negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

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negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:07 pm

I know government and big law have a set pay scale for entry level associates but would a small law firm be open to negotiating compensation terms? anyone have any input on this? The reason I ask is because I have a second interview later this week with a small law firm (less than 15 attorneys, but non-shit law) and am wondering if I will be asked what salary I am looking for.

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20130312
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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby 20130312 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:15 pm

First rule of negotiation: never say the first number, ESPECIALLY when you're uninformed about what others there are making. Wait until you have an offer before discussing salary. If they bring it up before the offer, politely decline to talk about it. After the offer, let them throw out the first number, and then think about whether you would be satisfied with that. You can usually negotiate up about $5k (sometimes more).

Note: All of my advice is coming from a business background, not a legal one, but I'm pretty sure these tactics are bulletproof in any field.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:22 pm

InGoodFaith wrote:First rule of negotiation: never say the first number, ESPECIALLY when you're uninformed about what others there are making. Wait until you have an offer before discussing salary. If they bring it up before the offer, politely decline to talk about it. After the offer, let them throw out the first number, and then think about whether you would be satisfied with that. You can usually negotiate up about $5k (sometimes more).

Note: All of my advice is coming from a business background, not a legal one, but I'm pretty sure these tactics are bulletproof in any field.


Thanks for the response...Any advice on how to decline to talk about it until the offer? Ideally, this is what I want to do, as having the offer puts me in a position of strength.

Also, a friend of mine suggested taking the lowest salary you have heard of in your market (shitlaw, legal aid) and the highest (big law) and telling the employor you expect to be somewhere in the middle. This sounds good at first, but I fear it is too broad (my market is 45k lowest that I know of and 100k for biglaw), and may leave the employer open to lowballing me.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby 20130312 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
InGoodFaith wrote:First rule of negotiation: never say the first number, ESPECIALLY when you're uninformed about what others there are making. Wait until you have an offer before discussing salary. If they bring it up before the offer, politely decline to talk about it. After the offer, let them throw out the first number, and then think about whether you would be satisfied with that. You can usually negotiate up about $5k (sometimes more).

Note: All of my advice is coming from a business background, not a legal one, but I'm pretty sure these tactics are bulletproof in any field.


Thanks for the response...Any advice on how to decline to talk about it until the offer? Ideally, this is what I want to do, as having the offer puts me in a position of strength.

Also, a friend of mine suggested taking the lowest salary you have heard of in your market (shitlaw, legal aid) and the highest (big law) and telling the employor you expect to be somewhere in the middle. This sounds good at first, but I fear it is too broad (my market is 45k lowest that I know of and 100k for biglaw), and may leave the employer open to lowballing me.


Ideally, you would give the employer a window no greater than $10k (i.e. "I expect to make 60-70k"). Giving a $55k window just shows the employer that you have no clue where they start their associates.

Try to sidestep the question of salary by explaining that you'd really like to know more about the job, and then following up by asking THEM a question about the position. It puts the onus back on the interviewer to do the talking. If they really insist on an answer, then you can be honest with them by saying something to the effect of "I would feel uncomfortable giving a specific answer about salary before I understand more about the position and your firm."

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:41 pm

Good advice on the 55k window...Also, forgot to mention that they hired a new associate last year. Same situation as me, hired in last year of law school. Given its a small firm, will I have any chance to negotiate for a higher salary than they started her out at? My concern is that maybe they lowballed her and she took it...then I get stuck at her low end salary.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby 20130312 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Good advice on the 55k window...Also, forgot to mention that they hired a new associate last year. Same situation as me, hired in last year of law school. Given its a small firm, will I have any chance to negotiate for a higher salary than they started her out at? My concern is that maybe they lowballed her and she took it...then I get stuck at her low end salary.


Once again, coming from a non-legal perspective, businesses expect that year after year they will have to start people higher. This frequently creates instances where a first year employee that negotiates well can make more than a second year employee, even after their performance review. So I would say you absolutely have a shot at starting out higher. You're never going to get a better chance to negotiate your salary than when you first start in your position. There are some surprisingly good articles about negotiating salary online, so try to read up as much as you can before you go in for your next interview.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:00 pm

InGoodFaith wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Good advice on the 55k window...Also, forgot to mention that they hired a new associate last year. Same situation as me, hired in last year of law school. Given its a small firm, will I have any chance to negotiate for a higher salary than they started her out at? My concern is that maybe they lowballed her and she took it...then I get stuck at her low end salary.


Once again, coming from a non-legal perspective, businesses expect that year after year they will have to start people higher. This frequently creates instances where a first year employee that negotiates well can make more than a second year employee, even after their performance review. So I would say you absolutely have a shot at starting out higher. You're never going to get a better chance to negotiate your salary than when you first start in your position. There are some surprisingly good articles about negotiating salary online, so try to read up as much as you can before you go in for your next interview.


This advice is greatly appreciated.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby LordBeric » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:27 pm

You can only lose by throwing out the first number. There's really no such thing as "negotiation" when one side has 100% of the leverage.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby ran12 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:44 pm

The other poster who wrote about negotiations and business is right. In b-school they teach you how to negotiate by anchoring. You always put out an initial number that's relatively higher than what you would be comfortable accepting. The employer will always lowball you with their anchor but know that they will already go a little higher during negotiations. There's supposed to be a psychological effect on both sides from anchoring making you feel you got a better deal when in fact you would've gotten it anyway. What percentage of the salary you're comfortable with that you would tack onto as your anchor is debatable but considering the small firm range, 5-10k isn't unreasonable. The problem with you throwing out the first number is that it's tough to read what the other side's thinking and you could end up screwing yourself with a number too low or too high so let the employer initiate.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:10 pm

ran12 wrote:The other poster who wrote about negotiations and business is right. In b-school they teach you how to negotiate by anchoring. You always put out an initial number that's relatively higher than what you would be comfortable accepting. The employer will always lowball you with their anchor but know that they will already go a little higher during negotiations. There's supposed to be a psychological effect on both sides from anchoring making you feel you got a better deal when in fact you would've gotten it anyway. What percentage of the salary you're comfortable with that you would tack onto as your anchor is debatable but considering the small firm range, 5-10k isn't unreasonable. The problem with you throwing out the first number is that it's tough to read what the other side's thinking and you could end up screwing yourself with a number too low or too high so let the employer initiate.


My experience has been that the offer comes with the salary, so once they offer you the job, they will likely tell you how much. You can negotiate if you want, but in this market, any job in the field is a good job.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby 20130312 » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
ran12 wrote:The other poster who wrote about negotiations and business is right. In b-school they teach you how to negotiate by anchoring. You always put out an initial number that's relatively higher than what you would be comfortable accepting. The employer will always lowball you with their anchor but know that they will already go a little higher during negotiations. There's supposed to be a psychological effect on both sides from anchoring making you feel you got a better deal when in fact you would've gotten it anyway. What percentage of the salary you're comfortable with that you would tack onto as your anchor is debatable but considering the small firm range, 5-10k isn't unreasonable. The problem with you throwing out the first number is that it's tough to read what the other side's thinking and you could end up screwing yourself with a number too low or too high so let the employer initiate.


My experience has been that the offer comes with the salary, so once they offer you the job, they will likely tell you how much. You can negotiate if you want, but in this market, any job in the field is a good job.


The offer letter has a salary, but from my experience it's highly likely that you will be asked about this before you even receive an offer letter.

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Re: negotiating starting salary at small law firm?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:14 pm

InGoodFaith wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
ran12 wrote:The other poster who wrote about negotiations and business is right. In b-school they teach you how to negotiate by anchoring. You always put out an initial number that's relatively higher than what you would be comfortable accepting. The employer will always lowball you with their anchor but know that they will already go a little higher during negotiations. There's supposed to be a psychological effect on both sides from anchoring making you feel you got a better deal when in fact you would've gotten it anyway. What percentage of the salary you're comfortable with that you would tack onto as your anchor is debatable but considering the small firm range, 5-10k isn't unreasonable. The problem with you throwing out the first number is that it's tough to read what the other side's thinking and you could end up screwing yourself with a number too low or too high so let the employer initiate.


My experience has been that the offer comes with the salary, so once they offer you the job, they will likely tell you how much. You can negotiate if you want, but in this market, any job in the field is a good job.


The offer letter has a salary, but from my experience it's highly likely that you will be asked about this before you even receive an offer letter.



Also... I dunno what small firms are starting ppl at these days, but I'll tell u that two months ago I was offered 65 k at a firm with 15 lawyers.




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