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Setting up for Success

Why you should negotiate your starting salary and the tools to use to ensure you're setting yourself up for success. 

As many 3Ls are looking for post-graduation jobs, or if they received an offer and are negotiating the terms of employment, and even 2Ls and 1Ls applying for internships, it is an essential step to ensure you are negotiating your salary before committing. Trying to negotiate your salary can be intimidating, especially if you feel like you need more negotiating power. Yet, your starting salary is the most important salary to negotiate, as all future rates will be based on that first amount. 

First, why should you negotiate your salary? Does it make that big of a difference?
  • 58% of young professionals do not negotiate their salary 

  • Those who negotiate their salary make an average of $5,000 more than their peers. 

  •  42% of women claim they do not feel comfortable negotiating their salary, while the percentage for men is 33%.  

  • Most employers only post 25% - 75% of the actual salary for that position. 

  • Even though people of color are just as likely to negotiate (or not negotiate) as white peers, employers provide $300 less of a counteroffer to people of color than white. 

The point I want to emphasize is that, regardless of your ethnicity, education, experience or gender, it's crucial to negotiate your salary. In the following, I explain one of my favorite tools to use when determining the salary I want, the range I should be applying for, and the numbers to bring into salary negotiations.

One of my favorite tools for determining what salary I should expect or ask for is the Robert Half Salary Guide. Every year, the staffing agency conducts research on multiple industries. You can compare your education level, career level, where you live, and more. 

Step 1: Start your search
Search for the job title and location you want. Although Jackson, MS, is not an option, I use Memphis, TN, as it is a city close to Jackson with a similar population and career opportunities. 

Step 2: Look at how you compare 
Robert Half breaks down the salary into levels of experience. Determine where you fall to pinpoint the smaller range you should be looking towards. Most students graduating will fall in the 50th percentile. Below shows that as a first-year associate, you should be negotiating to receive around $90,720 as your salary. Factors like whether you were on Moot Court, Law Review, or had any internships that gave you specific experience may lower or raise the amount you should be asking for.

Step 3: Check the trends to tailor your resume and title search
Here are the top trends to expect this year in the legal industry! 
  • High demand for litigation 

  • Smaller firms are emphasizing a positive work culture 

  • In-house legal teams are looking for people in compliance and data privacy 

  • Top jobs: contract manager, In-house counsel, and litigation manager 

  • Top industries: finance, healthcare, insurance, and manufacturing 

  • Top practice areas: litigation, ethics & compliance, labor & employment, privacy & data security. 

They even show the skills that hiring managers will provide higher salaries if the candidate has them. 

Step 4: Negotiate and Apply! 
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, even after you receive a job offer. While you’re using these tools to negotiate your salary, keep applying to other jobs. Robert Half will then give you some of the most recent job posts that match the job description you were looking at. Even if you are not looking for work in the city you searched, you can use these jobs to help you understand the job descriptions you should be looking for.

Overall, if you are not negotiating your salary, you are likely missing out on a significant amount of money! Even if you are a 1L or 2L, use this tool to help target your skills over the next few years or negotiate your internship pay!


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