire package. For example, if working from home is important, you may wish to negotiate the opportunity for remote work or a hybrid arrangement.   

Other considerations you might wish to ask for are a significant bonus scheme, great stock options, extra vacation time, Fridays off, an earlier partnership opportunity, or performance or signing bonus. Higher-level candidates may want to negotiate an incentive for work they bring to the firm or spin-off to other lawyers. Decide your deal breakers and what you are willing to live without.   

Be sure to review the offer terms thoroughly and look at the big picture. 

Tips for employers 

Employers should keep in mind that it is a candidates’ market these days, and to attract and retain the best legal professionals, they will need to make a strong offer with benefits and bonus schemes.   

Employers need to do their research and work with recruiters who understand the market rate of the candidates they seek. A good compensation package will go a long way in retaining candidates who may be introduced to new opportunities after joining a firm.   

In this highly competitive market, employers will want to consider a comprehensive compensation package that includes good base pay, generous bonuses, stock options, car allowance, flexible work arrangements, etc.   

While the market may correct itself over the next couple of months, it is best to err on the side of caution and make compelling offers to the candidates you wish to recruit.   

Contact Life After Law today 

If you are a recent law school grad, an experienced lawyer looking for a career change, or a law firm or legal department looking to recruit top talent, we can help you find your perfect match. Contact us today to learn more.